Our Journey—Since its founding as a new church start in late 2000, All Peoples UCC has moved 16 miles north from Bend to Redmond (2007) but the journey has been more than geographical. The church has metamorphosed in form and membership.
We achieved standing with the Central Pacific Conference in less than two years… back in 2002. Our founding pastor continued on with the church until some time in 2004 when the Board and he could not agree over some financial decisions and he left. Subsequently, we called a series of 3 part-time pastors, and several visiting, Sunday-only pastors each of whom did their level best. But the congregation shrank drastically. Most of our treasure was pouring into ordained, part-time leadership and space rental. Some of the “civic leadership” types fell away from the group early on. Others tended to sit back and let the ordained personnel carry the huge load… soon burnout felled each of the ordained, part-time pastors.
The last of the part-time pastors was a young man of vision who appraised our situation, engaged well with the remaining members and suggested that we should/could continue on our own… without trained clergy and as a house-church congregation! He promised to help us prepare for that transition and work himself out of a job in the process. (Like the others before him, he wanted out. Like the others, the weekly drive from Portland over the passes to Central Oregon intimidated him, especially in winter ice and snow. Furthermore the tasks at hand were more than one, part-time professional could handle.)
At a pivotal meeting in 2006, a spirit-filled remnant of the original congregation met to decide whether to continue as a house church with lay leadership or disband and be absorbed into mainline congregations in Bend and Redmond. Following discussion of options, one member suggested that we list the factors driving the group’s apparent loyalty to UCC covenant and principles. In a few minutes, we had a list of about a dozen aspects that supported our desire to remain with the UCC. One element that really tugged at our hearts was the sense that for our staunch gay members, dissolving would likely mean the end of their participation in any church. The inevitable vote was unanimous in favor of staying together as UCC. After all, several of our other members had children and/or siblings and who are LGBT.
The Congregation Today—Currently, our congregation includes about 17 people… bright, “cerebral” folks who keep coming for strong reasons. Many of those who had already left the church felt that church was not “church” without a choir, Sunday school, a building of our own or trained professional clergy. (It was a sad sacrifice to give up the Sunday school but we had only one or two who felt qualified to teach.) We have met in six different public buildings (rent-free) and numerous homes since 2007.
We currently gather in a beautifully equipped conference room at the local hospital. We meet for worship and study/discussion the first and third Sundays of every month. Volunteers write sermons, lead worship and conduct communion. Others serve according to their various talents and calling. When we worship, each person wears a name tag and a colorful stole (optional), selected from a variety of fabric swatches as a symbol of our service to each other and the community. The stole tradition began as a serious faith symbol but has evolved into a fellowship-boosting fashion statement as well. Our reading and discussion sessions have focused on such authors as Borg, Crossan, