Doing justice, seeking peace and building community are central to the identity of the United Church of Christ and the Hingham Congregational Church. We as a church community actively explore issues, challenge ourselves to see beyond our own lives and strive to make the world a better and fairer place.
Issues we have been involved in or explored include:
What Does it Mean to Be Open and Affirming? Living into our Statement
Symposium held March 23, 2015 3-4:30 p.m. at HCC
Two decades ago, Hingham Congregational Church declared itself to be Open and Affirming. This designation is intended to signal openness to and affirmation of all people. But experience tells us that the most challenging aspect of pursing such a statement is navigating differing views and feelings around sexual orientation. We survived that process, but there is more to being Open and Affirming than making a public declaration.
So the question we will be wrestling with at the symposium is this: How can we live into our Open and Affirming statement in an authentic and proactive way?
Our keynote speaker will be Sara Holland, a student at BU School of Theology, who is pursuing ordination. As a young adult and a lesbian, she will help us focus our conversation by telling her story and sharing her vision for what the church might be. To enhance the discussion we will also welcome several guests from the wider community to sit on a panel.
The North Carolina Moral March – Saturday, February 8th, 2015
“Drawn together by the Holy Spirit, we are a distinct and diverse community of Christians that come together as one Church, joining faith and action. In covenant with the Church in all of its settings, we serve God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world as made manifest in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Quoted from the UCC Website
Several months ago, Andover Newton Theological School hosted the Rev. William Barber, head of the NAACP in North Carolina. He has led an effort in NC to raise awareness of inequalities that exist in his once progressive state that marginalize minorities and the poor. To call attention to that plight he and others organized a march which began seven years ago held on the 2nd Saturday in February.
During the last election cycle extraordinary amounts of money were used to elect an extremely conservative General Assembly and Governor. (See Bill Moyer’s Report on HCC website). The result was rapid passage of legislation that dramatically restricted voter rights, making it more difficult for all but the wealthy to vote, increased taxes on the middle class and poor while decreasing taxes for the top 11%, eliminating environmental laws, cutting funds for public schools while at the same time subsidizing vouchers for private schools, cutting teachers salaries and eliminating tenure (NC is now 46th in teacher salaries). In addition they voted to eliminate Medicaid for over 500,000 people, reduced access to women’s health care, overturned a law (that existed for almost two decades) that required public funding for judicial elections, and sadly the list goes on.
As a result of these dramatic changes imposed by the new legislature, protests began last spring which became known as Moral Mondays. You might be interested to learn that co-pastors of our sister UCC Church in Chapel Hill have been active leaders in these events.
We joined a contingent of students, faculty, trustees, alumni and the current president and newly elected president of Andover Newton to participate in this March. In addition the president and two executives of our national UCC as well as the National Director of the UUA were present.
It was an uplifting experience, almost overwhelming. The organized crowd swelled as we listened to speakers, sang songs and made new acquaintances. We were surrounded by groups holding signs identifying themselves as churches (UCC, UUA, Baptists and Jews), teachers, NAACP members, physicians and nurses, environmentalists, women’s rights activists, supporters of voter rights, immigration reformers and many, many more. As the crowds grew to what was estimated to be 80,000-100,000, it remained orderly while people chanted “Forward Together, Not One Step Back” When the March began, Rev. Barber called for the clergy to come forward and politicians to join with the people…impressive!
After the March we were treated to a “teach-in” where Dr. M.T. Divalia, Professor of Ethics at ANTS talked with us about levels of commitment and how each stage of involvement results in a different level of risk. We shared sacred and secular words that drove us to “why we were there”. After the 8:45 worship service on Sunday she spoke again to over 100 members of the UCC church in Chapel Hill and discussed ways to engage others in dialogue who do not understand what is happening or who do not agree that these are issues. It was very engaging and helpful.
Worship was lead by the Sr. Pastors, a married couple Jill and Rick Edens. (Their daughter, Ruth, a graduate of ANTS is now employed in the ANTS Development Office). They are energetic, supportive, innovative and genuinely caring people.
Church envy has never been something we’ve experienced, but we now have it! Construction began 15 years ago on what has become a beautiful multi-functional campus. Actually, it wasn’t so much about the sanctuary or the building (although they were both outstanding); but it was instead the ethnically diverse congregation reflected in the adults and young people who participated in worship that was so appealing. It was evident by the fact that they share their facilities with a Hispanic congregation and the actions of significant numbers who joined the March and how they support issues that oppress the marginalized and that they live their faith.
They have chosen to have the UCC be their brand and outside of the church there is a huge rainbow sign as well as a banner advertising the UCC and the “God is still speaking” message.
Jill and Rick Edens have participated in the Moral Monday Marches which began in April of 2012 and continued through 2013. The plan is to hold Monday Moral Marches throughout the state to build support until politicians are willing to engage in dialogue. To date they have refused.
Rev. Barber preached to the crowd, the 92 year old grandmother shouted, “Fed Up – Fired Up” and people in the streets chanted: “Forward Together, Not One Step Back”. It was an amazing experience.
For a report on the March see the Huffington Post Article.
Woe to those that make unjust laws,To those who issue oppressive decrees,
To deprive the poor of their rights
And withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
Making widows their prey
And robbing the fatherless