During the course of development of the United Church of Christ a number of splinter groups and subgroups came into being as a result of various conflicts. Race and immigration have shaped the denomination over and over.
In the mid-nineteenth century, however, there was a theological and liturgical controversy within Pennsylvania Reformed history that rocked the entire church. A college and a seminary were founded to promote a theological point of view in opposition to the much-celebrated Mercersburg perspective. The new viewpoint was called the Ursinus School, or Ursinus Movement, not because it related to the work of Zacharias Ursinus, author of the Heidelberg Catechism, but because it was centered around a school located in southeastern Pennsylvania named Ursinus. At the heart of the struggle were two strong personalities: John H. A. Bomberger and James I. Good.
The story begins when Philip Schaff, a German historian on the faculty of the seminary at Mercersburg, delivered his famous address on "The Principles of Protestantism," in First Church, Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 24, 1844. The address "stood against the inadequacies of American Christianity: its unhistorical character, its provincialism, its subjectivism and sectarianism."  Soon after Joseph Berg, pastor of the German Reformed Church (Race Street), Philadelphia, and others attacked the person and theology of young Schaff and accused him of heresy and attempting to Romanize the Reformed Church. Schaff spoke of the continuity of the church, its evangelical and apostolic nature, and lifted up the importance of the incarnate Word—Jesus Christ. The attack resulted in Schaff's being tried for heresy. Those who sat in judgment—one of whom was Bomberger—supported Schaff, and he was cleared of the charge.
Pulpit versus altar
What were the marks of the Ursinus movement at its inception? James I. Good, chief historian of the Ursinus position, summarized them in the April 24, 1861 issue of the Reformed Church's "Messenger" as opposition to the use of congregational responses, the inclusion of a priestly absolution of sin, and the incorporation of spiritual regeneration at baptism in the liturgy presented to General Synod in 1859 and 1860.
These differences in liturgical desires became strong convictions that were described in terms of pulpit liturgy and altar liturgy. The Ursinus movement emphasized the pulpit liturgy, which omitted responses and prayers spoken by the people and consisted principally of forms for special services and rites, such as the Lord's Supper and baptism. This liturgy was centered in the pulpit and in preaching that may have been expository and to a large extent hortatory. It focused on the human interpretation of the word and an exhortation to moral living in obedience to the word.
The Mercersburg movement celebrated the altar liturgy, in which the pastor and people joined together in response to God. This liturgy was centered in the mighty acts of God through the grace of Christ and Christ's spiritual presence. The sermon was a proclamation of what God had done in Christ as symbolized by the altar and pulpit. The obedient acts of the people were understood to be offerings of thanksgiving and praise, spiritual sacrifices offered gratefully because of what God in Christ had done for them.
The difference between the two views came to a climax in January, 1862, when the liturgical committee of the church divided six to one in favor of the altar liturgy, Bomberger representing the one opposing vote. All had agreed previously that revision of the provisional liturgy was necessary, but Bomberger, under the influence of Berg and other low-church pastors in the Philadelphia Classis, changed his liturgical position.  From this point on he became the symbol of the free church, or low-church movement.
John Nevin, also a professor at Mercersburg, Schaff, and Bomberger referred to the same European Reformers and liturgies but produced different interpretations. In assessing the controversy The Messenger's editor wrote on May 22, 1861: "The controversy about the liturgy in the Messenger must be closed because of its danger of climbing into huge proportions and because it has run into personalities." 
The controversy spread westward. The Rex. Max Stern attacked the liturgy in the western German church paper, The Evangelist, on January 23, 1861. The free church tradition represented by Stern was not of recent vintage. When, in 1838, the Ohio Synod inaugurated J. G. Buettner as seminary professor, one of Buettner's reasons for accepting the position was to train pastors to oppose revivalism. But many Ohio ministers favored revivalism, and the seminary soon faded for want of students. The conflict over new measures and revivalism continued during the 1840s, and the development of a theological seminary was delayed until 1847, when the synod voted to raise money for an institution. In 1849 Jeremiah H. Good became professor of theology at the Ohio Literary and Theological Institution. After an unsettled period the theological institution became part of Heidelberg College, which opened its doors at Tiffin, Ohio, on November 18, 1850, with E. V. Gerhart as president and professor of theology. J. H. Good was professor of mathematics, and Reuben Good, rector of the academy. Later Gerhart moved to Lancaster Seminary, and the Goods became prime movers in the low-church, or Old Reformed, movement.  In Pennsylvania the debate over the liturgy continued at each meeting of the Eastern Synod. The leaders of the debate were members of the liturgical committee. Schaff and Nevin were the principals on the so-called high-church side. They were soon joined by such eminent pastors as Henry Harbaugh, S. R. Fisher, and Daniel Ganz. Supporting Bomberger were George W. Willard, Joseph Berg, and James I. Good. The positions hardened into two movements, with delegate elders and congregations taking sides.
Although the principals conducted the debate on a scholarly level and referred back to German and Swiss sources, some anti-liturgical supporters got their ammunition for the struggle from the revivalism of the Great Awakening. The revivalistic trend increased in Pennsylvania. The new measures movement included, in addition to daily Bible reading and prayer, prohibitions against smoking, drinking, swearing, and associating with those who do. The impact of revivalism had reached the congregation in Mercersburg, and it was this fact that originally started Nevin on his writing career with the publication of "The Anxious Bench," a polemic, or tract, against revivalism and its "new measures."
The high-church movement was headquartered in the seminary at Mercersburg. The low-church movement had no headquarters. It became evident that if Bomberger and his supporters were to maintain their strength, they too needed an administrative center and a training school for leaders. The only other seminary was in Ohio, but that was too far away and was also caught up in the struggle between high-church and low-church factions.
The Philadelphia Classis, in which pastors Bomberger and Berg served, became the focal judicatory within Eastern Synod for the founding of a headquarters. If the anti-liturgical movement was to succeed, pastors needed to be educated. Individual support also came from pastors in other Classes, for the liturgical question had been referred from the Eastern Synod to constituent Classes. Several locations for a college were considered, but the villages of Freeland and Trappe, in Montgomery County, near Philadelphia, proved a logical setting. Here were the Washington Hall in Trappe, conducted by Abel Rambo; Freeland Seminary, conducted by Adam H. Fetterolf; and the Pennsylvania Female College at Freeland, headed by J. Warren Sunderland. Nearby, in Norristown, was the Elmwood Institute, conducted by John R. Kooken, a former pastor at St. Luke's Church, Trappe, and then pastor of the Reformed Church of the Ascension. All these institutions were small and struggling. The buildings for Freeland Seminary and the Pennsylvania Female College were built by Abraham Hunsicker, a Mennonite minister who conducted worship in Freeland. The congregation served by him later became Trinity Reformed Church, Collegeville.
Under the leadership of Bomberger the ways and means committee of the Philadelphia Classis raised more than $25,000 for the establishment of a college. The buildings in Freeland were purchased in January 1869 for $20,000; the organization of a college began in February. On June 7 of that year Bomberger was elected president of the college. His election as pastor of St. Luke's Church, Trappe, provided the security necessary to accept the presidency of the college, which at its inception faced uncertainties of developing a faculty, a student body, and a sound financial base. 
The Heidelberg Catechism and the Palatinate Liturgy served as takeoffs for Bomberger's theological and liturgical positions. Out of this context he chose the name of the eminent author of these documents—Zacharias Ursinus—to be the name of the college. Thus the headquarters for the Old Reformed party had an appealing, symbolic name. Bomberger suggested the design for the corporate seal and participated in writing the movement's constitution.
The college was planned as a four-year baccalaureate institution, but Bomberger and the Classis had in mind the preparation of students for the ministry. On receiving the first students, in September 1870, the announcement indicated that theology would be offered in the curriculum. The Philadelphia Classis gave approval to the purpose, and Bomberger, with James I. Good, developed a theological faculty that included John Van Haagan, H. W. Super, A. S. Zerbe, John H. Sechler, Philip Vollmer, George Stibbitz, George W. Willard, and William J. Hinke.
On Bomberger's death, in 1890, James I. Good succeeded in the leadership of the theological school and as the head of the Old Reformed movement. Good sought to widen the sphere of influence of the Ursinus School. After moving to Philadelphia, Edward S. Bromer was added to the faculty. Good made numerous trips to Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary to study the Reformed history and to recruit students. Even though enrollment figures remained low, the school provided excellent preparation for the pastoral ministry.
The School of Theology continued at Ursinus College until 1898, when it was moved to 33d and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. The relocation was prompted by a desire to be close to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, which had no theological school.
The "Ursinus School"
At the same time that Bomberger was developing educational institutions to reach the minds of youth, he was calculating how he could adequately respond to the high-church articles in The Messenger. In 1868 he launched the Reformed Church Monthly, in which he and his followers answered and challenged his liturgical opponents.
As the leader of the low-church movement, Bomberger desired a theological base for the doctrine of the church, the ministry, and the sacraments. He did not succumb to revivalism and the new measures. The term low church was not to his liking, and he referred to the emphasis of the anti-liturgical group as the Old Reformed, preferring not to be thought of as antiliturgical. Bomberger sought revision of the provisional liturgy to allow free prayer, rather than liturgical prayers and responses, to remove the absolution after confession of sin and to give prime importance to preaching so that, practically speaking, it preempted at least fifty percent of the Sunday morning service. His liturgy, as a pulpit liturgy, put the pastor in the position of the chief speaker. The members' participation was reduced to singing hymns and praying the Lord's Prayer.
The controversy increased in intensity for ten years, from 1861 to 1871. Bomberger's opponents accused him of becoming an antagonist because he was not given proper recognition and because he was not called to the professorship at Mercersburg after Harbaugh's death. Bomberger refuted these accusations and said that although it was true he was a member of the original liturgical committee of General Synod and favored the liturgy, he reversed his position on the basis of principle in 1860-61. 
Debate became personal between men on both sides of the question. It seems appropriate to cite the fact that Nevin was of Scotch-Irish descent and Bomberger, of German descent, two ethnic strains known for their stubbornness. Behind the principle was plain stubbornness.
The "Ursinus School" became a term that symbolized the Old Reformed movement. At times the term free worship was used, as over against the Mercersburg School and liturgical worship. Some have incorrectly used the label free church movement; this it never was. There was no movement toward sectarianism or separatism. The Ursinus School remained within the Classis, Synod, and General Synod structure, which was presbyterial in order. Although conflict was present, so also was respect for church order, and the debates occurred on the floor of the judicatory meetings.
The Philadelphia Classis generally supported the initiation of theological education at Ursinus College. The Rev. S. R. Fisher contested the work of Bomberger as being unconstitutional on the basis that a theological professor was to be elected by the General Synod. Bomberger cited the precedent of pastors privately teaching theology and preparing students for the ministry and further insisted that there is no difference between theological professor and minister. Every minister is a theological teacher. The Mercersburg view was that whereas every pastor teaches theology, not every pastor is called to be a professor of theology, and that by the constitution the church elects the theological professor. The controversy reached the floor of the General Synod of 1872, at Cincinnati, Ohio.
The church was becoming weary of the controversy, and because theology was already being taught at Ursinus, it was probably expedient for the Synod to vote in favor of Bomberger. Although it was true that on the frontier theology had been taught in parsonages, the church was now maturing and seeking to bring order to theological education as well as to other areas of work. A theological/liturgical controversy at such a time made the maturing process more complex.
The high-water mark of the Ursinus School was reached in 1878. The Goods, one in Collegeville and one in Tiffin, were links in the chain of alliance between Pennsylvania and the Middle West. It was advantageous for the Ursinus School, the Pietists, and the revivalists to join forces to stop the advance of the Mercersburg leaders. The strength of Mercersburg increased to the point where the placement of pastors became a political issue. The Old Reformed accused the Mercersburg proponents of appointing committees for the call of pastors without the consistories' consent. Benevolent assessments on the congregations were refused because of their being used to send students to liturgically oriented seminaries.
