AT THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST WE ARE PEOPLE OF GOD’S EXTRAVAGANT WELCOME.
JESUS DIDN’T TURN PEOPLE AWAY, even those often rejected by others. We don’t intend to either. We are like a “company of strangers,” made family by the grace of God. God welcomes, claims and loves all people. God also feeds our hunger, forgives our sins, and frees us from aimless wandering.
First Congregational Church in Montclair, New Jersey is a congregation of the United Church of Christ (www.ucc.org) a mainline, Protestant, Christian denomination whose ancestors include the pilgrims who first came to this country in 1620. Since then, intelligent dialog and a strong independent streak sometimes cause the United Church of Christ (UCC) and its 1.4 million members to be called a “heady and exasperating mix!” The UCC tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages heart and mind. And yet, the UCC somehow manages to balance congregational autonomy with a strong commitment to unity among its 6,000 congregations despite wide differences among many local congregations on a variety of issues.
WE ARE ONE IN BAPTISM AND ONE AT THE TABLE.
God’s grace is celebrated in Baptism and Communion. We call these rituals “sacraments.”
Through the water of baptism, God embraces, you – no matter who you are – and brings you into Christ’s church. Baptism reminds us of our special covenant with God. In it you share in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. In turn, the church promises to love, support and care for you throughout your whole life.
At Holy Communion, we share a simple meal of bread and juice. Here, we encounter Christ’s extraordinary presence in these ordinary elements. Together, around God’s welcome table, we recall God’s loving acts in Jesus, experience oneness in God, hope for a time when all will be fed, and anticipate the fullness of God’s love and justice throughout creation.
WE ARE A PEOPLE OF COVENANT, A UNITED AND UNITING CHURCH.
God invites us into a special relationship called “covenant.” The Bible speaks of God’s holy covenants with people, communities of faith, nations and all creation.
As God covenants with us, we covenant with one another. Local churches also covenant — prayerfully acting on their own, but also relating with associations, conferences, the General Synod, and national settings of the UCC. We covenant with many other Christian denominations, and pray that all may be one (John 12:21). This prayer extends beyond the unity of all churches to the reconciliation of the whole world.
WE THANK GOD BY WORKING FOR A JUST AND LOVING WORLD.
Jesus taught about the realm of God. This realm is one of love and justice, hope and peace. We see it in the past, particularly in the life of Christ. But we also glimpse it in the present, and look for the fulfillment of it in the future. God’s promise extends even beyond death to life eternal.
God continues to break through the barriers of sin and death in the bold witness of God’s people. In gratitude to God, we seek to root out injustice; to stand in solidarity with those who are poor and oppressed; to give with inspiring generosity; to care for their earth; and even to sometimes go against the grain of conventional norms.
WE BELONG TO CHRIST.
JESUS CHRIST is central to who we are. We know God especially in Jesus, who lived, loved, died, rose from the dead, and is present today. Because we belong to Christ, we welcome, love, pray, and serve.
The God we know in Jesus is also known by many names. We share a tradition among Christians speaking of one God as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” In the more inclusive language of the UCC, we use the trinitarian names of “Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.” We also speak of God in ways that enrich our faith – God as Mother, Rock, Liberator, Savior, and Friend.
We affirm historic creeds and statement of faith, not as tests for belief, but as inspired words of faithful women and men who came before us. We discover God through the Bible, through prayer, and through engaging the world.
No single statement fully expresses who God is; but where there is justice, peace, and compassion, we seek the living God at work in history. To such a God, we belong.
OUR FAITH IS 2000 YEARS OLD, OUR THINKING IS NOT.
Founded in 1957, the UCC is grounded in the tradition of the New Testament and in historic streams of Christianity in this country, dating back to the Pilgrims and German immigrants in colonial Pennsylvania. We affirm the words of our Pilgrim forbearer, John Robinson, that God has “more light and truth to break forth…” (1621)
In our generation, we seek and serve God in innovative ways. God continues to form us through new people among us, offering a multi-cultural mosaic that reflects all of creation. We celebrate our common ground, while honoring our differences: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, charity.”
Through prayer, sacraments, and worship; through the arts and sciences; through compassionate and political acts; and particularly in the voices of those who suffer, God is at work in our hearts and minds, in faith communities, and in the wider world.
Look and listen all around, God is trying to tell us something…
God is still speaking.