Some info on Federated Churches

If you read the UUA Directory, or the certified congregations roster, you may get the impression that there are a couple of dozen tiny churches, mainly in New England, that couldn't possibly have an active ministry. I used to think they were a coffee klatch-sized mob of octogenarians subsisting on Church Bean Dinners.

But this impression is wrong; many are in federated, community, and multidenominational churches.

First, a terminology check. A community church, a multidenominational (or interdenominational) church, and a federated church are not the same thing.

A community church, before the term became hot and lost any real meaning, was a solution to having too many congregations in a thinly populated area. Better to amagamate than die. Keep links, at least nominal links, to the two or more denominations, but really identify with the locale more than a tradition.

Interdenominational churches are more likely a product of ecumenical experimentation and a irenic hope. I tend to think of them as post-WWII optimism, and that's why they usually live in the suburbs.

A federated church is much odder. Take two churches, each with its own membership roster, leadership, and history. Wed them with a third board. House them in one building (or one building at a time) and let them worship together. That's federation, and it seems like a lot of trouble.

Federations can loosen, and the constitutent denominational churches re-establish independent existences, but I can't think that's very common. (But do a Google search if you're interested. I've seen news reports of it happening.) I imagine the willingness to have a federation rather than community church often has something to do with a big pile of money. But that's just a guess.

While there are congregations in the UUA in community, multidenominational, and federated situations with the American Baptist Churches, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, and the United Methodist Church, most alliances are with the United Church of Christ.

So, a federated church will submit the membership numbers of the old Unitarian or Universalist church within the federation, and in almost every case it is far smaller than the other partner or partners in the federation.

Now, I think this may have to do something with confused figures and may give an impression that the UUA has grown less than it has; that is, some of last year's numbers were over-reported (and not that this year's are under-reported.)

As it happens, I'm moving my membership to a community church, dually affiliated with the UUA and UCC: The Eliot Church of South Natick, Massachusetts.

Link: Federated Church of Sycamore, Illinois, a Congregationalist-Universalist merger, both in the UUA and UCC.

Getting Privilege of Call with the UCC

As I mentioned earlier, I am working on receiving Privilege of Call within the Potomac Association of the United Church of Christ. I'm not going to giev a blow-by-blow account of this process, but if you're interested you should see the UCC's Manual on Ministry, available on-line.

Link: Manual on Ministry.

Section four is the one of interest. I am roughly in, or approaching, step two, and that means it is time to write. In particular, "a theological perspective paper" and a "paper demonstrating familiarity with the United Church of Christ, including knowledge and understanding of its history, theological roots, polity, and practice." This should be fun. (My A.B. was in history and religion and my M.A. work was in American religious history.)

That's the part I'll be scouting out here. When I get the first part written, I'll assign it a "category" and all of them will be readable from the categories list.

Since "one way to approach" the former paper is in the context of the UCC Statement of Faith, or the second chapter of the UCC Constitution, I've put them in extended entry, below.
Continue reading "Getting Privilege of Call with the UCC"

United Church of Christ reading list, part one

Time to read as much as I can about the United Church of Christ. Found some polity course syllabi, and ordered books from what I used to call "the broke seminarian's friend" - not bad for ministers without an expense account either - Congregational Library.

Got a shipment of four books yesterday. They are:

  • Dunn, David, et alia. The History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church
  • Gunnemann, Louis H. United and Uniting: The Meaning of an Ecclesial Journey, United Church of Christ, 1957-1987.
  • Gunnemann, Louis H. The Shaping of the United Church of Christ.
  • von Rohr, John. The Shaping of American Congregationalism, 1620-1957.

Don't look for me yonder 'cause I'm not there

Some people know and some people don't but now it is public, official, and done. I resigned under pressure from the pastorate of Universalist National Memorial Church membership to follow last Thursday and we had a congregational meeting process this afternoon.

To recap: some people (myself included) think it was a mistake, and others (the Board included) think it was just the thing to turn the church around. Time will tell, but for those who know know some of the backstory, I can honestly say I've shed my last tear over it. God knows it took long enough (and yet it seemed very fast) to accomplish. (In case you were wondering where I was last month.)

Time moves on, and realistically, I'm on my way towards the United Church of Christ. I hate the thought of leaving everything I've known professionally and vocationally, but there are some ecumencial, theological, and ecclesiastic realities at play. For one, my partner and I are not leaving the area. The second is that, even if we did, it probably wouldn't help.

But that's another matter. The point for this blog entry is so if you go calling for me at UNMC, I won't answer the door, 'cause I won't be there.

(My sermons and online writings will be here, in time, instead.)