History Institute

Syllabus and Readings

All required reading assignments may be downloaded from this website or from other websites available on the worldwide web.  Other practical field assignments may be made requiring interviews, site visits, or attendance at meetings. Additional reading related to the topics covered is encouraged, but not required. These UCC Institutes are enrichment opportunities for all members of the UCC who want to learn more about the history, governance, theology and ministry of the UCC.

UCC clergy Daniel Sack (sack@rcn.com), a church historian
Audrey Price (xtremejoy@gmail.com), a theologian.


Goals for the History Institute:
(from the Essentials document)

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


Pre-Institute Assignments

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:


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 to pass out (8 copies).

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:

In Maryland:

In Virginia:

4.  The two volumes of Hidden Histories in the UCC tell the stories of little-known people, groups or movements within the UCC. You can find them at:
Hidden Histories Volume 1
Hidden Histories Volume 2
Choose one of the topics listed below and prepare a short presentation (3 minutes):

  • Afro-Christians
  • Armenian Congregationalism
  • German Congregationalism
  • Blacks and the AMA
  • Deaconess Sisters
  • Women’s Work and Woman’s Boards
  • Calvin Synod
  • Christian Denomination in New England
  • Karl Emil Otto
  • Chinese Congregationalism

Choose a topic you don’t know much about and prepare a short presentation (3 minutes). Bring a one page handout to pass out to class members (8 copies) and come prepared to discuss it. To avoid duplication, please email the instructors your choice. They will confirm your choice, or ask you to choose another topic if that one is taken.


5.  In order to understand the events that led up to the formation of the United Church of Christ in 1957, read:

What were the challenges involved in the formation of the UCC?  Why did the process take so long?


6.  Many accounts conclude the UCC’s history with the 1957 merger, but we have done a lot in the succeeding 57 years. What do you know about that story? What would you tell someone in your congregation who is interested in the denomination’s recent history? Come prepared to list the three most important things that the UCC has done in the last five decades. Here are a few sources:


  1. Read some brief materials to understand how the UCC fits into the history of Christianity.
  2. Read materials about the histories of the groups that came together to form the UCC.
  3. Prepare a brief history of one local UCC congregation.
  4. Prepare a brief presentation about a chapter from Hidden Histories.
  5. Look at the topics listed in the Table of Contents of the seven volumes of Living Theological Heritage. Look specifically at Volume 7.
  6. Read about the history leading up to the merger or union in 1957.
  7. Read materials about the UCC since 1957 and identify the three most important moments in its fifty-seven years of existence.  Come to the Institute prepared to share your list.

(Updated 3/28/2017)