Our Faith & Identity: The United Church of Christ
Second Congregational United Church of Christ is part of a larger grouping of churches—a.k.a. a
denomination—known as the United Church of Christ. As a part of this denomination, we
are connected with fellow United Church of Christ congregations around the area and throughout the country, supporting
one another, sharing resources, and joining together for mission and service here in the US and around the world.
The United Church of Christ is one of the most unique and exciting denominations in the United States. On one hand, we
are a fairly new denomination, having been formed just 50 years ago in 1957. In this short 50 years, the United Church
of Christ has been on the cutting edge of social concerns since 1957, lending support to the Civil Rights Movement, media
and communications fairness, workers' and immigrants' rights, and the rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender persons. On the other hand, though, the United Church of Christ is also one of the oldest and most historic
denominations in the country, since our history goes back through predecessor denominations all the way back to the earliest
English and German immigrants to the Americas in the 1600s—even, in fact, directly to the Pilgrims and Puritans who
sailed to Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620.
- About the United Church of Christ today...
- About the history and heritage of the United Church of Christ...
- The United Church of Christ's Ecumenical Partners
- The United Church of Christ Statement of Faith
- Link to:
- the United Church of Christ website - a great place to find out all about
the UCC, to see the sorts of social justice and mission work our denomination is active in, and much more
- i.ucc.org - an online community for seekers and UCC members alike
- the Prairie Association of the UCC - our most immediate regional grouping of congregations, covering the northwest corner of Illinois
- the Illinois Conference of the UCC - our next level of regional grouping, including the Prairie and 5 other Associations, covering the northern 2/3s of Illinois
About the United Church of Christ today...
We are a 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.
This is no idle chatter. The UCC has been bold in extending an invitation to all. For example, our historic predecessors were
first to ordain an African American pastor (1785), a woman (1853), and a gay or lesbian person (1972).
Come, share your journey with us.
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 of speaking of God as
"Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." We also speak of God in other ways that enrich our faith—God as mother,
rock, liberator, savior, friend.
We affirm historic creeds and statements 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 see the living God at
work in history. To such a God, we belong.
How do you know God? Tell us your story. Let's grow together.
We are at one at Baptism and at the Table.
God's grace is celebrated in Baptism and Holy 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 wine/juice. Here, we encounter Christ's presence, offered to us. 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.
Come to the water of Baptism and the Table of Christ. Recieve God's goodness and love.
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 the earth; and even sometimes to go against the grain of conventional norms.
You are invited to both the joy and responsibility of discipleship.
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 of 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 17:21). This prayer extends beyond the unity of
all churches to the reconciliation of the whole world.
All are welcome into a special relationship with God, especially you.
We listen for the still-speaking God.
Founded in 1957, the UCC is grounded in the ancient church of the New Testament and in historic streams of Christianity in
this country, dating back to the Pilgrims and to 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 nonessentials, 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 communites, and in the wider world.
Look, listen all around. God's trying to tell us something.
To explore more about these 6 aspects of our faith in the United Church of Christ, check out the What Matters section of the United Church
of Christ website.
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About the history and heritages of the United Church of Christ...
The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 through the union of two Protestant denominations—the
Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches—that were both themselves the result of a
union of two earlier denominations. Thus, the United Church of Christ brings together the people, congregations, and
heritages of four distinct historic traditions in our country: Congregational, Reformed, Evangelical, and Christian.
- The Congregational Churches were one of the oldest and most historic denominations in American
Christianity. Congregationalists can trace their heritage all the way back to the Pilgrims and Puritans that settled in
New England in the 1600s. The Congregationalist Puritans originated in England in the 1500s under the influence of Reformed
thinkers from continental Europe like John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, and were part of the same movement that Presbyterians
trace their heritage to as well. Here in the United States, Congregationalists formed the dominant religion across most of
New England until into the 20th-century, and Congregational churches were formed all across the Midwest and West wherever
New Englanders migrated. Congregationalists started some of our country's most well-known educational institutions such as
Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Carleton, Beloit, and others—many of these started out as schools for training
Congregationalist ministers. Congregationlists were also early activists in the movement to abolish slavery prior to the
Civil War, and had a key role in freeing the captives of the famous Amistad ship. They united with the Christian
Churches in 1931. (As is likely obvious from our name, our church comes from the Congregational heritage within the
United Church of Christ.)
