PEOPLE'S CHURCH OF DOVER

Who  Are  We  ?
by Dan Griggs

          People's Church of Dover is a local congregation of a nation-wide Protestant communion called the United Church of Christ.  Denominational headquarters are in Cleveland, Ohio.  We are "in covenant" with the UCC through a 24-church association called the Chesapeake Association, which oversees clergy certification and conduct, enables cooperative ministry and mission, and sustains us in a fellowship larger than the local church.  The Chesapeake Association is one of five associations that make up the Central Atlantic Conference, with headquarters in Catonsville, Maryland.  Our conference minister is the Rev. Dr. John Deckenback; and the associate conference minister assigned to the Chesapeake Association is the Rev. Jim Bell. 

          The UCC is related to 20 colleges and universities, and 6 theological seminaries, including Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.  We are  also affiliated with 13 primary and acute care health care services, 22 services to disabled persons, 33 ministries to children youth and families, and 275 retirement and long-term-care facilities.  The UCC has historic ethnic ministries including those to Native Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans.  The United Church of Christ was the first denomination in America to ordain women, and the first mainline denomination to ordain openly gay persons.  The UCC is widely known and respected for its social action ministries since colonial times, including taking the lead in the litigation that freed the slaves on the slave ship Amistad.  The United Church numbers among its members the majority of that ethnic community known as the "Pennsylvania Dutch," as well as the "Yankee" heritage of the Pilgrims. 

          The history of the United Church of Christ is diverse.  Four original denominations united to create this communion.  From the Protestant Reformation came two groups:  the Church of the Evangelical Union (a Midwest immigrant group from a European church merger of Lutherans and Reformed Church in some areas of Germany), and the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.  These two bodies united in 1934 into the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  From English Puritanism came the Congregational Churches of New England, including the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the founders of Harvard and Yale, and the greatest theologian America ever produced, Jonathan Edwards.  After the American Revolution several unrelated frontier movements took the name Christian Church, coming together as the Christian Connection during the nineteenth century.  In 1932 the Christian Connection and the Congregational Churches united to form the Congregational Christian Churches.  In 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed Church united with the Congregational Christian Churches to create the United Church of Christ.  The distinctive heritage of the various churches may still be seen in local congregations.

          The United Church of Christ affirms the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed of ancient orthodox Christianity, but not as a test for membership.  The UCC  Statement of Faith presented here in the form of a doxology, is a contemporary declaration of our belief and commitments:
 

We believe in you, O God, Eternal Spirit,
God of our Savior Jesus Christ and our God,
          and to your deeds we testify:
You call the worlds into being,
          create persons in your own image,
          and set before each one the ways of life and death.
You seek in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.
You judge people and nations by your righteous will
          declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior,
          you have come to us and shared our common lot,
          conquering sin and death
          and reconciling the world to yourself
You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit,
          creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ,
          binding in covenant faithful people
          of all ages, tongues, and races.
You call us into your church
          to accept the cost and joy of discipleship,
          to be your servants in the service of others,
          to proclaim the gospel to all the world
          and resist the powers of evil,
          to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table,
          to join him in his passion and victory.
You promise to all who trust you
          forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace,
          courage in the struggle for justice and peace,
          your presence in trial and rejoicing,
          and eternal life in your realm which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto you.  Amen.

           The United Church of Christ is organized so that each local church owns its own property, sets its own budget, calls its own pastor, and determines its own policies.  The General Synod of the denomination speaks to the local churches, not for them.  This local autonomy is balanced and enriched by the "covenant" which unites all the local churches together as one communion through the associations.  This form of organization means that there are differences within the United Church—in fact, the UCC is proud of our unity in diversity.  Some churches are conservative, some liberal.  Some churches are liturgical, some have contemporary worship.  The price of such diversity is that we must pay constant attention to keeping covenant with each other under God. 

          The UCC is strongly committed to Christian unity and has printed on the denominational logo the Biblical quotation:  "That they may all be one."  The UCC holds active membership in the Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC, formerly COCU), in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, in the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and in the World Council of Churches.  We have a special "partnership" with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and we are in partnership conversations with the Alliance of Baptists.  We are a signatory to the "Formula of Agreement" with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Reformed Church in America.  In addition we are committed to interfaith dialogue for better understanding and cooperation with those of other religions:  Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, Jains, Taoists, and others. 

          The current "motto" the UCC is using in a nationwide advertising campaign is "God is still speaking" accompanied by a large comma and a quotation from Gracie Allen:  "Don't place a period where God has placed a comma." 

          For a very positive experience of Christian fellowship and worship, feel free to visit a United Church of Christ near you.  For information on the internet you will find a wealth of resources through www.ucc.org

 

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