What does it mean to be a “member” of the United Church of Christ? Our membership traditions are quite different from most other Christian denominations. In the UCC, the local church is independent from the denomination. Each member chooses to be a part of that church, and the membership requirements are set by the individual church. But “independent” doesn’t mean we’re not accountable to one another. The many UCC congregations in a particular region join together for mutual support because we know we can accomplish more as partners, and because God calls us to unity through Jesus Christ. In our region, the gathering of the local congregations is called the Ursinus Association, and in turn, Ursinus covenants with six other Associations to form the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference.
Conferences supply a wide variety of resources: youth activities; camps; guidance for church growth or transition (like the Revitalization program we’re participating in); spiritual support for pastors; and resources for congregations who need to find a new pastor. By covenanting together, we’re able to nurture everyone’s faith and mission; and we are held accountable to our Christian brothers and sisters across very different circumstances. As in the New Testament, the churches who have more share with those who have less. St. James experienced this when our property was damaged by a tornado, and other UCC churches supported our recovery.
This year, we are being asked to consider some critical changes in our Conference. “We” means you! Every one of us is part of the UCC in our area, and we make decisions democratically, not by hierarchy. At our Fall Meeting on Nov. 10, we will be asked to consider some major recommendations, including the sale of the Church House in Collegeville, the sale of Mensch Mill, and some changes to our bylaws. These issues will be discussed at our Fall Association Meeting on October 28, as well as at three regional conversations hosted by the Conference. Everyone from St. James is invited to attend any of the conversational meetings or the Fall Association Meeting, and we are still looking for two official delegates each to attend the Association and Conference meetings. This is an opportunity for us to speak up about what we believe is important for the future of our Conference’s ministries. For many of us, the particular concern will be the decision about selling Mensch Mill. Now is the time to get involved if you want to ensure that Mensch Mill will still be available for your children and grandchildren! Please speak with me if you have questions or if you would like to be involved in the discussion or as an official voting delegate to any of these events.