When the General Synod convened in Lancaster in 1878 the election of the president showed the strength of the two parties. The first ballot ended in a tie between representatives of the liturgical and nonliturgical groups. On the second ballot David Van Horne, a low-church advocater, was elected. Clement Z. Weiser proposed a peace commission to seek a compromise and heal the long-standing division. The proposal was adopted. Then began the work that eventually brought a compromise, if not a complete ending, to the controversy.  The degree of animosity that existed can be seen in the fact that immediately after the election of Van Horne as president, the large cross atop the altar was removed until the Synod was completed. At this same Synod, for the first time and under the influence of the revivalists, a prayer meeting was held. 
The peace commission was composed of an equal number of pastors and elders from both sides of the controversy. A revision of the 1866 liturgy took place, with the resultant work being called a Directory of Worship. It was agreed that the use of the Directory would be with the action of each consistory. The Directory actually had limited usage. Mercersburg congregations continued to use the 1866 liturgy, and Ursinus congregations used no liturgy except for the Holy Communion. The Directory was in reality a flag of truce.
The doctrinal differences between the two movements were substantive and pronounced. Both groups referred to the same Heidelberg sources and produced different interpretations. The chief difference lay in the concept of the church. Bomberger and Good were Reformists. Their ecclesiology stopped with Zwingli, Calvin, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Thus they liked the term Old Reformed. They had difficulty accepting the fact that Ursinus was strongly influenced by Philip Melanchthon when he wrote the catechism. Through Melanchthon there was an underlying catholic spirit that made the catechism irenic and a bridging document.
Schaff and Nevin emphasized the continuity of the church through the Reformation and the Roman church (with its errors) back to the apostolic church. More than a century ago Schaff used the descriptive words reformed, evangelical, and catholic. The peace commission produced a statement that brought a truce in the doctrinal field.
We do not regard the visible church as commensurate and identical with the invisible church (according to the Roman theory) nor do we think that in this world the invisible church can he separated from the visible (according to the theory of Pietism and false spiritualism); but while we do not identify them, we do not in our views separate them. 
Evidences of the Ursinus School were seen in many churches during the latter half of the nineteenth century, in the architectural designs as well as in the chancel appointments. In fact, the word chancel would not have been used, because this was a high-church term used to describe the area behind the rail that separated the table and the pulpit from the rest of the church.
The low-church people simply referred to the area as "the front of the church." As recently as a generation ago uninformed members colloquially said "on the pulpit" when they referred to the entire area behind the rail.
The communion table usually stood one step above the main floor. It was unadorned except for a homemade runner. The colors of the church year were not acknowledged. On most Sundays the only items permitted on the table were the offering plates. As recently as the late 1950s some tables did not have crosses, because this custom was considered too Roman. Of course, no candlesticks were on the table. Lights, frequently ornate, adorned the pulpit for the practical reason to illuminate for reading.
In churches erected in the latter portion of the 1800s the pulpit was placed on a platform two or three steps above the floor of the table and was centered behind it. The pulpit was generally larger than the table and more ornate. Some tables were enclosed pieces of furniture resembling small, boxlike altars but they were still called tables. Other tables, when pulled away from the pulpit platform, revealed cupboards that could be used to store the communion service.
Worship was usually conducted from the pulpit. The Lord's Supper was often the only occasion when the pastor approached the table and that was for the distribution of the bread and wine. Turning to face the communion table during the prayer, with one's back to the people, was unacceptable. One had to pray from the pulpit. As recently as the 1940s some congregations did not look favorably on the pastor wearing the black Geneva pulpit gown.
The architectural style of the churches built in the eighteenth century presented some problems but were generally acceptable to the Ursinus School. This style, which reflected earlier German architecture, placed a four-to-five-foot-long table below the pulpit. In some churches the table stood free from the pulpit, with the benches facing in from three sides. With a balcony on three sides, the pulpit was conveniently elevated five to eight steps above the floor level of the table. A painting of Christ usually hung on the wall behind the pulpit. Because of the size, position, and respect given the table in relation to the pulpit this eighteenth-century style, remarkably enough, emphasized both the word and the sacrament. Yet it was also acceptable to the Old Reformed element, with the exception of the use of pictures or paintings.
Another area of struggle was centered in the writing of a constitution and bylaws that could embody in church structure an ecclesiology and doctrine with which both sides could live. This was finally accomplished in 1908.
The Ursinus School of Theology in Philadelphia did not develop sufficiently to maintain a separate existence. A friendly invitation was extended by Lancaster Theological Seminary for consolidation. Conversations were held with the theological seminary related to Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio, because of the greater affinity for the low-church position. In 1907 the union of the two schools was consummated under the new name of Central Theological Seminary, and the new site was Dayton, Ohio. Shortly after the formation of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, in 1934, Central Theological Seminary united with Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri.
During the transitional periods some Ursinus faculty members transferred to other institutions: Edwin S. Bromer went to Lancaster Theological Seminary; William J. Hinke went to Auburn Theological Seminary; James I. Good, Philip Vollmer, and George Stibbitz went to Central Theological Seminary.
Today if one were to visit congregations that were once related to the Ursinus School, one would find altars against the wall or large tables standing free, with a pulpit and a lectern on either side. Every congregation now has a cross on the table, fastened to the wall behind the altar or suspended above it. Most also have candles on the altar/table and an acolyte seated in the chancel. This practice is no longer seen as a Romanizing tendency.
St. Luke's Church, Trappe, where Bomberger served, now uses the Evangelical and Reformed liturgy, which is the successor to the 1866 liturgy, and at times uses the United Church of Christ Service of Word and Sacrament. The altar at St. Luke's is against the wall, beneath a reredos that bears a cross-shaped design. Candlesticks, flowers, and liturgical colors are used regularly. At Trinity Church, Collegeville, which is surrounded by the Ursinus College campus, the chancel was recently renovated to have a large, free standing table with a pulpit to the side and a cross mounted on the wall above the table. Older members of the church remember the tradition, and the confession and assurance of pardon are seldom used. However, responsive readings, litanies, a profession of faith, and the Gloria Patri a re a regular part of worship.
Each group established a summer conference for ministers and members—one at Ursinus College and one at Franklin and Marshall Academy, in Lancaster. For a time the Lancaster Conference moved to Cedar Crest College but now continues as the Spiritual Conference at Franklin and Marshall College. The Collegeville Summer Assembly has ceased to function and has given its endowment to Ursinus College, with the income to be used for an ecumenical day of theological education at the college.
The interludes of history bring messages in themselves. In this sense it is interesting to note that in the past fifty years Ursinus College has twice called an Episcopalian as its president. Another mark of change in the hidden history of the Ursinus School is the graduation from the college in the 1930s of three students—Morris D. Slifer, Scott F. Brenner, and Paul E. Schmoyer—who became leaders in the twentieth-century liturgical movement. All three served on committees for the revision of the Evangelical and Reformed Book of Worship, which is the successor liturgy to the classic Mercersburg Liturgy of 1866, or have written books dealing with the liturgy.
As one looks back over that critical period in the history of the Reformed Church one can only conjecture what would have happened if Bomberger had been called to the seminary professorship rather than Henry Harbaugh. James I. Good insisted that the reasons for the controversy were not personal. Certainly, the determination to find peace rather than schism indicates that each side believed it could find some common rock on which it could stand. Even though the reasons for the controversy may not have been personal, the antagonists were persons. Some of the German ethos, which had for so many centuries preserved small principalities and states in Germany, was operating here. One has to say that without the stubbornness of the German and Scotch-Irish participants, peace would have come sooner.
Nevertheless, the controversy did not keep the church from growing in Pennsylvania, where in 1957, when the union with the Congregational Christian Churches was consummated, there were nine hundred congregations. A more serious problem for church growth was the reluctance to surrender the German language and minister to the English-speaking people in Pennsylvania and in areas of the United States open to mission.
What are the continuing benefits of the Ursinus School? The most lasting and the one that has continued strongly to affect the lives of people and the nation is the founding of the college. Others are the education of generations of pastors, the upholding of a basic piety (over against Pietism) as an essential expression of faith, an abiding interest in theology, and a continuing witness to the confessional nature of the church. The Ursinus movement and the Mercersburg movement inherited a basic loyalty to the church and its head, Jesus Christ, which is a benefit and a heritage to receive and pass on to future generations.
John C. Shetler was Conference Minister of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference, United Church of Christ.
1. Bard Thompson and George H. Bricker, eds., Philip Schaff: The Principle of Protestantism (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1964), p. 14.
2. James I. Good, History of the Reformed Church in the U. S. in the Nineteenth Century(New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Church in America, 1911), p. 394.
3. Ibid., p. 382.
4. Ibid., pp. 120-23.
5. Charles E. Schaeffer, History of the Classis of Philadelphia of the Reformed Church in the United States (Classis of Philadelphia, 1944), p. 96.
6. Good, op. cit., p. 532.
7. H. M. J. Klein, The History of the Eastern Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States (Eastern Synod, 1943), pp. 266-69.
8. Good, op. cit., p. 579.
9. Ibid., p. 582.
Written by Percel O. Alston
It is commonplace to read in the historical writings on the United Church of Christ about German immigrants who came to American shores seeking economic well-being. They established the Reformed Church in America in the eighteenth century and the Evangelical Synod of North America in the nineteenth century. It is equally commonplace to read about the Pilgrims who left their homes in England in quest of religious freedom. They landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and subsequently established the Congregational Churches. A fourth stream fed into the formation of the United Church of Christ: the Christian Church, the first indigenous American denomination.
The Christian Church itself resulted from a "flowing together" of three different groups, in Virginia, New England, and Kentucky. These groups all had strong feelings about democracy in church government and the importance of Christian character for church membership and agreed that denominational concerns and labels were unnecessary. They took the simple name Christian. 
Life in nineteenth-century America was not simple, however. In the South, where there were many Christian churches, blacks were influenced by this movement. The Afro-Christian Connection began even before the Emancipation Proclamation.
The story goes back to Providence Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, which was established in 1852 by free black persons. Most Afro-Christian history, however, documents the movement of black people from the slave balconies of the white churches in North Carolina and Virginia to an abandoned cabin, stable, or "bush arbor."
Whatever else may be said about African people, they are notoriously religious. African scholar John S. Mbiti writes that it is never correct to speak of any one African religion. Africa throughout its history has been replete with a wide variety of religions that shape the lives of its people.  So it is not surprising that after the Civil War former slaves of African descent developed their own indigenous religious response to the God of their ancestors in ways appropriate to their needs in their new environment. The founders of the Afro-Christian Connection did not assimilate completely the Christian religion of their slave masters because they were not welcomed into the established Christian household of faith and because they yearned for the religious experience of their forebears.
It is not surprising, therefore, that "when the war closed in the Spring of 1865, Blacks began almost immediately to organize churches of their own, after the Master's denominational pattern."  Although early Afro-Christians patterned their organization after the white Christian churches, they developed their own idiom, style of preaching, liturgy, and worship, which still prevail in many of the one hundred fifty original Afro-Christian churches.  Soulful preaching from scriptural passages, long-meter hymns, ardent rhythmic prayers, Negro spirituals, and later, gospel songs were all part of the joyful, shouting services of worship in Afro-Christian churches.
Afro-Christian churches experienced rapid growth and development in North Carolina and Virginia during the decade after the Civil War. The Southern Christian Convention made a paternalistic response of conscience to its black sisters and brothers by appointing three white ministers—W. B. Wellons, J. W. Wellons, and H. B. Hayes—to assist the "Colored brethren" in organizing churches of their own and in organizing the Colored Conferences in keeping with the Cardinal Principles of the Christian platform.  These men were widely accepted by the early Afro-Christians and gave instructions in the licensure of the first black preachers and the ordination of black ministers. They helped to establish the Colored Christian Conference (predecessor of the Afro-Christian Convention), founded several black churches, and became their pastors. As "fraternal messengers" from the white Christian Convention they attended sessions of the Colored Christian Conference during the first decade of its existence and participated in discussions and transactions. A major influence of these three ministers can be seen in the theological and doctrinal principles rigorously adhered to by Afro-Christians. These principles were taken verbatim from the Five Cardinal Principles of the Christian Church. 
Apart from the Bible these Principles, which are given below, provided the most essential basis for church polity, discipline, preaching, and teaching.
Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church
Christian is a sufficient name for the Church.
