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Becoming a Member
Each Sunday, First Church welcomes many visitors and friends to morning worship and to our periodic Jazz and Night Song worship. The current vision of our congregation, A Way of Hospitality, calls us to offer a heartfelt welcome to every new person and to invite newcomers to join us “for an hour or a lifetime” on the journey of life and the journey of faith. For some, the acceptance of this invitation will lead to a deeper relationship with the First Church community, one that involves sharing in our covenant with God and with each other and becoming formal members of our church. For more information on our historic and living covenants (and on what a covenant even is!) please click here.
Our process for joining usually involves attendance at newcomers lunches and sessions where we can hear each other's stories, ask questions and learn more about First Church’s history, denomination, programs and also about expectations of church members. We usually offer opportunities to join a few times a year, in late January, June and October. The “Joining Sundays” are preceded by a series of newcomer offerings.
When we join the congregation, we covenant with God and with each other
- To worship together regularly on Sundays, and to participate in the on-going life of prayer and praise of the church in its many forms;
- To be faithful stewards of the church’s resources;
- To prayerfully discern the ways in which we are called to give our time, talents, and money for the support and strengthening of our community—including financial pledging and, in some cases, accepting calls to positions of leadership within the congregation;
- To participate in the small group life of the church, including opportunities for learning, fellowship and service;
- To take an active and informed part in the church’s discernment regarding its future and all other major decisions;
- To enjoy the fellowship of the community and to extend pastoral care and affection to those who are in need;
- To pray earnestly for the church—for all its members and ministries, for its leaders and benefactors and for the world we are called to serve.
We join the church by means of a “covenant,” not by assent to a set of beliefs. Some Christian denominations require that people subscribe to a certain set of beliefs in order to be a member of that community. Often, this set of beliefs is expressed in the form of a creed or some other summary statement of faith. If you are unwilling to assent to it, you may find yourself outside the circle of that particular community.
The United Church of Christ is rooted in the same traditional creeds as other mainline Christian denominations. We also have a modern statement of faith. First Church uses both in its worship and study. Most people in our congregation either accept basic Christian beliefs as a given, or as is more often the case, they wrestle with this heritage of belief in their every-day lives, exploring and questioning it as they go along their Christian way.
Our Puritan forbears were orthodox Christians. All the same, they resisted the power of a church hierarchy or government to dictate the religious convictions by which they were to live. They insisted on the sovereignty of a free conscience. For this reason, we do not require anyone to assent publicly to articles of faith in order to become a member of the church. We do not use belief in particular doctrines as a way of deciding “who’s in and who’s out” of our circle of faith.
Instead, we become members simply by making a free choice to become part of a local community of Christ. We express that decision by making a promise—that is, by “covenanting” with God and the congregation that we will be a pilgrim in the company of pilgrims on the road of grace. We declare that we will remain open to the Spirit’s leading and committed to each other by ties of faith, hope and love. Membership in the UCC is about the desire to be together, not a demand to believe correctly.
Because we do not require assent to creeds, it is often said that the UCC is a “non-credal” church. And so we are! But that does not mean that we are a “creed-less” church that does not stand for anything in particular. The content of our faith is important to us. We are engaged in a life-long effort to study, pray, wrestle with and live into the teachings of Christianity, and to hand on its wisdom, ancient and new, to the next generation.
But it is important to note that when we recite any creed or faith statement together, we do so “doxologically”—that is, in a spirit of praise and thanks for all God has done for us in Christ, not in order to establish an “orthodoxy,” or correct belief. Another way of saying this is that for us, creeds are “testimonies” not “tests.”