Who We Are

We are a family of faith, growing closer to God.

This is our mission statement, and this simple phrase has much depth as it speaks of our relationship to one another as well as our relationship to God. Understanding a family of faith, growing closer to God begins with the relationship Jesus establishes with us.

In John 15:15, Jesus changed how he referred to his followers from “servant” to “friends.” We are friends with Jesus. The concept of friend is not a casual relationship. The Greek word in John 15 that is translated “friends,” philous, carries the idea of love between family members. We see how Jesus Christ views us as members of a family held together by love. By supporting and encouraging one another, by caring for and nurturing one another, we grow closer to God.

Bible

Scripture holds authority for the life and mission of our congregation. It is the foundation of our faith and practice. What we do as a church is rooted in Scripture. In the stories of God acting in history, of Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection, we begin to understand who God is and how God works with us. The stories that form us as a people of God are found in the Scriptures. In these stories we find our identity. Scripture helps us as Christians to understand who we are, our calling or mission, and how we need to act both individually and as a church. That is why the Bible is read both privately and publicly in a variety of settings.

Prayer

We offer prayers as an expression of our awareness of God and to establish and maintain contact with God. The Psalmist wrote “I will bless the Lord at all times, God’s praise shall be continually in my mouth... I sought the Lord and God answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34).

Prayer is the intentional opening our ourselves to our Creator. It is the means by which we express the concerns of our hearts and spirits, sharing our thoughts with God, knowing that God cares about us in very personal ways. Prayer affords us a stillness in our spirit and attentiveness through which God is able to touch us and transform our lives. Often prayer is that which assures us that we are not alone nor are we left to our own abilities and devices. “Do not worry about anything... let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philipppians 4:6-7).

What is Worship like at First UCC?

We are a traditional Church, which means that we have things like candlesticks, hymnals, choir, organ music, and pews. But we are also a church that believes God is still speaking so we like to shake things up once in awhile. We find humor in the ordinary and grace in the extraordinary; we worship with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other; sometimes the mood is gentle and quiet; and at other times it is exuberant and spirit-filled.

What is the United Church of Christ?

The UCC came into being in 1957 with the union of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these was, in turn, the result of a union of two earlier traditions. So in a real sense, our roots are in the great Reformation movement as well as with the Pilgrims searching for religious freedom. Through the years, other groups such as Native Americans, Afro-Christians, Asian Americans, Volga Germans, Armenians, Hungarians, and Hispanic Americans have joined with the four earlier groups. First United Church of Christ is historically from the Reformed Church (later Evangelical and Reformed) that would be part of the merger in 1957 resulting in the United Church of Christ.

We in the UCC cherish not only our rich and profound history but also our dynamic and vibrant ministry and mission yet today. The UCC has about 1.5 million members nationwide in over 6,000 congregations. The UCC is a church of many “firsts.” While it’s not always easy being first, it’s usually worth the risk. Among our many firsts, we were the first mainline church to take a stand against slavery (1700), the first to ordain an African American person (1785), the first to ordain a woman (1853), the first in foreign missions (1810). We value education for all people. We founded Harvard and Yale, and Grinnell College here in Iowa. Following the Civil War, we founded many historically black colleges, six of which remain affiliated with the UCC to this day.

What do we believe?

This is always a bit of a challenge to answer, as the UCC has no magisterium, or overarching governing body that determines the specifics of faith and practice. This means that there is a great deal of theological diversity within the UCC and within First United Church of Christ here in Tipton. Perhaps the best way to tell you about the UCC is with the help of seven phrases from Scripture and tradition that express our commitments.

  1. 1.That they may all be one. [John 17:21] This motto of the United Church of Christ reflects the spirit of unity on which it is based and points toward future efforts to heal the divisions in the body of Christ. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.

  2. 2.In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. The unity that we seek is based on mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential.

  3. 3.The unity of the church is not of its own making. It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as we are as individuals. The common thread that runs through all is love.

  4. 4.Testimonies of faith rather than tests of faith. Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no formula that is a test of faith. Historic statements such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and others, are valued as authentic testimonies of faith. In 1959, we adopted a Statement of Faith prepared especially for congregations of the United Church. Many use this statement as a common affirmation of faith in worship and as a basis for study.

  5. 5.There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy word. This affirmation recognizes that the Bible, though written in specific historical times and places, still speaks to us in our present condition. It declares that the study of the scriptures is not limited by past interpretations, but it is pursued with the expectation of new insights and God’s help for living today.

  6. 6.The Priesthood of All Believers. All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion. Ordained clergy and other leaders in our church serve to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.

  7. 7.Responsible Freedom. As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are free to believe and act in accordance with our perception of God’s will for our lives. But we are called to live in a loving, covenantal relationship with one another.

Each congregation or local church is free to act in accordance with the collective decisions of its members, guided by the working of the Spirit in the light of the scriptures. But it also is called to live in a covenantal relationship with other congregations for the sharing of insights and for cooperative action under the authority of Christ.

First United Church of Christ