The Holy Bible is a sufficient rule for faith and practice.
Christian character is a sufficient test for Church membership and fellowship.
The right of private judgment and the liberty of conscience are rights and privileges which should be accorded to and exercised by all.
By 1867, under the guidance of the North Carolina Conference, a conference of Negro people was formed and named the Colored Christian Conference. When the Colored Christian Conference convened at Christian Chapel in Wake County, North Carolina, in 1873, twenty-seven ministers were listed. At the same meeting a new conference was recognized in Eastern North Carolina, and it was decided that the name of the Colored Christian Conference be changed to the Western North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. In the same year a group of Afro-Christians in Virginia met at Mount Ararat Church in Suffolk, Virginia, to form the Virginia Colored Christian Conference. Here again, the Reverends J. W. Wellons, H. B. Hayes, and W. B. Wellons were present as "fraternal messengers" from the white Southern Christian Convention. Six churches, two ordained ministers, and six licentiates of the Afro-Christian Connection participated in this organizing effort. 
It is remarkable that within a decade after the Civil War ended this small group of former slaves, many of whom could not read or write English, had moved out of the "Nigger" balconies of their former white masters' churches, established more than fifty churches, organized three conferences, and ordained forty ministers in North Carolina and Virginia. With a minimum of technical assistance from their white Christian counterparts, the Afro-Christians demonstrated that what they may have lacked in formal education and material resources, they compensated for by their faithfulness and dogged determination to develop and expand a Christian Church that captured and perpetuated something of the glow and exuberance of the African religious experience.
Preaching was central in the service of worship in Afro-Christian churches. It consisted of exegesis of biblical texts and vivid stories of biblical characters and racial oppression. The preacher did not always make application to the broad social issues of the times, but application was always made to what was perceived as personal Christian morality and ethical behavior. In this regard the Afro-Christian preacher was as severe as any New England Puritan. No Afro-Christian preacher would conclude a prayer or sermon without sounding a clear eschatological note of hope. The congregation never departed without being assured that despite the oppression, the suffering, and the pain experienced daily in this life, joy will surely come in the morning. The following quotation is a classic example of the expressions of hope with which Afro-Christian preachers concluded their sermons:
But things will be alright bye and bye
Bye and bye, when I come to press my dying pillow
After while, when I'm done climbing the rough side of the mountain
After while, when the big bell tolls in Zion
Bye and bye, when I've prayed my last prayer and sung my last song
Bye and bye, when I've come down to the chilly stream of the Jordan to pull off mortality and put on immortality
I'm going to be done with the troubles of this world
I'll hear the welcoming voice of Jesus saying, "Come ye blessed of my Father. You have been faithful over a few things. Now I'll make you ruler over many." 
A typical prayer handed down orally from generation to generation and usually a part of the worship service every Sunday morning went like this:
This morning, our heavenly Father,
It's once more and again, that a few of your handmade servants
bow humbly before your throne of grace.
We come before you this morning,
not for form nor fashion
not for outside show to the world,
But to confess our sins as wayward children
and to ask you to forgive us and
try us one more time.
We want to give you some humble and sincere
thanks, O God, for waking us up this morning
with your finger of love.
We want to thank you for waking us up in
time and not in eternity.
So that our bed was not our cooling board
and our covers were not our winding sheet.
We want to thank you this morning, Holy Father,
for articulation of speech and the blood
that still runs warm in our veins.
We want you to come by here this morning, O Lord,
and baptize us with the Spirit from on high,
Bless the preacher who shall stand in the
shoes of John this morning,
Lower him in the deep treasures of your love,
Crown his head with wisdom and give him
the utterance to call sinners to repentance.
Visit the sick in their affliction, and cool their
raise them up from their beds of suffering and pain,
Visit the prisoners and care for the dying
and I will be careful to give you the praise.
This is my prayer. Amen and Thank God.
This prayer, as well as the preaching and singing, was of high emotional intensity so characteristic of the African dance and music. Preaching and singing were always punctuated with loud amens and shouts of joy.
During the early years of Afro-Christian formation a deep and abiding concern for the education of ministers and laypeople of the churches was paramount. The yearning for an educated and enlightened ministry reached its fruition in the period from 1871 to 1873, when the Conferences of North Carolina and Virginia decided to tax each member ten cents a year to purchase a site and build a school at Franklinton, North Carolina. This action proved to be the most significant event of the Afro-Christian Connection. 
The post-Civil War South was very poor. The economic condition of the ex-slaves was even more desperate but not so much as to dim the vision of a people whose determination to build a school far exceeded their economic means. By 1880 the Afro-Christians, assisted by modest contributions from Christian Church members in the North, had raised enough money to purchase land, erect a building, and move to the new location.
The American Christian Convention took a firm hand in governing the Franklinton school. It appointed a Board of Control to manage the affairs of the budding institution and sent George Young, a young, white minister of the Eastern Christian Conference of New York, to serve as the first principal. A prominent black minister, Henry E. Long, became his assistant. The school was incorporated in 1883 under the name of Franklinton Literary and Theological Christian Institute. During its early years the Institute attracted more than two hundred students, ranging in age from five to forty-five. Fathers, mothers, and children often attended as families, studying a wide variety of subjects from the alphabet to Latin, algebra, physiology, and theology. None was turned away, no matter how poor.
Letters published in the Herald of Gospel Liberty, a publication of the American Christian Church, indicate that widespread interest and support existed among northern white Christians for this pioneering effort in black education and leadership training at Franklinton. 
After visiting Franklinton the Rev. John G. Wilson, of Philadelphia, wrote:
The school building occupies the most eligible site in the area. The ground is sufficiently elevated to command a prospect of the entire village, and large enough for the building of a first-class college and campus which it may become someday. At all events it bids fair to attain the rank of the Literary and Theological Institute of the North Carolina and Virginia African Conferences of the Christian Denomination.
The Rev. W. G. Clements, pastor of a white Christian church in Wake County, wrote in a letter to the Herald of Gospel Liberty:
For some of the brethren and sisters of the North who have given material aid to the Colored Christians of North Carolina, I thought it might be of interest to those donors to know that the Lord was blessing their efforts to do good. Having been raised up among the Colored people, and having watched their progress since the Civil War, I think I can speak advisedly as regards their improvements, and I do not hesitate to say, when we take into consideration the means at their command, they have made fair improvements. There is much ignorance among them yet, but where they have had an opportunity of going to school they have generally learned very well.... Those who have given their money to this institution of learning [the Franklinton school] have done a great work.
Another white visitor to Franklinton, the Rev. D. L. Putman, wrote:
This school is no longer an experiment. A fine location, suitable buildings and three years of school, in which there has been with each successive year an increasing interest and a permanent growth in numbers, have placed Franklinton permanently among the institutions that be. The work done has been excellent, equal to that of any institution of its character and advantages. The proficiency made in the studies in academic and theological departments has been highly commended. The Franklinton School is a great power for good.
Fourteen years after George Young arrived to serve as the first principal of the Franklinton school his assistant, Henry E. Long, became the first black president. From 1904 on great progress was made under Long's able and inspiring leadership. The Afro-Christian Conferences of North Carolina and Virginia gave one thousand dollars to purchase a new site for the school, now called the Franklinton Christian College. Gifts from the Northern Christian Churches and the Afro-Christian Churches were used to erect buildings. The years between 1905 and 1930 were the golden years of Franklinton Christian College. Although it never achieved the full status of college by reputable standards, it provided the essential education and training for pastoral and lay leadership for the Afro-Christian Church. Franklinton also provided strong institutional support for the substantial growth in the number of churches and membership in North Carolina and Virginia, without which the organization of the Afro-Christian Convention would have been impossible.
In an eloquent address to the Afro-Christian Convention in 1916, the Rev. Smith A. Howell, who later became the president of Franklinton Christian College, articulated the importance of Franklinton and the necessity for an educated ministry.
The Schoolhouse is the foe of ignorance whether in or out of the pulpit. Rapid intellectual advancement of the pew is an imperative call for a trained ministry. Is the calling of the ministry of less dignity and importance than the call of such honorable professions as law, medicine, etc.? Possessing the opportunities so earnestly desired by our fathers, what justifying excuse is there for a lack of intellectual training on the part of the ministry of today? We are persuaded that our ministry is so well aware of these truths that no argument is needed to enforce the ammunition to scrutinize with care the candidates for admission to our Conferences and insist on a high standard of qualifications. The future of our church largely centers upon the School of Theology at Franklinton Christian College. This school is to be considered the theological center from which goes a trained ministry. There is an imperative need that there be a thorough awakening to this truth. Our plea is for an educated ministry! An educated ministry!! An educated ministry!!! On this the respectability and influence of our church depends. 
When the school closed in 1930, in the depths of the depression, a dream was shattered and the hope for an educated Afro-Christian ministry was lost for many years to future generations. Afro-Christians had no way of compensating for this loss. They were denied access to Elon College, the prominent educational institution of the white Southern Christian Convention. Bricks Junior College, in Enfield, North Carolina, an institution established by Northern Congregationalists, through the American Missionary Association, for the education of black Americans, had also closed. After the merger of the Congregational and Christian Churches, in 1931, theological seminaries were open to blacks, but few were considered to be qualified for admission. In the absence of an educational institution of their own, many Afro-Christians reverted to a mischievous anti-intellectualism and spiritualism to compensate for their lack of formal training.
Compare these words of the Rev. J. J. Farmer to the Eastern Virginia Conference of Afro-Christian Churches in 1946, with those of the Rev. Smith A. Howell, quoted above:
All I have heard at this annual meeting is education. Education! I'm sick and tired of hearing about it. I want to hear about Jesus. He's the source of my salvation, not the college or seminary. I want to tell you that you can go to the college and you can go to the school, but if you ain't got the religion of Jesus, you're an educated fool. 
This burst of anti-intellectualism received some loud applause but did not go unchallenged. The Rev. Zanda P. Jenkins, a new breed of Afro-Christian minister, with college and seminary training, eloquently challenged what he called "that anti-education garbage unfit for consumption by those who love Jesus and care about His Church."
Although the educational level of the pastoral leadership and membership of the former Afro-Christian Churches within the United Church of Christ has improved substantially, many churches continue to bear the tremor of the closing of Franklinton Christian College.
The Afro-Christian Convention
In May 1892, at Watson Tabernacle, New Berne, North Carolina, the various black conferences organized into the Afro-Christian Convention. By that time the Eastern North Carolina Conference had become the Eastern Atlantic Christian Conference; the Western North Carolina Conference had returned to its original name—the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. The Eastern Virginia Conference continued under the same name. 
Two other conferences had come into being: the Cape Fear Conference, which eventually faded out of existence, and the Georgia-Alabama Colored Christian Conference, organized in 1887. In 1910 the Lincoln Conference was formed by mutual agreement with the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference and a group of churches located in the Burlington, North Carolina, area. In 1912 the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York Christian Conference was organized. By 1916, according to the oldest minutes of the convention that have been found, there were seven conferences, four mission churches in British Guiana, South America, and one mission church in Trinidad, British West Indies. 
The Afro-Christian Convention experienced significant growth and expansion under the able leadership of the Rev. Smith A. Howell, who was elected president in 1914 and served in that office for twenty years. During this period the number of churches grew to more than 150, with a membership of 25,000. Included in the Convention were 185 ordained ministers and licentiates; 150 Sunday schools and Christian Endeavor Societies; more than 12,000 Sunday school pupils; several Sunday school conventions; a Woman's National Home and Foreign Missionary Convention, which organized and trained the women of the church; and an active Afro-Christian Publishing Association, which was based in Franklinton, North Carolina, and served the churches and organizations of the Convention. 
Before the organization of the Convention of the South, a later union of black Congregationalists and Afro-Christians, the Afro-Christian Convention operated virtually independently of both the Christian Church and the Congregational Churches, despite the Christian and Congregational merger of 1931. Afro-Christians separated from their black Congregationalist sisters and brothers and from their white Christian counterparts for different reasons.
Black Congregationalists were beneficiaries of the education, acculturation, and religious orientation of the American Missionary Association (AMA), whereas Afro-Christians were the victims of neglect by their white Christian counterparts. The AMA schools founded for the education of blacks in the South were oases of racial goodwill in an otherwise hostile, white racist society. The late Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, distinguished president of the black Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina, used to describe her school as "a little hunk of New England Congregationalism in the deep South." Black Congregationalists identified freely with New England Congregationalism, and for many years they were considered objects of mission by the Congregational Church.
Afro-Christians had no such sense of identity with the white Christian Church. They had no alternative but to build their own church connection. Even after the organization of the Convention of the South, black Congregationalists remained virtually separated from Afro-Christians by maintaining their own separate Associations. As late as 1957, at an annual meeting of the black Western North Carolina Association of Congregational Churches, the Rev. W. M. McRae reminded the Superintendent of the Convention of the South, Dr. J. Taylor Stanley, that "we are not Christians, and despite your efforts to make us so, we remain American Congregationalists."
The Convention of the South
In 1941 there were 106 black Congregational churches, scattered throughout the South in eleven states, with a total of 6,975 members; there were 129 black Christian churches, concentrated almost entirely in North Carolina and Virginia, with a total of 12,640 members.
Comparisons between Black Christian and Black Congregational churches in the South were inevitable. The average membership of a Congregational church was sixty-six; average membership of a Christian church was ninety-nine. Nearly all Congregational pastors had had at least some college and seminary training; many had both college and seminary degrees. Very few Christian pastors had training above the high school level; none had completed requirements for a seminary degree. The Congregationalists had had large financial assistance toward ministers' salaries and church buildings and facilities, as well as opportunity for liberal educational and religious training in church-related schools and colleges, conveniently located throughout the South. The Black Christians paid the meager ministers' salaries themselves, built their own churches, and developed their own church organizations, with very little encouragement, financial or otherwise, from their white Christian neighbors. 
The birth of the Convention of the South of the Congregational Christian Churches, in 1950, was pivotal in the history of the Afro-Christian churches. Up to this point Afro-Christians had not only operated virtually independently of the Congregational Christian denomination but also had had little contact with black Congregationalists. Under the able and sacrificial leadership of J. Taylor Stanley, the Convention of the South was organized in Greensboro, North Carolina. This organization brought together all black Congregationalists and Afro-Christians in the South, from Virginia to Texas. A few Afro-Christian churches in New Jersey and New York were also included. For the first time a mechanism for the inclusion of Afro-Christians in denominational life and work was in place. Even though the divisions between Afro-Christians and black Congregationalists persisted among the older generation, the young people began to discover a common Congregational Christian identity through Pilgrim Fellowship, youth rallies, and youth camps and conferences. By the mid-1950s the new generation of Afro-Christians was reclaiming the aspirations for higher education that was characteristic of their forebears who had founded Franklinton Christian College. The adults began to identify with the denomination through Woman's Fellowship and Layman's Fellowship groups that were keyed into national programs. Christian education training institutes and workshops and pastor training events contributed to a new level of consciousness and a sense of common identity.
Another event that facilitated the transition was the merger of the remnants of Franklinton Christian College with Bricks Junior College, in the early 1950s. This new conference center, Franklinton Center at Bricks, North Carolina, provided the institutional support for the training of pastors, youth, and adults of Afro-Christian and Congregational backgrounds. At Franklinton Center, Afro-Christians were grounded in the history, heritage, theology, and mission of the Congregational Christian denomination. Church school superintendents and teachers were introduced to denominational curricula and taught how to use them creatively. Increasingly, new patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving appeared. "Congregational Christian" began to replace "Christian" on the bulletin boards of the churches, Pilgrim Fellowship replaced Christian Endeavor Society, the Kansas City Statement of Faith began to replace the Five Cardinal Principles of the Christian Church, and in some instances the assortment of "Christian" hymnals were replaced by the Pilgrim Hymnal.
The United Church of Christ
Throughout the 1950s the Convention of the South moved toward becoming a self-supporting and self-directing conference of black Christians and Congregationalists. In 1957, when the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches formed the United Church of Christ, there was concern that the new denomination be inclusive as to race and previous religious and cultural background. The UCC constitution, adopted in 1961, insisted that all conferences and associations include all churches within stated geographic bounds. This decision fragmented the Convention of the South.
Most of the churches of the Convention of the South became part of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ when it organized in 1965. Thirty-two churches from the Convention eventually related to five other conferences within the new denomination. Although this inclusiveness was right in the minds of many Afro-Christians, it made it even more difficult to keep the Afro-Christian tradition alive. 
The Afro-Christian legacy
From the beginning of Afro-Christian church life, immediately after the Civil War, until the formation of the United Church of Christ, Afro-Christian churches preserved their essential character. This legacy can be summarized in four statements: They were fiercely independent; they maintained simple organizations; they upheld the centrality of Christ; and they preserved the African idiom.
Afro-Christian churches and leaders guarded their independence and autonomy with great zeal. Unlike many of their Congregational sisters and brothers, who had become dependent on subsidies for pastoral leadership and church buildings, Afro-Christians graciously declined such subsidies in rigorous regard for their pride, dignity, and independence. Until recently, they rejected aid from the denomination, fearing that help from sources other than local church members had strings attached that might infringe on their freedom and autonomy. They were suspicious of centralized ecclesiastical authority located in the conference, convention, or national bodies. As a consequence of such zeal for independence, Afro-Christian churches suffered a lack of educated pastoral leadership and adequate facilities.
Afro-Christians were deeply committed to fellowship and covenant while at the same time insisting on autonomy and independence. Annual meetings of Afro-Christians showed this paradox. Heated debates revolved around the authority of the Conference over local churches. But the high quality of fellowship at worship and at meals sustained a deep and abiding sense of covenant that usually led to consensus.
Organization, worship, and mission in Afro-Christian churches were simple, never complex. Informality characterized these structures. The deacons in charge of the church's affairs were ordained for life. The chairperson of the board usually remained in that office until death. The essential role of the pastor was to preach, care for the sick, and bury the dead.
Complicated, formal processes of planning were conspicuous by their absence. The congregation met to transact business when urgent matters required action by the membership. Otherwise, the congregation trusted the deacons to "fix it." Members of the congregation were informed on essential matters and often voted during the regular worship service, which usually followed this pattern:
Prayer and Praise Service
Opening Congregational Hymn
Opening Doors of the Church (music)
Poor Saints' Offering
Such worship services moved at a slow pace, with little regard for a time to begin and end. It was not uncommon for a service to last three hours.
The preaching, teaching, music, liturgy, and mission of the Afro-Christian churches all evolved out of the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church. Sometimes this Christocentric rhetoric got in the way of the formation and pursuit of an explicit social vision. Furthermore, the rhetoric was not always matched by the behavior and attitudes of the deacons, who ruled with an iron hand. Even charismatic pastors sometimes forgot the first Cardinal Principle as they led the "flock."
The Christocentric affirmation of Afro-Christians was not only a theological focus, but also served as a mechanism for the containment of overly aggressive and assertive pastors and deacons. When a pastor or deacon exceeded the limits of power and authority, he was reminded by members of the congregation that "Jesus Christ is the Head of this church, not you."
The preaching, singing, and shouting in the Afro-Christian churches were related to African experiences. The preaching and singing looked back to African chants; the shouting was closely akin to African dance. The feeling aspect of religion dominated. One of the gifts that Afro-Christians brought to the Convention of the South, and subsequently to the United Church of Christ, was their capacity to feel religion and express the same with fervor and great joy.
Great changes have and are taking place in the former Afro-Christian churches. Their relatively small numbers and limited geographical focus precluded their high visibility in the formation of the United Church of Christ. The unique character of these churches, however, continues to provide an invaluable presence.
With the formation of the United Church of Christ, Afro-Christians, by and large, accepted the mandate to become an integral part of the new denomination. They have contributed to the rich pluralism, social vision, viable congregational polity, and "soul" of the United Church of Christ.
Percel O. Alston was General Secretary of the Division of Christian Education, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. He also served churches in the Afro-Christian tradition, as did his parents.
1. Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ (New York: United Church Press, 1977), p. 162.
2. John S. Mbiti, African Religion and Psychology (New York: Doubleday, 1970).
3. J. Taylor Stanley, Conference on Church History (Burlington, NC: Southern Conference, 1974), pp. 17-23.
4. Percel 0. Alston, "The Black Constituency of the UCC" (Paper, 1975).
5. J. Taylor Stanley, A History of Black Congregational Christian Churches in the South (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1978), pp. 50-54.
6. D. T. Stokes and William T. Scott, A History of the Christian Church in the South (Elon College, NC, 1973).
7. Milo True Morrill, A History of the Christian Denomination in America, 1794-1911 (Dayton, Ohio: Christian Publishing Association, 1912), p. 270.
8. Robert J. Alston, "Things That Matter Now" (Sermon, 1945).
9. Stanley, History of Black Congregational Christian Churches, op. cit., p. 62. 10. Letters reprinted in ibid., pp. 63-68.
11. In ibid., pp. 71-72.
12. Percel O. Alston (Notes on the Eastern Virginia Conference of the Congregational Christian Churches of the Convention of the South, Newport News, Virginia, 1951).
13. Morrill, op. cit., p. 271.
14. Stanley, History of Black Congregational Christian Churches, pp. 57-60.
15. Ibid., p. 61.
16. Ibid., p. 119.
17. Ibid., pp. 138-39.
AMERICAN INDIANS, MISSIONS, AND THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Serge F. Hummon
Serge F. Hummon is recently retired as Secretary for Church Development and liaison for American Indian Ministries with the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries from 1958 to 1982.
FROM EARLY COLONIAL WRITINGS we know that many white Christian settlers were concerned about the native peoples they found living in North America. Although the violence done to indigenous peoples can never be redressed, it is important to recognize that the churches did not always accept the popular insensitive attitudes about American Indians. Indeed, stories of important Christian mission work among the Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakotas (Sioux), and Winnebago can be traced through the records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and in the letters of Reformed Church missionaries. Recently this legacy has moved from well-meaning missionary paternalism to ecclesiastical self-determinism. Today the Council for American Indian Ministry of the United Church of Christ supports the churches and ministries of American Indians in the denomination.
The colonial period began with the landing of the Pilgrims and ended with the American Revolution (1620—1783). Because the Pilgrims desired good relations with the Indians, a treaty of peace was drawn up between Gov. John Carver of Plimouth and Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe, which read in part:
1. That neyther he nor any of his should injure or doe hurt to any of our people.
2. And if any of his did hurt to any of ours, he should send the offender, that we might punish him.
3. That if any of our Tooles were taken away when our people were at worke, he should cause them to be restored, and if ours did any harme to any of his, wee would doe the like to them.
4. If any did unjustly warre against him, we would ayde him; if any did warre against us, he should ayde us. (1)
During the early years the English purchased the land they needed for colonization from the Indians. However, both parties were soon involved in land disputes. The years from 1620 to 1675, when King Philip’s war broke out, were dark times. The story of the mission to the Indians was “glorious and often terrible. ... Every promising beginning was brought to a sad end by the injustice of the white citizens to their red brethren.” (2)
Yet the Massachusetts Bay Colony had deeply religious intentions toward the Indians. Its charter vowed “to wynn and invite the Natives . . . [to] the onlie God and Saviour of Mankinde.” John Eliot, the minister at Roxbury, was concerned about the remnants of the tribal people in his area. He learned the Massachusetts language and by 1646 was preaching at Dorchester Mills and Newton. Eliot enlisted others in the mission. He believed that Christian Indians should be segregated from their tribes into towns of “Praying Indians,” where they could be supervised and nurtured in Christian knowledge. Natick was the first town established, in 1651, on land provided by the General Court. A church was organized. By 1674 fourteen towns of Praying Indians, with a total population of four thousand, were in existence. Activities included preaching, teaching, catechizing, Bible reading, and devotional literature. Indians were taught English, agriculture, and domestic crafts.
John Eliot’s mission attracted attention in England. A missionary society was founded in 1649 to solicit contributions for the work, which was explained in a tract titled “New England First Fruits.” Parliament appropriated funds and in the same year established a Corporation for Promoting and Propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England.
