Part B. Why we at CtH seem so different – The Denominations
By Thomas Chavez
It is rushed to my attention that by talking about how all of our many denominations tend to identify the main channel of Christian understanding with their own place in an ever-widening delta of flow, I seem to be dissing denominations. Yet, Christ the Healer UCC is itself a member community embraced by a denomination, and we embrace that denomination in turn. I had better explain this, right?
Let’s start with a gallop through UCC history and see what makes it an admirable companion on our CtH spiritual journey. UCC stands for United Church of Christ, with the strong emphasis on UNITED, as there already existed a Church Of Christ before Our unified denomination formed. Sadly, for decades radio, TV, and newspaper reporters and editors when mentioning various reasons why the UCC had done something newsworthy, The members of the Church of Christ, and especially the “Conservative “group would gnash their teeth, because both Theologically and Politically, our UCCC’s point of view, at least in “This world” terms looks especially “Progressive.”, How did this come to be?
The United Church of Christ we know today is the continuously evolved outcome of than twenty centuries of constant effort to understand Our ancestral Hebrew vision of God, firmly rooted in the Jewish declaration: “Know O’ Israel that the Lord, your God is ONE!” The foundation for all western Monotheism. We share this with many, many denominations. But in the USA we are the only denomination that has lived this out by being the result of a merger of five previously existing denominations, four with significant membership, one a bit less so.
Yet that is not our only major distinction. Living out oneness has over the years shown up in striking ways in our heritage. One of our predecessor denominations was instrumental in organizing support for escaped slaves who had in the 1830s taken over the slave ship Amistad, upon which that group of captured Africans had been bound for sale in the slaveholding American South. This coalition of believers in extending love to the apparent “Other” paid for the defense of these escaped captives in both the court of law and of public opinion and continued to gather and spend resources for the benefit of oppressed black Americans for more than a century and a half onward. One predecessor denomination was the first to ordain women, more than a decade before the American Civil war. Both white and black Ancestors of what became the UCC followed directly on the heels of Union troops as the Confederacy met military defeat, founding hospitals, schools, and churches as they went. One of the results of this effort is that one of the denominational strands that later merged itself into the UCC was a distinctly African American strand.
One of our predecessor denominations made sure that widely separated communities spread all through the western frontier had spiritual comfort and connection, riding horseback huge distances from group to group to accomplish this. A bit closer to our time, the UCC itself was the first denomination in the US to ordain an openly Gay person over forty years ago. Over the decades since, as other denominations have been convulsed over this issue, leading in some cases to more splits, our churches have often become refuges for homosexual Christians rejected by their childhood churches. Yet, as a denomination, we never attempt to chase out any congregation that cannot bring itself to come on board with such a position. We are a loving home for everyone, including those with whom we no longer agree. We as the UCC constantly declare that “God is still speaking,” and often ask ourselves how we might discern what God has most recently communicated. The list of firsts and commitment to the best for all of creation, including not merely humans and human institutions, but for the living environment goes on, both nationally and locally. Since its founding twenty-five years ago, Christ the Healer UCC has been at the forefront of these environmental, peace-promoting, inclusion of the other sorts of efforts to be widening of welcome, and embrace of the formerly marginalized. We are committed to waking up, growing up, cleaning up, and showing up for the Kin-dom of heaven. That is our covenantal pledge. Yet we are not the usual sort of activist community. We fit into this tradition by listening ever more deeply for the evolutionary impulses of our hearts which we learn to attune to creator, creation, and one another. As we become ever more well-practiced at these exercises and consequently change, our commitment to both personal and planetary transformation grows apace, and we do stuff from that growing edge. Want in on the fun? We welcome you with open hearts and arms.
Like this article? Read the first in this series: The Original Purpose of the Christian Movement – Part A. Why we at CtH seem so different