MEMBERSHIP IN THE
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
In the congregational tradition, joining the church matters. We have people stand up in front of the church during Sunday worship, share a bit about their spiritual journey, and make a public commitment to our spiritual community.
In our wider church (the United Church of Christ -- UCC), there is no hierarchy that tells the churches what to do and how to behave. We talk about having a “priesthood of all believers,” which means that all of us support and encourage one another on our spiritual journeys.
WHAT DOES CHURCH MEMBERSHIP MEAN AT FIRST CONGREGATIONAL?
When you join, you become a voting member of the church. Members vote on the church’s budget each year, they vote on which of the members should serve as key leaders, and they even vote on whether or not to call a new pastor. These are the practical issues associated with being a member.
There are spiritual issues associated with being a member. When you join, you make a connection, you join a community. The Bible’s word for that is “covenant.” When you join, you make a covenant. A covenant is an exchange of holy promises.
In making a covenant both you – and our current members - promise to share in a common spiritual life, seeking to follow our still-speaking God and live out the gospel. Unlike joining a gym or club, you promise to do more than show up and use the facilities. Will you hold other people in prayer and in love? Will you make a contribution to the community by volunteering as you are able? Will you share your own spiritual journey with others and hold their sacred stories in trust and confidence?
You will make a difference and First Congregational will be different because you have joined it. As we grow and change together, in a community centered not on ourselves but on God, we create a culture of discipleship.
WHY DO YOU HAVE PEOPLE JOIN AS A PART OF WORSHIP ON SUNDAY MORNING?
Well, it’s not to torture shy people. Here’s the reason: the community matters. We believe without a doubt that God is present during our community event, Sunday morning worship.
We ask members to join the church publicly, and during worship, because this is a prayerful and meaningful act, not just for you but for all of us. We imagine a "mighty cloud of witnesses" – all those generations that have gone before us, and join us in eternal community that stretches beyond time and space. In joining First Congregational, you are joining with a community that began long before you were born and will continue long after, if not in this world, then certainly in God’s heart.
WHAT ABOUT MY OLD CHURCH, OR THE CHURCH I GREW UP IN? AM I REPLACING THEM WHEN I JOIN FIRST CONGREGATIONAL? AM I SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT MY PAST?
When new members join, we often give thanks for every place that has ever been your spiritual home. When you join First Congregational, you do so at one moment in time, and that does not take the place of any other church. Joining doesn't mean that you can't continue to belong to or be active in other spiritual communities as well! When you join, you are not saying that this church is better or more important than all others. But you are saying that while you are here, you will be an active part of this faith community.
I DON’T GET WHY JOINING THE CHURCH IS IMPORTANT. ISN’T IT FINE TO SIMPLY ATTEND ON SUNDAYS OR COME TO SMALL GROUP?
Of course you can come on Sundays or join a small group! Our gatherings are open to everybody, at any time, and you can connect to God in all sorts of places, not just this church.
Joining the church is different from connecting with the Holy. You can glimpse God on a mountaintop or offer prayers while the plane lands after a bumpy flight. You can gather in a small group for sacred listening and meditation. But when you join a local church, you are saying that you have chosen this particular community of faith -- First Congregational -- to be a spiritual home for you at this time.
When you join, you tell the community, “I’m in,” and they in turn make promises to support you on your spiritual journey together.
One of the things they will promise is to join you in the amazing adventure of prayer. You will now be part of something larger than yourself and your own private journey.