But King Philip’s War devastated the towns of Praying Indians. Caught between traditional Indians and whites who suspected them of tribal loyalties, the tribes in eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut were broken up, and the survivors were forced to move west of the Connecticut River.
The Housatonic band of the Mahican tribe was one remnant group that received mission attention. The chief welcomed John Sargent, a young tutor at Yale, as a missionary. Sargent was ordained at Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1735. He began a mission at Stockbridge, Massachusetts that was successful in establishing a church and a day school as well as in organizing a Christian town. The Indians who came together here assumed the name of Stockbridge Indians. Sargent died at age thirty-nine and was succeeded by Jonathan Edwards.
Another active missioner in the 1700s was Eleazar Wheelock. Graduating from Yale in 1733, he was ordained and called to the Second Parish of Lebanon, Connecticut. To supplement his income, he opened a boys’ school in the parsonage. One of his students was Samuel Occam, a Mohegan youth. As a result of his experience with Occam, Wheelock conceived the idea of a school and mission where Indian boys and white boys would be trained together. The Indian boys would learn English and be introduced to Christianity and the skills of white society. The white youths would learn Indian vernacular and the ways of Indian life. Later the youth would be paired in the mission enterprise with remote tribes and sent out to establish churches and schools.
Wheelock’s vision was ambitious. He was sent Delaware and Mohegan youth and established the Moor-Indian Charity School at Lebanon, in 1755. All students were on scholarships. By 1765 he had enrolled twenty-one Indian boys, ten Indian girls, and seven white boys. Being continually short of funds, Wheelock quarreled with his sponsors over support.
In the 1760s the flow of Indian students declined, and Wheelock turned his attention to the education of white youth. He accepted a land grant at Hanover, New Hampshire, where he received a charter for the founding of Dartmouth College. He associated the Moor-Indian Charity School with the new college. By the time of the Revolution, Indian mission work was almost at a standstill.
Wheelock must be remembered for the Calvinist he was. The wrath of God was real to him. He desired to save the perishing souls of the “heathen.” He had contempt for the Indian culture — a shared view of his time — and felt that conversion of the Indians [was] easier, more effective, and far cheaper in lives and money than military conquest.
Gratitude, duty, and loyalty to the King require[dl vigorous prosecution of missions, and the King laid this duty on the colonies in the colonial charters. . . . Furthermore, the savages cannot be expected to keep treaties as long as they remain savages, for they will keep such contracts only when they have been civilized by Christian education. (3)
MISSION SOCIETIES AND GOVERNMENT ACTION
During the waning years of the eighteenth century and the first three decades of the nineteenth century (1783—1830) Indian missionary activity was furthered by associations formed to provide personnel, literature, and Bibles for the expanding frontier. A fear existed that people on the frontier would be paganized. In 1787 the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Indians and Others in North America was organized and incorporated in order to give inspiration and leadership to regional societies. One such group was the New York Missionary Society, which sent a mission to the Chickasaw in the South, in 1799. At this time overseas missions were an emerging concern, but frontier settlements and Indian work were priorities. Not until the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized, in 1810, did foreign missions receive major focus.
The young country faced the question of relations with the tribes. The new Constitution of 1787 vested policy formation in the Congress. In 1806 the office of Commissioner of Indian Trade was established. The tribes were dealt with as foreign nations that possessed treaties with the government. Administration was placed in the War Department. Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War, shared the view of mission society executives that Christianity and civilization went hand in hand. He wrote:
Missionaries of excellent moral character, should be appointed to reside in their nations, who should be well supplied with all the implements of husbandry, and the necessary stock for a farm. .. . They should be friends and fathers.
Such a plan, although it might not fully effect the civilization of the Indians, would most probably be attended with the salutary effect of attaching them to the interest of the United States. (4)
The American Board worked closely with the government in establishing the Brainerd mission to the Cherokee in Chickamauga, Tennessee, in 1817. Cyrus Kingsbury opened the work with the tribe’s consent. The government built a schoolhouse and a home for a teacher, which also boarded Indian youth. Two plows, six hoes, and six axes were provided initially. A similar plan for girls was launched with spinning and weaving equipment. An annual report from the mission to the Secretary of War was required. Congress appropriated the funds for the work on the basis that, as one of its committees wrote, “the sons of the forest should be moralized or exterminated.” (5)
In 1819 Congress passed a bill providing for a “Civilization Fund.” This statement of public policy provided the basis for government and church cooperation until 1873. Although the major denominations might differ in doctrine, they could enter into a partnership with the government to “civilize” the Indians. The government benefited, because the churches paid the salaries of the missionaries and, more important, provided dedicated personnel.
Government resources greatly extended the scope of mission activity. Kingsbury moved on from the Cherokee mission to the Choctaw. He proposed that the government fund four large schools and thirty-two small ones, a fourth of each to be located west of the Mississippi. The large schools would accommodate eighty to one hundred scholars; the small ones, twenty to forty. The government never funded all the schools, but their numbers increased as rapidly as the American Board found funds and government monies were appropriated.
For the most part government and church mission policy was congruent in the first twenty-five years of the nineteenth century. The westward movement of Americans, however, gave rise to a clamor for the removal of tribes settled near expanding frontier communities. On the question of removal, a minority of the missionaries spoke in behalf of Indian rights. The American Board took the leadership in opposing the removal of the Cherokee in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. Although the Cherokee had fought with Andrew Jackson against the Creek and the British in 1814—15, they found him no friend when he became President, in 1829. The Cherokee had made remarkable progress in self-government and in literary and economic development. In 1827 they adopted a constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution. This act incensed the state of Georgia, which claimed jurisdiction over Cherokee lands. It clamored for removal of the tribe and blamed the missionaries for insisting on tribal rights. Jeremiah Evarts, chief executive officer of the American Board, proved a powerful advocate for the Cherokee. He
wrote eloquently in their behalf in the press of the day. The Cherokee had powerful friends in government, especially in New England, where liberals like Ralph Waldo Emerson opposed their removal. But the political tides were too strong, and the Removal Act was passed by Jackson’s administration in May 1830.
Five missionaries — two from the American Board, one Moravian, and two Methodists — refused to take the oath of allegiance to the state of Georgia against the Cherokee. They were arrested and publicly maligned. All but the two American Board missionaries, Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler, were eventually released. These two men were sentenced to four years of hard labor, but the American Board stood behind them by taking the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor in 1832. The governor of Georgia offered a pardon. Rather than accept the pardon, they were counseled by the Board to withdraw the case from further prosecution.
Even though the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the Cherokee as a sovereign nation, President Jackson refused to enforce the law. He said, “John Marshall has pronounced his judgment; let him enforce it if he can."(6) Such was the political climate of the day.
MISSION TO THE DAKOTAS
Work with the Cherokee, Choctaw, and other civilized tribes was phased out reluctantly by the American Board in the 1830s because of the removal of these tribes to land west of the Mississippi and because of the general disarray of these tribes’ existence. The mainstream of mission activities moved to Minnesota and focused on the Sioux, who called themselves Dakotas. Sioux was a Chippewa word meaning snake or enemy; Dakota stood for friend, ally.
Thomas Williamson, a Presbyterian, was sent to the Dakotas by the American Board, in 1835. In these years the American Board was supported by Congregationalists and Presbyterians. Williamson was joined shortly by Stephen and Mary Riggs. Both these families were to collaborate in long careers with the Sioux. Riggs became an eminent scholar in the Sioux language, publishing a grammar and a dictionary in 1852. He and Williamson translated the Bible, which was published by the American Bible Society.
The Riggses first worked in missions along the Minnesota River, where the Sioux were congregated after cession of large amounts of Minnesota land to the United States. The Riggses felt that civilization and Christianization were “Siamese twins” in mission strategy and set out to reform Indian life. In appraising their work a contemporary scholar describes the difficulties they encountered:
Persons of mixed blood and women tended to convert almost easily, the former because of their already ambivalent status in Indian society, and the latter because the missionaries did not require a major dress and role change. In the case of males, a convert was required to dress in an alien fashion
(Western clothes) and to do work relegated to women (in the Indian’s eyes). This was no subtle change.. .. Unconverted tribesmen quite correctly viewed the whole civilization-Christianization approach as a threat to their way of life. They retaliated against converts and missionaries with such measures as ostracism, threats, cattle killing, and destruction of property. (7)
In 1862 American Board mission activity was disrupted by the Sioux uprising in Minnesota. The Lincoln administration, distracted by the Civil War, had not come through with promises of food for the 1861—62 winter. In waiting for their grants from the government, the Sioux had neglected their hunting. After a winter of great privation the warriors took supplies from government storehouses and killed several soldiers. This action ignited feelings on both sides. About 700 white settlers were killed. Indian losses were also large. Although they took many captives, the Sioux did not have the resources of the army to sustain prolonged conflict. Some of the Sioux fled to Canada. Fifteen hundred were rounded up as prisoners and three hundred were condemned to death. President Lincoln commuted the sentences of all but thirty-eight warriors, who were hanged.
The Riggses and their colleagues lived through this dangerous time with the help of new converts, such as Simon Anawangmane (Walks Galloping On), who rescued white mission personnel after their capture. More than twenty years before, Anawangmane was the first full blood to convert to Christianity. He withstood the taunts of proud Dakota braves, who reminded him that his church was made up of women. Anawangmane adopted Western dress and turned from the hunt to agriculture.
In the Riggses’ account of the mission one senses the heroism of Sioux converts. Artemas Ehnamane, who became pastor of Pilgrim Church at Santee, Nebraska, had been a fine hunter and was the son of a war prophet. Before his death his father had said, “The white man is coming into this country, and your children may learn to read. But promise me that you will never leave the religion of your ancestors." (8) Ehnamane promised but reneged because “his gods were worsted by the white man’s God” in the great Sioux uprising. So he believed.
The mission work had a genuine vitality among the Sioux. Eight congregations had been formed by 1871, led principally by native pastors in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory. In that year the Word Carrier (Iapi Oaye) was published and became important to the Dakota people. It was a four-page newspaper, with a motto in Dakota: “To help what is good, to oppose what is bad.”
The Santee Normal School, on the Missouri River near Yankton, was opened in 1870 by Alfred Riggs, a son of Stephen and Mary Riggs. American Board support continued for the school through 1883, when the American Missionary Association took over. In the 1880s as many as two hundred students were enrolled yearly. A standard curriculum of reading, writing, and arithmetic was supplemented by industrial arts training and Christian education. Much of the instructing was done in Dakota, in contrast to other schools, where English was insisted on. Graduates were expected to return to their tribes in leadership roles.
The Dakota Home for Girls was started on the Santee campus in 1872. Its central purpose was the training of future homemakers: “They learn to cook and wash, sew and cut garments, weave, knit, milk, make butter, make beds, sweep floors, and anything else pertaining to housekeeping, and they can make good bread.(9)
Theological education was organized at the Santee School during this period. Native pastors had asked for it. A short course of four weeks was devised in “Bible geography and history, in the main doctrines of the Christian faith, in the best methods of teaching Bible truth, [and in] the founding and growth of the Christian church.” (10) The school was finally closed in the late 1930s.
The Fort Berthold Reservation mission, in North Dakota, was begun by Charles Hall, who was ordained in the South Dakota mission at Yankton, in 1876. He had served a new non-Indian church at Springfield, South Dakota immediately preceding his decision to go to Fort Berthold. He had met his bride, Emma Calhoun, in the congregation. After Hall’s ordination the Word Carrier extended the right hand of fellowship, saying as the couple departed, “They must be part of us. They will, in fact, form a part of the Dakota Mission.... Go and plant the standard of the cross on Ft. Berthold.... You will entreat the Holy Spirit to beget in the Hidatsa and Ree and Mandan people a soul-hunger that can only be satisfied by the Bread and Water of Life.” (11)
Charles Hall was born in England, in 1847. He was educated at City College and Union Seminary in New York and at Andover Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. The Halls’s mission efforts were begun at Like-a-Fish-Hook village on the Missouri River. The chiefs of the three affiliated tribes — Son of the Star, Crows Breast, and Red Cow — deeded the mission sufficient land for its work and promised to “protect the American Board and their Missionaries in their rights.” (12)
Hall worked in English, loved to sing Indian lyrics, and was called Ho Washte, or Good Voice. He did not develop indigenous ordained church leadership and used Indian people as helpers in both church and secular work. The mission developed slowly, and nine years elapsed before Hall organized the first church at Arickara, in 1885.
