Syllabus and Readings
All required reading assignments are listed below. Participants are also asked to prepare a few short reports based on reading and interviews.
Goals for the History Institute
Participants will obtain knowledge of
- Origins, development, significant documents, major events, important persons in the four primary constituent traditions (Congregational, Christian, Evangelical, Reformed)
- Selected other traditions and/or groups within the United Church of Christ (especially, but not necessarily limited to, African American, American Indian, Pacific Islander/Asian American, Hispanic)
- Founding of the United Church of Christ
- Developments in the United Church of Christ from 1957 to the present
1. Get an overview of UCC history by reading the short course on UCC history. You can also get graphic versions at:
2. Read more deeply in the histories of the four main denominations/groups that came together to form the UCC. Read chapters 6 and 7 in Louis Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ:
- From Movement to Denomination: the Congregational Christian Story
- From the Continent of Europe: The Evangelical and Reformed Story
3. All history is local. The Constitution of the UCC says that the basic unit of the United Church of Christ is the local church. Research the history of one local UCC congregation and come to the institute prepared to share information in a three minute report. Prepare a one page description/outline.
You can do this research online and by telephone. Look at the church’s web site for the congregation’s history. Interview a long standing member or the pastor. Here are some possible questions: When was it founded? Why? What traditions are part of its past? What was it before 1957, if it existed before 1957? Where is it located? Why? Was it always in the same place? How many members did it have ten years ago, twenty years ago, etc.? Have its racial or ethnic or socio-economic characteristics changed?
Choose a congregation with some history in your association, ideally one that you do not know. Here are some possibilities if you are in the Potomac Association:
In the District of Columbia:
- Cleveland Park Congregational UCC
- Community Church of Washington DC
- Covenant Baptist UCC
- Faith UCC
- First Congregational UCC
- Plymouth Congregational UCC
- Peoples Congregational UCC
- The United Church (UCC and UMC)
- Beloved Community Church UCC, Accokeek
- Bethesda UCC, Bethesda
- Christ Congregational Church UCC, Silver Spring
- Greenbelt Community UCC
- Jubilee UCC, Lanham
- Rockville United Church
- Pilgrim UCC, Wheaton
- Seneca Valley UCC, Germantown
- Westmoreland UCC, Bethesda
- United Parish of Bowie
- Bethel UCC, Arlington
- Emmaus UCC, Vienna
- First Congregational, Chesterfield
- Hope UCC, Alexandria
- Little River UCC, Annandale
- Rock Spring Congregational UCC, Arlington
- St. John’s UCC, Richmond
- United Christian Parish, Reston
- Wellspring UCC, Centreville
4. The traditional four-stream narrative of UCC history leaves out a lot of stories within the church. Some of these stories have been recovered in Hidden Histories of the UCC, which offers accounts of often-forgotten people, groups or movements within the UCC. You can find them at:
Hidden Histories Volume 1
Hidden Histories Volume 2
Choose an essay–pick one you don’t know much about already–from one of the volumes and prepare a short presentation (3 minutes)
5. African Americans have a long history within the UCC and its ancestor denominations, but their stories have not yet been included in the standard narrative of UCC history. Choose one of these primary documents and come prepared to talk about it.
- George W. Dunn, “Correspondence” (1880)
- A. A. Bright, “Revised Ritual of the Christian Church” (1901)
- Black Power, “Washington Consultation Statement” and “Now More Than Ever: The Church Is Challenged” (1966)
- Yvonne Delk, “The Unfinished Agenda” (1989)
- Barbara Essex, “Black Theology: the Unfinished Agenda” (1989)
6. In order to understand the events that led up to the formation of the United Church of Christ in 1957, read:
- Chapter 5 in Louis Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ.
- An essay about the formation of the UCC
- The Basis of Union With Interpretations
What were the challenges involved in the formation of the UCC? Why did the process take so long?
7. Many accounts conclude the UCC’s history with the 1957 merger, but we have done a lot in the succeeding 64 years. The best index for that work are resolutions by the General Synod. What do you know about that story? What would you tell someone in your congregation who is interested in the denomination’s recent history? Take look at the list of General Synod resolutions, identify the three that seem most important to you, and come prepared to explain why. In many cases the resolution’s full text is available.
SUMMARY OF PRE-INSTITUTE ASSIGNMENTS:
- Read some brief materials to understand how the UCC fits into the history of Christianity.
- Read materials about the histories of the groups that came together to form the UCC.
- Prepare a brief history of one local UCC congregation.
- Prepare a brief presentation about a chapter from Hidden Histories.
- Prepare a brief presentation about a text from the African American history of the UCC.
- Read about the history leading up to the merger or union in 1957.
- Look at the list of General Synod resolutions since 1957 and choose the three that seem most important to you. Come to the Institute prepared to share your list.