- The Reformed Church in the United States was another of America's earliest denominations, made up of some
of the earliest German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Also part of the larger Reformed family—like the Dutch Reformed, the Presbyterians, and the Congregationalists—the German Reformed Church
remained separated from these other bodies because of language barriers, and because their faith and organizational systems
were less strict than many of their fellow Reformed counterparts. During the Revolutionary War, the Liberty Bell was
hidden in the floorboords of Old Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. By the early 1800s, German Reformed
people were settling in wider spread areas, including Ohio, northern Maryland, and North Carolina. Later in the 1800s, the
German Reformed Church was an important force in the theological and liturgical debates of the era, and held fast to a
vision of the faith that honored the history of Christian tradition and the communal nature of the church, in the face of
the individualistic and revivalistic forms of Christianity popular at the time. This "evangelical catholic"
vision of the church made them open to dialog with other church bodies, and in 1934 they united with the Evangelical Synod
of North America.
- The Evangelical Synod of North America was also a predominantly German denomination, but newer to the
American scene and of a somewhat different religious heritage than the Reformed Church in the US. As the history goes, in
1817 in northern Germany, the leader of the province known as Prussia ordered the Lutheran churches and the Reformed
churches in his territory to unite. While some of stricter, more conservative leaders (especially on the Lutheran side)
objected to this action, the union movement spread through other parts of Germany over the following years. Because these
unions brought together the two major branches of Protestant Christianity in Germany, the newly United Churches
were simply called "Evangelische," or "Evangelical", since this is the word used in German for
Protestant. As people from Germany began immigrating to the Midwest region of the United States in the mid-1800s, to
places like St. Louis, Chicago, southern Michigan, Wisconsin, and even Texas, they brought this united Evangelical faith
with them, and started forming Evangelical congregations. By the 1870s, the different groupings of German Evangelical
congregations were gathered together into the Evangelical Synod of North America. The German Evangelicals were known for
the extensive work they did in providing social services in these up-and-coming parts of our country, including hospitals,
orphanages, and retirement communites. This group, which identified with both the Lutheran and Reformed traditions, began
efforts at uniting with other groups in the early 1900s. Many of the Lutheran synods of that era viewed the Evangelical
Synod as 'not Lutheran enough', and so in 1934, the Evangelical Synod united with the Reformed Church in the US.
- The Christian Churches were a uniquely American-born group that formed on the frontier (Kentucky, rural
New York and Vermont, and the Carolinas) in the early- to mid- 1800s. Frustrated by what they perceived as the organizational
and doctrinal rigidness of some of the major denominations of that time (primarily Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist),
the founders of the Christian Churches began forming communities that claimed "no creed but Christ". They
emphasized that they looked only to the Bible for guidance on spiritual matters and that they rejected elaborate structures
for church governance above/outside the local congregation. The Christian Churches typically practiced only "believer's
Baptism" and usually observed the Lord's Supper (a.k.a. Holy Communion) every Sunday. Because the Christian Churches
were not strongly connected with one another through denominational structures, the movement formed into a number of smaller
groups, which included the grouping of Christian Churches that united with the Congregational Churches in 1931—and also
included the grouping of churches that developed into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination.
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The United Church of Christ's Ecumenical Partners
Because of the united and uniting nature of our denomination, the United Church of Christ has from its beginning sought
out conversation and relationship with other Christian denominations. These conversations and relationships have developed
into agreements of "full communion" between the United Church of Christ and:
(Full communion essentially means that we recognize each other's faith and beliefs as valid expressions of Christian faith
that are in harmony with our own, that we recognize each other's observances of the sacraments—baptism and communion—
as valid, and that we recognize one another's ordained pastors and can allow easily for a pastor of one of our denominations
to serve a church in the other.)
In addition, the United Church of Christ is in partnership and conversation with many other church bodies through our
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