MISSION TO THE WINNEBAGO
The nineteenth-century story of the Winnebago is a tale of broken treaties between these ancient residents of Wisconsin and the federal government. The Winnebago were removed to locations west of the Mississippi in the 1830s, but many returned to central Wisconsin in the decades that followed. By the 1870s they were permitted forty-acre homesteads in the sandy pinelands.
The German Reformed Church in Wisconsin began its mission with the Winnebago near Black River Falls, in 1878. Henry Kurtz, a Mission House College (13) professor, had been saved from
freezing to death by neighboring Indians. The Sheboygan Classis raised funds to support a missionary to bring “the Gospel also to the heathen living in our own land, the Indians; this duty, alas, we have too long neglected.” (14)
Jacob Hauser, who had been a missionary in India, began the Black River Falls mission. His work was legitimized at the lodge of the great chief Blackhawk, who said, “The words you have spoken are good. We also believe in Earthmaker. We love our children. It will make us glad to see them well taught. We are glad that you have come.” (15)
Hauser opened a school in a log building the tribe had erected. He had major difficulties because he did not know the Winnebago language, but he learned it slowly in working with the children and calling in the homes and developed a vocabulary of about 1,500 words. Before his retirement, in 1885, a chapel was built to enlarge the school facilities.
Jacob Stucki joined the mission in 1884 as Hauser’s assistant. Born in Switzerland, he came to Toledo, Ohio as a boy of sixteen, where he found the life of the Reformed Church challenging. He attended Mission House College and Seminary, in Wisconsin, and with his bride, Rachel, took over the work when Hauser retired.
MISSION DEVELOPMENT AFTER 1890
Outstanding missionaries among the Sioux were Thomas and Alfred Riggs, sons of pioneers Stephen and Mary. While Alfred concentrated his work at the Santee Normal School, Thomas ranged over Indian country. He founded missions with the Teton Sioux and their many bands, progenitors of today’s Dakota Association. A graduate of Beloit College and Chicago Theological Seminary, Thomas lived with the Teton and knew their life in the declining years of their existence on tribal lands.
On the Standing Rock, Cheyenne, and Rosebud reservations young Indian leaders responded to the missionaries. Often several men in a family became pastors and community figures. The Tibbits and Frazier families were eminent in South Dakota. Arthur Tibbits became the native pastor at Cannon Ball, North Dakota. His son and daughter-in-law, Percy and Emma (Frazier) Tibbits, carried on the work on the Standing Rock reservation and at the Rapid City Indian Center under the sponsorship of the National Council of Churches. Philip Frazier attended Oberlin College and Chicago Theological Seminary and returned to South Dakota for his pastorates. He was elected to head the Dakota Mission in 1932, the first Indian to hold such a position.
Harold and Eva Case came to the Fort Berthold Mission in 1922. They were friends of Charles Hall’s son, Robert, who encouraged them to take over the Fort Berthold work. With eastern roots, Harold Case had gone into YMCA work and settled in Denver. He and Eva decided to go to Fort Berthold for one year and ended up staying for the remainder of their careers!
The Cases were genuine Christian friends to the Affiliated Tribes in troublous times — the depression of the 30s, the drought years, the uprootings of World War II, and perhaps most difficult of all, the erection of Garrison Dam. This dam, built on the Missouri River, flooded Fort Berthold, forcing people from their historic lands. The tribes were moved to higher grounds and separated by Lake Sakakawea. The Cases were indefatigable in church and community development. They advocated good schools, organized public health programs, assisted in forming libraries and cooperative laundries. They even pioneered in silent movies with portable electric power.
The Cases were proudest of the achievements of young Indian people. Emerging in their time was Robert Fox, who attended the mission school at Fort Berthold, Santee, and Cook Christian Training School, in Arizona. He served as pastor at Twin Buttes, Halliday, and his home church, Arickara. Always interested in public affairs, Fox became tribal chairman. Other Indian leaders were Ina Beauchamp Hall, elected North Dakota Mother of the Year in 1969, and the Walkers — Hans Jr., Melvin, and Tillie — who were educated for professional careers.
A similar mission development was occurring in Wisconsin. John Stacy, a young Winnebago, was challenged to Christian ministry and was one of the first four Winnebago baptized, in 1898. He had worked closely with Jacob Stucki in translating important parts of the Bible, and this translation appeared in 1907, an issue of the American Bible Society. The work was no little accomplishment because of the extreme complexity of the Winnebago language.
Mission work and church life were slow in developing because of the Winnebago style of ostracism of Christians. Stacy’s children were taken by his father, a traditionalist, when Stacy declared his faith. His mother-in-law threatened to poison him and did not speak to him for years, although she was provided living space on the Stacy farm. Yet Stacy, his wife, and her brother, King of Thunder, persisted in their Christian profession and eventually won the grudging respect of the tribe. More converts joined the mission, and the Winnebago Indian Mission Church was organized, in 1922. Through the years the Indian School, supported by the Sheboygan Classis, gained acceptance by the tribe. In 1917 its support was turned over to the Reformed Church, and in 1928 the national Women’s Missionary Society provided gifts for its expansion.
Benjamin Stucki, Jacob’s son, fell heir to his father’s work. Growing up among the Winnebago, he spoke their language and knew the tribe intimately. He directed the work of the Indian school and became the church’s pastor in the early 1930s. In 1942 he was adopted into the tribe as Najkehunka — Chief in Heart — one who had demonstrated a love for the people.
Mitchell Whiterabbit grew up through the church and mission school. Having attended Mission House College, in Wisconsin, and Lancaster Seminary, in Pennsylvania, and been ordained in 1945, he became the Mission Church’s pastor and served the community and Indian cause in Wisconsin with distinction. As tribal chairman, he was able to provide leadership in the 1960s, when the Winnebago won tribal recognition from the government.
BEYOND WHITE PATERNALISM
In a sense the enumeration of Indian achievements can be a form of white paternalism. It implies that what was common for non-Indians was special achievement for Indians. An awareness of this condescension helped prepare white leaders for the l960s. As this decade dawned three important streams came together: The white leaders discovered the racism in the church’s mission; the young Indian leaders brought up through the church’s ministry agreed with them; and the United Church of Christ became a reality.
Galen Weaver pioneered in recognizing white racism in Indian mission terms. He developed Indian leaders through the United Scholarship Service, a program that provided a ferment that raised fundamental questions about decision making in the church’s mission. Indian leaders spoke of self-determination, a human rights concern. Wesley Hotchkiss of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (UCBHM) had written an important position paper on the relation of Christ to culture, in 1958. He spelled out the implications of H. Richard Niebuhr’s seminal work as to how the Christian faith should approach a culture: “The churches were really out to destroy the Indian culture although they proposed to do it in a most beneficent manner and under the guise of doing good for the Indian. Christ was against culture in this presupposition.” (16)
Hotchkiss called for an approach in which Christ is seen as a transformer of culture, the whites’ as well as the Indians’. All cultures could find fulfillment in Christ from the injustices they embody. This mission stance related anthropology to theology in a creative way. It saw mission with Indian people as a two-way bridge: missionaries able to learn from tribal life and religions while proclaiming the gospel. Hotchkiss lamented that Indian religion and culture were so devastated from Western contacts and that this new approach would not be simple or easy.
Mission workers struggled with the concept of ‘‘mission with” rather than “mission to” Indian people. In 1964 I was liaison between the Board, the conferences, and the Indian churches, assembled at Aberdeen, South Dakota, a major Consultation on a mission strategy for the remainder of the decade. All facets of Indian work were represented. The Consultation spoke to the denomination in saying: “The Church . . . is a People of compassion. . . . The United Church seeks to use skilled staff in its mission. . . . [It must be] . . increasingly guided by Indian people. .. . The cultural gap between white and Indian people is still large.” (17)
Understanding the human misery in Indian homes and communities, the Consultation sought sensitively to guide the limited resources of the church into the work with children and youth. The leaders held that major social welfare loads were the government’s responsibility, A group home for high school dropouts was recommended for North Dakota. The outgrowth was the Charles Hall Youth Services. A group home was recommended for Pierre, South Dakota. The merits of the Winnebago Children’s Home were recognized.
The Consultation noted the migration of Indian people to urban centers and recommended that the United Church work ecumenically in ministering to Indians in the city.
COUNCIL FOR AMERICAN INDIAN MINISTRY
The ferment for self-determination in both Indian and white thinking bore fruit in the formation of the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM), in 1970. After a historic style of dominantly white decision making the mission was turned over to Indian people for shaping of basic policy. The UCBHM took the leadership in this step. Bylaws were drawn that made CAIM a nonprofit corporation in the state of North Dakota. Representatives were provided for from the three Indian associations — North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. In addition, youth and urban members were added to the board of directors.
CAIM began its work on January 1, 1971. Robert Fox was chosen as the first executive director, with Juanita Helphrey, from Bismarck, North Dakota, as assistant director. CAIM’s task was many fold: to provide counsel to the reservation churches; to distribute the funds from the United Church to churches and other projects on and off the reservations that made claims on them; to relate the United Church of Christ mission to those of other denominations; and to interpret the ministry to the church at large.
In 1971 General Synod VIII increased the funding for the mission by designating an American Indian Sunday offering to be transmitted by the Executive Council to CAIM. CAIM was to report to the Executive Council regarding its ministries. In June 1974 I observed:
The reservation people would prefer to deal with the BHM for their funding rather than with CAIM. This is true of South Dakota [the Dakota Association had withdrawn from CAIM] and Wisconsin. North Dakota has more confidence in CAIM because the office is located in Bismarck and the staff is Fort Berthold people.... They see the value in a Council which has some decision-making power even though it is expensive." (18)
Non-Indian leaders in the mission were disillusioned with CAIM and probably too impatient with its difficulties. Native Americans were not adequately trained in decision making or accountability. A new set of problems faced the United Church.
General Synod X approved part of the Neighbors in Need offering as support for CAIM in lieu of American Indian Sunday and created a Strategy Assessment Team to recommend long-term Indian mission policy. The team was composed of Mitchell Whiterabbit as chairperson, Robert Fox, Carol Little Wounded, Beth Thunder Cloud, and Carol Boney, with Norman Jackson and myself as staff consultants. It reported to General Synod XI and recommended that “CAIM [be] an agency of the United Church of Christ,” with four priorities for the foreseeable future:
1. The Indian congregations ... shall be the top priority for CAlM....
2. General leadership training for pastors and lay leaders of Indian congregations [be supported] through the Native American Theological Association. ...
3. Urban and conference ministries [be funded] ... such as establishing a new Indian congregation in an urban area....
4. Involve[ment] in the struggles for justice and development for Native Americans . . . in public issues. (19)
NATIVE LEADERSHIP AND NATIVE THEOLOGY
CAIM and the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities had taken an active role in creating the Native American Theological Association (NATA). The ecumenical effort grew out of extensive research at Cook Christian Training School regarding the leadership crisis in native churches. With Lilly Foundation help and Howard Anderson as executive director, NATA was launched. It sought to engage Native Americans and whites in serious theological dialogue in order to impact seminary curricula. It also commissioned courses for native students and a system of theological education by extension in which the seminary was taken to local reservation churches. NATA recruited students and raised funds for scholarships.
This development has caused denominations to rethink their non-Indian standards for the ordination of Native Americans.
After serving NATA for five years Anderson wrote: “NATA is far more successful, despite its failings, than it has any human right to be. Only the Holy Spirit could be guiding NATA to this success.” (20) He warned, however, that a major threat to NATA is, and would be in the future, a denominationalism that would fail to invest adequately in training native church leaders.
