Henrietta UCC is deeply rooted in the rich and varied soil of the Christian faith. Our faith is Trinitarian, which means our language reflects our experience of God in three “persons” or dimensions–as Creator of all, in whom we live and move and have our being; as incarnated or embodied in the person, life and death of Jesus; and as the Holy Spirit, who moves in us and among us to renew us, heal us, unite us, and empower us.
Our denomination is the United Church of Christ. Its roots go all the way back to the Pilgrims who came to this land on the Mayflower in 1620. They sought the religious freedom for each Christian and each church to discern God’s will and practice its faith without domination from human hierarchies. John Robinson, the spiritual leader of the Pilgrims, said, “There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy word.” This visionary statement affirms that God’s light and truth are revealed in scripture, but that God’s word is a living word that transcends any human interpretation, and even transcends the words written in the Bible. As Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring wrote: “That is why in our tradition we read the Bible, we study ancient creeds and catechisms, and we look to the wisdom and guidance of individuals and faith communities throughout history and across cultures — but it is also why we never let ourselves believe that we have read or heard all that God has to say, or all that God may be calling us to be and do.” Or as we like to remind ourselves today, ““God is still speaking.”
From this early experiment in freedom and respect for all persons sprung the democratic principles that became the foundation of this new nation in the following century. Yet the United Church of Christ is also the newest major denomination in the U.S. It was created in its present form in 1957 by the merger of the Congregational Christian denomination and the Evangelical and Reformed denomination, each of which had been created by mergers of their own. This gives the United Church of Christ a strong sense of unity through its diversity, as each congregation still retains the freedom to express and practice its faith as God leads them.
We can tell you more about our core values with the help of five phrases from Scripture and tradition:
- “That they may all be one” (John 17:21.) The United Church of Christ has been woven together out of four different denominations. The UCC continues to be a uniting force by actively working with other denominations and by creating partnerships with other faiths. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.
- “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.” The unity that we seek isn’t an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor is it a rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require continual discerning together of how God is calling us to live out our faith as the body of Christ. The unity of the church is not of its own making. It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as there are individuals. The common thread that unites us all is love.
- “Testimonies of faith rather than tests of faith.” Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no written formula that is a test of faith. What we seek is a living faith that speaks to who we are where we are, and we find inspiration in listening to each other’s testimonies of how our lives are guided and enriched by God’s presence in our lives.
- The priesthood of all believers. All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God. Our pastors have special roles of leadership, but they lead as servants–guiding, instructing, and equipping the whole congregation to be engaged in the ministries of the church and in our daily lives.
- Responsible Freedom. As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are free to believe and act in accordance with our perception of God’s will for our lives. But we are called to live in a loving, covenantal relationship with one another—gathering in local communities of faith, and actively participating in bodies made up of other congregations, which help us be and do more than we can be or do alone.
For more information on the beliefs of the United Church of Christ, go to http://www.ucc.org/about-us_what-we-believe.
You can read an expression of our UCC Statement of Faith as a prayer.
For more about the history of the United Church of Christ, go to http://www.ucc.org/about-us_short-course.
If you’d like to see more information about the United Church of Christ denomination, we invite you to go exploring at www.ucc.org.