The closing down of a church


There are several progressive churches in Berkeley, as you might imagine. Some of them are thriving. First Congregational, for example, is a UCC church with several hundred members, and which sponsors lots of activities and events.

However, not all churches thrive. One of them, University Christian Church, a congregation of the Disciples of Christ (DOC), had interested me somewhat over the last few months as I researched progressive faith communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The church appeared from its website to be progressive, at least in some areas; and as one who is interested in contemplative faith, I was impressed that it regularly sponsored contemplative spiritual events, such as centering prayer on certain weekday mornings. The church was located just a little too far away for me to attend these morning prayer events and still keep my desired work schedule, so I never quite made it there.

I took a peek recently at their web site, and discovered that the church has decided to sell the building, and it is currently conducting no Sunday services. There is a page that contains links to YouTube videos, including one from the pastor who talks about the decision to close down the church. She indicated that they were going to continue the church in a different form--using the proceeds from the sale of the church building towards that goal.

I have to admit that I have somewhat complicated feelings about the Disciples of Christ; I was brought up in an independent Christian church that came from the same historical stream (the Stone-Campbell movement) as the DOC. Although the church of my youth rejected the DOC as too denominational (and possibly also too liberal), my first impulse is to associate churches with names like "X Christian Church" with the fundamentalist environment I grew up in. That may not be fair, but it is a reaction to a religious upbringing that I rejected. The result is that the fact that the DOC comes from the same historical stream as that fundamentalist church of my youth doesn't entirely make me comfortable, even if there are obvious divergences between the independent Christian churches and the Disciples of Christ. I never visited University Christian Church in Berkeley, and thus what I know about it strictly comes from its web site. But I do feel that it is a shame that they had to sell their building. Hopefully they will manage to continue on in some other form after selling the church.


Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

As a Disciples pastor who taught at an Independent Christian Church school, I can say that by and large they are different. There are many differences, but even where they are the same don't let the shared origins keep you from looking closely at the Disciples. Our founding principles are rooted in the Lockeian tradition. The call was for the pursuit of unity on the basis of New Testament Christianity. In otherwords -- no creeds. Some churches went one way and others the other. There are liberal Disciples and conservative ones.

But consider that process theologian David Ray Griffin is Disciple, as is Fred Craddock, process theologian Clark Williamson, and many more. LBJ was Disciple as was Janis Joplin (growing up).

And we were the first Mainline Denomination to elect a woman (Sharon Watkins) to serve as denominational head!!!!

I'm sorry to hear about UCC, but hopefully their new incarnation will serve them well!