The importance of NATA for the native church cannot be overstated. At long last theological leaders are reexamining the Christian gospel in native terms. After analyzing this mission in terms of the Dakota people, Donald Gall, part Sioux and current UCBHM liaison in Indian ministry, holds that the white missionaries expected acculturation among his people; they failed to see how deeply rooted the Dakota culture was. Unable to accept Western ways, the Dakotas felt the gospel was part of the white people’s church and held it at arms’ length. Gall argues that the whites took this stance because of an unjustifiable identification of the Christian faith with their own European culture. White missionaries could not distance themselves from the assumptions of the white society, which assumed that Native Americans were “heathen, pagans or savages.” These views were ingrained in the myths of white society regarding Native Americans. Gall writes:
But what was really on the table at that first Thanksgiving besides venison and turkey? The other menu was the question of human nature, the understanding of humanity’s relationship to the natural world, the process of knowledge, the meaning of creation and the use of symbols for communication. The Wampanoags had assumptions and beliefs about all these subjects, as did the Pilgrims, but they were unable to communicate with each other. It was such a disastrous failure of communication that within a few years they were in a life and death struggle with each other for living space. That struggle continued for more that two and a half centuries, and resulted in a decimated and demoralized Indian population which has ever since suffered the effects of cultural and religious genocide. (21)
The gospel emerged from tragedy. Can it do the same in Native American missions if both white and Indian persons recognize the unique gifts of all in Christ? Such an expression of hope is the All Nations Indian Church, which was founded in 1981, in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. At the first service Avery Post, president of the United Church of Christ, noted the significance in this congregation’s joining the United Church family:
Thanks be to God for the faith and commitments of the people gathered for the first service of worship of All Nations Indian United Church of Christ. The whole family of the United Church of Christ greets you and prays for your life and mission. We rejoice in your unique gifts in the service of the gospel of peace, justice, and new life. (22)
1. In Amelia Bingham, Mashpee: Land of the Wampanoags (Mashpee, MA: Mashpee Historical Society, 1970), p. 9.
2. R. Pierce Beaver, Church, State and the American Indians (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966), p. 6.
3. R. Pierce Beaver, Pioneers in Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966), p. 212.
4. In Beaver, Church, State and the American Indians, op. cit., p. 64.
5. Ibid., p. 67.
6. Ibid., p. 113.
7. Jon Willand, introduction to 1969 edition, Stephen Riggs, Mary and I: Forty Years with the Sioux (Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, 1880; reprint; Ross and Haines, Inc., 1969), p. xii.
8. Riggs, Mary and I, op. cit., p. 283.
9. Ibid., p. 313.
10. Ibid., p. 312.
11. Ibid., p. 315.
12. Harold and Eva Case, 100 Years at Fort Berthold (Bismarck, SD: Bismarck Tribune, 1977), introductory page.
13. Mission House College and Seminary was started by German Reformed people to prepare pastors for their churches. Today its work is continued at Lakeland, College, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
14. Arthur V. Casselman, The Winnebago Finds a Friend (St. Louis: Heidelberg Press, 1944), p. 60. A classis is comparable to an association in the UCC today.
15. Ibid., p. 63.
16. Wesley A. Hotchkiss, Some Presuppositions in the Work of the Church Among American Indians (Minneapolis: United Church Indian Work Consultation, 1958), p. 1.
17. Serge F. Hummon, Mission to Indian Americans, United Church of Christ, Aberdeen Report and Mission Strategy: 1965—1970, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, 1964.
18. Serge F. Hummon, The Present Situation: A Working Paper, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, 1974, p. 1.
19. Minutes of the Eleventh General Synod, United Church of Christ, 1977, pp. 79—80.
20. Howard Anderson, “NATA After Five Years: The Executive Director’s Perspective,” NATA, vol. 3, no. 1 (1982), p. 3.
21. Donald A. Gall, Marginal Religion Among the Lakota Sioux: A Study of Conflict in Values and the Indian Mission of the United Church of Christ, Eden Theological Seminary, 1982.
22. All Nations Indian Church, UCC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, vol. 1, no. 1. (1981), p. 2.
"Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God." [1 Corinthians 2:6-7 RSV]
The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a denomination that reflects the pluralistic story of American Protestantism. Created in 1957, it is known for bringing together ecclesiastical bodies rooted in English Puritanism, American frontier revivalism, and German religious history. It takes seriously the calling of Christians to oneness in Christ and participates actively in the contemporary ecumenical movement. The prayer of Christ "that they may all be one" is central to its self-understanding.
Louis Gunnemann, who has written about this young denomination in The Shaping of the United Church of Christ, notes:
The formation of the United Church of Christ was a venture of faith, a response to a vision created out of the heritage of the past and in the context of new responsibilities. To know the beliefs, movements and events comprising that history is to begin to accept ownership and to be shaped by it. 
History, however, as with many academic ventures, sometimes gets into habits. Popular patterns of interpretation prevail for a time and then "revisionists" come along and new interpretations emerge. "What actually happened" does not change; it is simply seen with new eyes and shared with new understanding.
History is organic; it grows and flowers, it dies back and goes to seed. It needs tending, like a garden, to produce its best blooms. Sometimes it benefits from fertilizer. At other times careful pruning and even the grafting of old branches on to new stock will revive its beauty.
The United Church of Christ organizes its history around the legacy of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. These two denominations, which were themselves the result of earlier unions, provide the raw material for the "historical orthodoxy" of the United Church of Christ. In UCC historical work, therefore, one commonly finds a careful balance between the "four streams which become one"—Congregational, Christian, Evangelical, and Reformed. Churchpeople have come to expect that each tradition will receive its "one quarter time." But this is a distortion of history.
What happens when historical orthodoxy governs the exploration of the past? First, some parts of the history are lost forever when only half the story is told. Certain individuals and groups remain invisible. After a time they seem to have never existed or certain events seem to have never happened. The histories of women and of many racial and ethnic groups do not fit into the scope of historical orthodoxy, and they are forgotten or selectively remembered. Often those who were on the losing side of controversies are not given fair treatment.
Second, when historical orthodoxy prevails, the methods used to retrieve historical information and the type of research deemed legitimate are consciously and unconsciously limited. In some instances the oral traditions and unofficial memorabilia of a group are ignored because they fail to fit scholarly criteria. Again, the experience of ethnic groups or of peoples marginal to the dominant history is overlooked because it exists in stories and songs and languages foreign to the researcher. In such cases certain types of historical material are not recognized as being important.
Third, when historical orthodoxy dominates, typical research sources (such as letters, diaries, and journals) are read from only one perspective. Good history, however, approaches such materials with an open mind. For example, the records of missionaries contain profound insights into "native" world views and values. If these materials are read only through "white" or "colonial" eyes, the history of mission and the church is distorted. When they are examined from the standpoint of mission recipients, the picture changes.
Fourth, when historical orthodoxy governs the approach to materials, current events and special movements seem to emerge unrelated to any historical context. Yet few things in the church exist without some previous expression. The legacies of contemporary special interest groups are grounded in histories that need to be discovered and understood. But when historians settle into standard ways of "seeing" the past, the sources of contemporary change are difficult to discern.
History is not always neat and fair. And the UCC history is more complex than the historical orthodoxy that informs its self-image. The United Church of Christ is an extremely pluralistic and diverse denomination that is nourished by many "hidden histories." These important stories out of its past do not appear within the traditional fourfold history. Yet, as Gunnemann says, only when churchpeople know the beliefs, movements, and events that make up their history will they be able to accept ownership and be shaped by that history.
"Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ" attempts to move beyond UCC historical orthodoxy. The hidden histories of the United Church of Christ are unknown. They need to be preserved and adequately shared within the denomination to enable ownership. This book seeks to expand knowledge about the diversity of contemporary church life. It will especially stretch leaders in their understanding of the UCC. It connects the United Church of Christ with some significant developments in American religious and ethnic history. More chapters could have been included, but this is a beginning. Another book exploring the histories of the Chinese, Hispanics, Hawaiians, and others could be developed.
This book began with plans for an optional event sponsored by the UCC Historical Council in cooperation with the Coordinating Center for Women at General Synod XIII of the United Church of Christ held on June 29, 1981, in Rochester, New York. Because of the interest generated in the "Unity and Diversity of the UCC" during that session, authors were found to write the eleven chapters that make up this collection. In rough chronological order the chapters document some of the hidden histories.
The first chapter is about the American Indian. Although contemporary historiography speaks of Native Americans, this essay retains the historical label Indian. The author of the chapter is not a member of the Indian community but writes from the perspective of the mission boards that initiated and maintained Christian work with American Indians for more than one hundred fifty years. In the not-too-distant future perhaps this story can be retold from a Native American perspective.
Most black history in the United Church of Christ is linked to the antislavery crusade of Yankee Congregationalists who worked throughout the nineteenth century to uplift and support their black sisters and brothers in the South. Some black UCC churches, however, do not come from that past. They are related to the development of the Christian denomination and evolved in the tidewater regions of Virginia and North Carolina, unconnected to black Congregationalism. This Afro-Christian connection is described in chapter 2.
The history of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania is the concern of the third chapter, which presents the nineteenth-century controversy between the Mercersburg movement and those who called themselves "Old Reformed." Some of the tensions within the United Church of Christ today are similar to this conflict between "high church" and "low church" factions.
Foreign mission activities set the stage for the fourth chapter, on Armenian Congregationalism. Because of the work of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the nineteenth-century, Armenian Christians of "evangelical persuasion" grew in numbers throughout the Ottoman Empire. Later, when Armenians came to the United States seeking refuge from persecution, they brought that legacy with them. From missionary beginnings Armenian Congregationalism moved to become part of the United Church of Christ.
The German heritage of the United Church of Christ is usually associated with the Evangelical and Reformed story. Chapter 5 tells how some German churches in the UCC were Congregational. These churches were organized on the midwestern frontier by German emigrants who came from Russia in the late nineteenth century. The emigrants were befriended by American Congregationalists but retained some of the Pietism they had nourished in Russia for several generations.
The image of the American Missionary Association (AMA) that is usually conveyed is one of white New England school teachers who went into the South after the Civil War to raise the educational level of blacks. Chapter 8 looks at that history from a different perspective and documents the involvement of blacks who worked for the AMA in education and in church development throughout the entire century.
Chapter 7 retrieves an important and often overlooked story of women in the church. Building on a German movement, in the late nineteenth century, the Evangelical Synod of North America offered women the opportunity of becoming deaconesses. These women shared their gifts in many health and welfare ministries sponsored by the church. Furthermore, their consecrated service gave them unique leadership opportunities as pioneer professional women.
The United Church of Christ has incorporated many diverse groups in its long history. Chapter 8 tells about a group—the Schwenkfelders—that seriously considered becoming part of the United Church of Christ but never did. Descendants of a sixteenth-century German reformer, they came to Pennsylvania in the colonial era and have been good neighbors to the German Reformed people for centuries.
Reformed hospitality, however, did result in a formal connection between the United Church of Christ and the Hungarian Reformed people. Chapter 9 explores the Hungarians' history in the United States and their independent status as the Magyar Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Within the United Church of Christ the Calvin Synod, a conference without geographical boundaries, continues to support UCC churches of Hungarian Reformed origins.
Chapter 10 returns to the story of women in the churches. This chapter explains how independent boards and organizations for women in the four denominations that formed the United Church of Christ provided a special power base for women at the turn of the twentieth century. It argues that these churchwomen changed the mission movement, helped women around the world, and set the stage for great changes in women's lives in the twentieth century.
The last chapter in the book, chapter 11, explores the development of Japanese Congregationalism in America. From Neesima Jo, who smuggled himself out of Japan in 1864, to the concentration camps of the 1940s and into the post-World War II period, the story of Japanese participation in the United Church of Christ is impressive.
Any examination of "hidden histories" is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, learning these stories is disturbing. Preconceptions and assumptions are stretched and challenged. This experience is painful, because these histories show how deeply captive the church is to cultural patterns of ethnocentrism, racism and sexism.
On the other hand, studies of this type highlight the strengths of pluralism. There is power for the entire church in knowing these stories; and for those who stand outside UCC historical orthodoxy these histories bring justice. The United Church of Christ seeks unity within its diversity. Only as it is able to locate, preserve, and share the fullness of that diversity will it be enabled to embrace the oneness of Christ.
