First Congregational United Church of Christ, Ypsilanti, a small congregation holds true to an action oriented ministry model. Our church believes it is called to actively and purposefully live out the teachings of Jesus in our daily ministries despite budgetary and human resources constraints. With this guiding priority we do church differently!
We have been leaders in generating sustained support for local, state, and national policies that follow a different path than the heavy-handed and inhumane approach to dealing with our immigrant neighbors and community. One of the founders and leaders of the ongoing Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) is a member of our Church Council and involvement by other members continue to be significant. This is a time when this work can be scaled up.
We created the Michigan Open & Affirming Coalition of UCC Churches. A New Denominational Outreach ministry for the state wide UCC to strengthen the partnering of experienced ONA churches with aspiring congregations for consultation, resource provision, encouragement and lessons learned. A member of our congregation has deep connections in the local LGBT community and supportive institutions, and a passion for working toward policies including minimizing bullying and discarding of gay and marginalized people, especially youth.
“First Congregational is a co-founding institution of the new local “organization of organizations” WeROC (Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition). In many ways, WeROC is a larger illustration of the values and mission we try to live out at First Congregational. The diverse faith congregations and labor and community organizations that make up WeROC are, at our core, focused on intentionally reweaving the frayed fabric of community — at a time when forces are at work every day to keep us fragmented, suspicious of each other, feeling isolated and on our own. We are showing by example that people from many backgrounds and perspectives can, even today, come together in powerful ways around our common values and actually change unjust public policies. WeROC is a part of the S.E. Michigan organization MOSES and the national Gamaliel Foundation. See Tad Wysor (firstname.lastname@example.org, 734 883 3225) for more on how First Congregational is connecting with current WeROC issues and actions.
Two members of our congregation are very active in Mentor 2 Youth a school-to-career intervention program, grounded in principlesof personal, academic and professional development, for the at-risk youth of Ypsilanti. The Congregation as a whole supports the efforts of this organization in order to support the improvement of the youth in our community.
All of our ministries are built on the solid foundation of:
- Encouragement: Focused on putting Jesus’ teaching into action to identify and improve community needs. Most members actively work on additional community projects away from the Church in addition to their work with the activities of the Church.
- Advocacy: Using not only our words and actions to provide advocacy for the under-represented or disempowered but also to encourage and train them to make their own voices heard.
- Acceptance: Through many intentional actions such as inclusive language and the physical move to Fellowship Hall, Sunday services and meeting are much more accessible to all ages and those with physical challenges.
- Diversity: Congregation is diverse (culture, gender, age, race, ability, socioeconomic) and focuses on inclusion, participation and outreach to and with diverse, marginalized and rejected populations.
- Pastoral Engagement: Consistant support and teaching to enhance the practical training for pastor(s) in areas like outreach, diversity, inclusion, and social justice issues.
- Inclusive Language: Deliberate in “saying what we mean and meaning what we say” and working to minimize behavior that marginalizes anyone.
- Lay Leadership Major decisions intentionally involve the larger Congregation, led by the church Council, in quarterly or “as needed” meetings to address issues and vision planning.
- Shared Ministry: Ministry as a community responsibility is modeled as the congregation and pastor share equally in the tasks of hospital visits, family care in crisis, hospitality, music, worship planning, and Christian education planning and delivery. All work is done together to be mindful of the established boundaries and time commitments.
- Safe Space: To worship and learn to lead social change is available for all persons.
- Social Media: Facebook and our website play a very large role in attracting new visitors and members and in communicating what we are up to.
Our small church continues to respond to a call that has developed and evolved over 30 years, a call that at its foundation is building God’s community. Our leadership believes that we are now in a time when our collective skills, passions, and history are converging with major new challenges and opportunities that God is setting before us.
Our historic church home in the urban core of eastern Washtenaw County gives us special vantage point for deeply troubling trends in our region and state. We believe that there now can be no argument that public policy being made in Lansing and beyond is having a devastating effect on large numbers of low- and moderate-income and otherwise marginalized people, people who tend to make their homes in our area.
As a matter of faith and practicality, we believe that the most powerful role at this time for our small church is to focus primarily on changing the public policies that are hurting “the least of these.” By working with others in strategic ways and bringing our faith values to the table, we are leveraging large potential improvements for thousands of our sisters and brothers. We will continue to prayerfully assess what we become involved with, how we participate, and on what timelines. But at this time, we are feeling called to more deeply explore leadership and participation in four important areas where our members and neighbors (and many more) are facing serious challenges:
Let us know what you are interested in and we will find a way to add your gifts to our ministries.
God’s continued blessings to all!