THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
The UCC traces its beginnings back to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Each of the four denominations that united in 1957 to form our modern UCC shares that challenging history.
The Evangelical wing grew out of German, the Reformed Church out of Swiss and the Congregational Church out of English Puritan roots. The Christian churches, formed in frontier America, also drew sustenance from the Reformation emphasis on the primacy of Scripture and the responsibility of individual believers to follow Christ unencumbered by too much hierarchy or layers of tradition.
A commitment to the unity of Christ’s people is reflected in our name, and this ecumenical flavor is also in our motto, “that they may all be one” - John 17:21. As a “uniting” church conversations continue to try to heal the divisions among us. Currently bridges are being built with the Disciples of Christ through joint consultations and clergy retreats.
Each UCC congregation is self-governing and makes its own decisions on pastoral leadership, worship style, property, and priorities. But it is linked in a "covenant relationship" to other congregations through the Association and Conference, and ultimately the national body called General Synod, which meets every two years. Like the Presbyterians, the UCC has a long history of concern for mission and for social justice. And it celebrates an unusually diverse membership, including strong representation of Native Americans, Asian Americans, Black, and Hispanic groups that keep us aware of rich traditions outside the European pattern.
Some important commitments of the UCC can be expressed in key phrases: “priesthood of all believers”, “there is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word”, ‘testimonies of faith” rather than tests of faith, and “in essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.” Living these in our daily congregational life is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.)
The Presbyterian Church is, uniquely, one of the newest and one of the oldest denominations in America. It is new, because on June 10, 1983, the two largest Presbyterian groups in the U.S. reunited after a 122-year split following the Civil War. It is old, because its roots go back to the very first American settlers, with the first American Presbytery being organized in 1706. During the American Revolution, the Presbyterian belief in democracy and freedom and their understanding of representative government put them solidly on the patriots' side. Some English leaders even referred to the struggle as “the Presbyterian rebellion”. But our roots are even older than our country, for we are part of the “Reformed” movement growing out of the Protestant Reformation as understood by religious leaders like John Calvin in the early 16th century. From the beginning, Presbyterians have based belief on the Scriptures (as the most authoritative source for faith and practice) and the creeds and confessions of the church (such as the Apostles and Nicene Creeds and the Westminster Confession). Our theology is essentially the same as other Protestant denominations but special stress is put on the sovereignty of God (one who is a totally loving ruler and protector of creation.) Two sacraments are recognized, Baptism and Holy Communion (also called the Lord's Supper or Eucharist).
Presbyterian comes from “presbuteros’, a Greek word meaning “elder”. Elders are chosen for leadership in the local churches and, with clergy, they represent us at Presbytery, synod and on the national level at the annual meeting of the General Assembly. This makes us a “connectional” church. At all levels, Presbyterians have a long history of concern for social justice and its members are used to taking forthright positions, after careful study, on the controversial issues of the day.
Serving the needs of others through mission efforts takes us around the world with food, education, and medical care to schools, hospitals and community centers, many staffed by local leaders. Our offering dollars make this possible.