SESSION 1: Who We Are
1A) How did you get here?: the UCC Today
Goal: To get a sense of the UCC as it is currently experienced by the participants. There may be questions and themes that are worth returning to later in the course.
Group Discussion: Let's start by learning a bit about each other. What is your religious background? What did you find that attracted you to this congregation?
Facilitators: This section should not take that long. The videos are for the purpose of setting what the UCC is today before looking back to the past. The “discussion” need not be in-depth. The purpose is to get a sense of immediate impressions and any questions participants might want to explore within the structure of the course.
The first two videos are part of the “God is Still Speaking” initiative. This initiative was conceived mostly as a marketing campaign. However, it also became a catalyst for change and growth in the denominational identity of the UCC.
All the People
This video is a longer profile of a specific congregation, Peace Congregational Church in Clemson SC.
Peace Congregational Church
You can learn more about this church at https://thepeacechurch.org/
Group Discussion: What have you learned from watching these videos? Does this match with your impressions of your congregation? If there are differences, what are they? What do they tell you about the United Church of Christ as a whole? What does it also tell you about the variety present in our local churches?
2A) How did we get here? :
Goal: To give participants an understanding of the four major denominations that make up the UCC (Evangelical Synod, German Reformed Church, Congregational Church, and Christian Connection) while also gaining a sense of how those movements--along with smaller groups--combined to create the UCC we know today.
Traditionally we tell the history of the UCC as the journey of four religious movements that eventually merged to form a separate institution whose DNA comes from a combination of these predecessor denominations. Of course, the story is more complicated than that. There is a diversity of smaller groups, political forces, scientific discoveries, and cultural changes that have also influenced the UCC. Institutions--like people--do not live in a vacuum.
Faclitators: Here is a chart from Eden seminary that may be helpful for you and for your fellow participants when considering the "four streams" of the UCC.
Facilitators: Play this earworm
United Church of Christ Tribute Song
Group Discussion: For this session we asked you to do a little homework. The article you read tells the story of the four largest denominations that make up the UCC. Was there anything that surprised you or interested you in what you learned? What did you think about the description of the original “parent” denomination of our congregation? Do you see things in our worship, governance, or culture that seem to come from that particular branch?
Facilitators: Depending on your setting, you might want to do some further reading to enrich the experience of the UCC. It is always good to familiarize yourself with the stories and history of your own church as well as some of the “smaller” streams and influences that make up the UCC. Here are some other resources that may be helpful for this portion of the curriculum. You could read them yourself and present them, or recommend them as further reading for interested members.
Hollyday, Joyce, “On the Heels of Freedom” Crossroad Publishing 2005
This book tells the story of the American Missionary Society, founded during the chaos of the American Civil War, the AMA was formed to educate and support the formerly enslaved African Americans in the wake of that conflict.
Zikmund, Barbara Brown, ed. “Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ” volumes 1 and 2. United Church Press, 1984
This two volume set provides brief histories of a number of “hidden” movements and influences in the United church of Christ. It lends diversity and depth to the more general history given in the “homework” section.
Group Discussion: What do you think is missing in the history [“Who We Are” from the UCC webpage] we all read? What in the missing history would you like to know more about?
The next session will be built around the UCC Statement of Faith. Therefore, the assigned homework will be the Statement, itself. Please have everyone read at least three versions and be ready to discuss them next time.
They can be found here: https://www.ucc.org/who-we-are/about/history/#united-church
Also, we will be talking about the outreach programs of the UCC. Participants should be encouraged to spend time exploring the “Wider Church Ministries” pages on the UCC website.
They can be found here: https://www.ucc.org/what-we-do/wider-church-ministries/
Facilitators: You will want to familiarize yourselves with “Confessing our Faith” by Roger L. Shinn. This book is an elegant breakdown of the Statement that will give insights into how to talk about this document. The second session will be making use of Shinn’s work.
In addition, a somewhat deeper dive into the “Global Ministries” page and the “Global Hope” page would help to provide examples of service and advocacy. These should also be given to the particpants to explore.
Global Ministries: https://www.globalministries.org/
Global H.O.P.E https://www.ucc.org/global-h-o-p-e/
After reading both Shinn and the website, it would be wise to take some notes as conversation prompts for further discussion in Session 2.