Tips on choosing a Bible for children
Your children will probably go through four to six different Bibles between the day they're born and the day they leave home. This is not only practical, since their reading skills, comprehension levels, and interests change, but it also encourages children to see that they are progressing in their knowledge of God.
In the past, choosing a Bible or Bible storybook for children was a relatively simple task because the choice was limited. Times have changed. Now there is a dizzying variety of Bible storybooks and regular Bibles to choose from. They all come with illustrations, study notes, and other special features. But which one is the best one for your child? Here are some general tips to help you make your choice:
Each of your children should have his or her own Bible. Owning a Bible shows them how important God's Word is and how it should always be on hand as the practical guidebook for life.
Let your children have a say in choosing what type of Bible to buy. Ownership in this decision will increase their interest in reading it.
When your children are old enough to want a whole-text Bible, choose a translation that uses modern language. Some versions are deliberately made for children's use. If you're not familiar with the various modern translations, pick out a few verses from different parts of the Bible and compare how they read in different versions.
Finally, look for children's and teens' Bibles that contain the whole text of the Bible as well as additional materials to help your children understand and apply what they read. Choose a Bible with all or some of the following features: a simple concordance, explanatory notes in the text, introductions to each book of the Bible, maps of Bible lands, cross-references, and Bible facts or trivia.
Here are a few hints for choosing a bible storybook or a Bible by age group
Preschool: Buy a Bible storybook, with simple illustrations, that covers key Bible stories and has a small number of simple words per picture.
Beginning Readers: Choose a storybook that contains simple illustrations and more stories than a preschool storybook. It is best if beginning readers have a storybook that takes two pages or more to tell each story.
Grade Schoolers: Fewer pictures, more words is the key at this level. Make sure the illustrations are interesting and up-to-date. Simple Bible reference lists and an index are also good features to look for at this age level.
A prayer for the family
God of all birthing, God of all living, God of all dying, hear our prayers this day.
We pray for our families, in all their complex and wondrous forms, for families of our origin and for those of our choosing.
We give thanks for those who have given us birth, for those who have nurtured us, and for those whose lives were invested in our care. Your love for us has been steadfast and sure, and lived out in those who have cultivated our abilities, enriched our minds, strengthened our bodies, and challenged our spirits.
We mourn those times when our families have not provided for us and for our children the safety, well-being, and love we needed. We recognize and confess those times when we have failed to be agents of your reconciling and renewing love and ask your forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those whose trust we have violated.
We celebrate the ever-present possibilities for your Church to be a Family of Blessing for your beloved children. We pray that as Church we might always be attentive to the ways in which we can be a community which is ever more inclusive, ever more nurturing, ever more stimulating, ever more relevant, and ever more healing for all your children. May we recommit ourselves daily to your Gospel call to serve those in need in our world as if they were our very own sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and to advocate for them and their well-being in the halls of power as well as in our own sanctuaries. In the name of the One who came to us, loved us as his own, and gave to us new life, we pray.
Contributed by Reverend Allen V. Harris
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only head of the church.
2. "Christian" is a sufficient name for the church.
3. The Holy Bible is a sufficient rule of faith and practice.
4. Christian character is a sufficient test of fellowship and of church membership.
5. The right of private judgment and liberty of conscience is a right and a privilege that should be accorded to and exercised by all.
6. The purpose of this church will be consumated in the reformation of the world and the union of all Christians.
About this testimony
The "Christian Church" is the name shared by several branches of an early 19th-century movement for Christian unity on the American frontier. The oldest of these branches united in 1931 with the Congregational Churches to form the Congregational Christian Churches—now a part of the United Church of Christ. Among other descendants of this movement are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the independent Churches of Christ.
The First Commandment:
"You shall have no other gods."
We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
The Second Commandment:
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him and give him thanks.
The Third Commandment:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.
The Fourth Commandment:
"Honor your father and your mother."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.
The Fifth Commandment:
"You shall not kill."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor's life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.
The Sixth Commandment:
"You shall not commit adultery."
We should fear and love God, and so we should lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, each one loving and honoring his wife or her husband.
The Seventh Commandment:
"You shall not steal."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by dishonest trade or by dealing in shoddy wares, but help him to improve and protect his income and property.
The Eighth Commandment:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well for him, and interpret charitably all that he does.
The Ninth Commandment:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor's inheritance or home, nor to obtain them under pretext of legal right, but be of service and help to him so that he may keep what is his.
The Tenth Commandment:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not abduct, estrange or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants or cattle, but encourage them to remain and discharge their duty to him.
What does God declare concerning all these commandments?
He says, "I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."
God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. We should therefore fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments. On the other hand, he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep them. We should therefore love him, trust in him, and cheerfully do what he has commanded.
The First Article: Creation
"I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth."
I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
The Second Article: Redemption
"I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,and he will come to judge the living and the dead."
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
The Third Article: Sanctification
"I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen."
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.
"Our Father in heaven."
Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children—in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.
"Hallowed be your name."
To be sure, God's name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
How is this done?
When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy loves in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!
"Your kingdom come."
To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
How is this done?
When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both in time and hereafter forever.
"Your will be done, on earth as in heaven."
To be sure, the good and gracious will of God is done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also be done by us.
How is this done?
When God curbs and destroys every evil counsel and purpose of the devil, of the world, and of our flesh which would hinder us from hallowing his name and prevent the coming of his reign, and when he strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his Word and in faith even to the end. This is his good and gracious will.
"Give us today our daily bread."
To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread?
Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."
We pray in this petition that our heavenly Father may not look upon our sins, and on their account deny our prayers, for we neither merit nor deserve those things for which we pray. Although we sin daily and deserve nothing but punishment, we nevertheless pray that God may grant us all things by his grace. And assuredly we on our part will heartily forgive and cheerfully do good to those who may sin against us.
"Save us from the time of trial."
God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh mahy not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.
"And deliver us from evil."
We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven may deliver us from all manner of evil, whether it affect body or soul, property or reputation, and that at last, when the hour of death comes, he may grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.
It means that I should be assured that such petitions are acceptable to our heavenly Father and are heard by him, for he himself commanded us to pray like this and promised to hear us. "Amen, amen" means "Yes, yes, it shall be so."
What is baptism?
Baptism is not merely water, but it is water used according to God's command and connected with God's Word.
What is this Word of God?
As recorded in Matthew 28:19, our Lord Christ said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
What gifts or benefits does Baptism bestow?
If effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.
What is this Word and promise of God?
As recorded in Mark 16:16, our Lord Christ said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned."
How can water produce such great effects?
It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For without the Word of God the water is merely water and no Baptism. But when connected with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul wrote to Titus (3:5-8): "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is sure."
What does such baptizing with water signify?
It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God's presence.
Where is this written?
In Romans 6:4, St. Paul wrote: "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
What is confession?
Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God himself, by no means doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
What sins should we confess?
Before God we should acknowledge that we are guilty of all manner of sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord's Prayer. Before the confessor, however, we should confess only those sins of which we have knowledge and which trouble us.
What are such sins?
Reflect on your condition in the light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are a father or mother, a son or daughter, a master or servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, ill-tempered, or quarrelsome; whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; and whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted anything, or done other evil.
[Here Luther gives two examples of a confession.] . . . Then the confessor shall say: "God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith. Amen."
Again he shall say: "Do you believe that the forgiveness I declare is the forgiveness of God?"
Answer: "Yes, I do."
Then he shall say: "Be it done for you as you have believed. According to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace."
A confessor will know additional passages of the Scriptures with which to comfort and to strengthen the faith of those whose consciences are heavily burdened or who are distressed and sorely tried. . . .
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
Instituted by Jesus Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.
Where is this written?
The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke, and also St. Paul, write thus: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
We are told in the words "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." By these words the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation.
How can bodily eating and drinking produce such great effects?
The eating and drinking do not in themselves produce them, but the words "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." These words, when accompanied by the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the sacrament, and he who believes these words has what they say and declare: the forgiveness of sins.
Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation are a good external discipline, but he is truly worthy and well prepared who believes these words: "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." On the other hand, he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared, for the words "for you" require truly believing hearts.
In the morning
. . . when you rise, make the sign of the cross and say, "In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:
"I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I beseech you to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, that in all my thoughts, words and deeds I may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angel have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen."
After singing a hymn (possibly a hymn on the Ten Commandments) or whatever your devotion may suggest, you should go to your work joyfully.
In the evening
. . . when you retire, make the sign of the cross and say, "In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:
"I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have graciously protected me through this day. I beseech you to forgive all my sin and wrong which I have done. Graciously protect me during the coming night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angels have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen."
Then quickly lie down and sleep in peace.
Blessing before eating
When the children and the whole household gather at the table, they should reverently fold their hands and say:
"The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand. You satisfy the desire of every living thing."
(It is to be observed that "satisfying the desire of every living thing" means that all creatures receive enough to eat to make them joyful and of good cheer. Greed and anxiety about food prevent such satisfaction.)
Then the Lord's Prayer should be said, and afterwards this prayer:
"Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which of you bountiful goodness you have bestowed upon us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Thanksgiving after eating
After eating, likewise, they should fold their hands reverently and say:
"O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."
Then the Lord's Prayer should be said, and afterwards this prayer:
"We give you thanks, Lord God, our Father, for all your benefits, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever. Amen."
About this testimony
Martin Luther's Small Catechism, 1529, was written to answer the need for a basic exposition of the Christian faith for lay people. It follows the historic form of a catechism, based on explanations of the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, to which Luther has added sections on Baptism, Confession and the Sacrament of the Altar, along with forms for Morning and Evening Prayer and Grace at Table.
Historically, a catechism was a short course in Christianity to prepare converts for Baptism. "Luther's Small Catechism is often seen as the beginning of catechesis in the modern sense," writes UCC church historian John B. Payne. "It had enormous influence on all subsequent catechisms, both Protestant and Catholic." It entered the UCC tradition as a faith testimony through one of our antecedent churches: the German Evangelical Synod of North America. Other historic creeds and confessions are collected in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, published by the Pilgrim Press and available from United Church Resources at 1-800-325-7061.
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one accord,
teach people to confess one and the same Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
at once complete in Godhead and complete in humanity,
truly God and truly human,
consisting of a rational soul and body;
of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,
and at the same time of one substance with us
as regards his humanity;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;
as regards his Godhead,
begotten of the Father before the ages,
but yet as regards his humanity begotten,
for us and for our salvation,
of Mary the Virgin, the Theotokos [God-Bearer];
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,
recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change,
without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union,
but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved
and coming together to form one person and subsistence,
not as parted or separated into two persons,
but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God, the Word,
the Lord Jesus Christ;
even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,
and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,
and the creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
About this testimony
The "Definition of the Council of Chalcedon," 451, was the end result of the struggle to understand the relationship of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. It is accepted as a symbol of Christian doctrine by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Lutheran churches. The concern of Chalcedon is the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. Seeking a middle way, it says "no" to doctrines that deny either that Christ was truly human or that Christ was truly divine. Christ is both, the definition says, united to the First Person of the Trinity in his divinity and united to us in his humanity. Even today, some Christians experience Jesus only as God, others only as a human being. The contribution of Chalcedon—which is now the mainstream of Christianity—is an inclusive Christology that affirms that both experiences are true, but neither is complete without the other.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
From the English Language Liturgical Commission, 1988. Other affirmations of the faith for public worship are available in the New Century Hymnal and the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ. A collection of ancient ecumenical and Protestant testimonies of the faith can be found in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, published by the Pilgrim Press. All three books can be purchased from United Church Resources at 1-800-325-7061.
About this testimony
The Apostles' Creed evolved into its present form by the seventh century, although much of the text originated the first century. It is the creed par excellence of Baptism, widely used when candidates declare their readiness for membership in the Body of Christ and recited during the Great Vigil of Easter as a reminder of our baptismal covenant. It is frequently used in Protestant churches during Sunday worship, and forms an important part of the orders for daily Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
Commonly asked questions about The Apostle's Creed:
- what year did Jesus die?
- Life of Jesus timeline
- Where did Jesus go after he died on the cross?
- Exact date of Jesus birth?
- Exact date of Jesus death?
- When did Jesus ascend to heaven?