It’s not just a slogan. It’s who we are.
Central’s “openness” is built right into our architecture: the main feature of the sanctuary is clear glass windows that soar into the 8-acre nature preserve. Worshippers feel as if they are sitting in the hardwood canopy and there are over 1,000 feet of walking trails in the woods. Certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife preserve, the urban forest is a sanctuary for people, native plants and pollinators.
Integral to our worship is an “open Table” for Communion: all who present themselves to be served will be served (we even have a gluten-free cracker for those who need it). Parents decide when their children are ready to receive the sacrament; no “profession” need be made by anyone to receive spiritual nourishment. There is “bread for your journey;” we come, “not because we must, but because we may.”
We are an “Open & Affirming” congregation, which is certainly meant to communicate our welcome and invitation to LGBTQ folk into the full participation in the life of the congregation—but it means so much more! Twice a month the 11:00 Sunday service has a sign language interpreter, we have hearing assistance devices and large-print bulletins, and the entire campus is “barrier-free” for those with mobility challenges (there is an elevator and accessible bathrooms throughout the campus).
We often proclaim at Central “Our faith is over 2,000 years old. Our thinking is not.” This is more than a “bumper sticker” or “bulletin slogan”—it is essential to Central! We believe that faith is a journey and thinking is encouraged; we covenant to make this journey with each other.
We believe in a “continuing testament” of God revealing of God’s self to us, through, but not exclusively, in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Other Wisdom traditions and sacred writings can inform and shape the faith practices of our Christianity.
We apply modern scholarship to Biblical interpretation and science is not a stranger to our faith. We use intentional inclusive language for referencing humankind and expansive language for God. We make space for awe and mystery.
Because we believe in “testimonies of faith, not tests of faith,” we are not “monolithic” in our theology; we celebrate our varied traditions and diverse faith expressions. A significant portion of our membership had no previous experience with the United Church of Christ prior to coming to Central.
Yes, we are—Christian. What that means for the members and friends of Central, however, is quite diverse. For most, it means embracing the continuing struggle with the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures and the message, mission and vision of Jesus.
Inspired by the Hebrew prophets, we are challenged to speak to contemporary issues of justice. As a “Justice & Peace-seeking” congregation, we affirm that there can be “no peace, without justice.”
Rooted in his rabbinical training, Jesus proclaimed justice and the inclusion of all people. His message continues to confront us, his mission to the “least of these “ continues to inspire us, and his vision of the emerging Realm of God on earth as it is in heaven continues to be our hope. For us, “to believe is to care. To care is to do.”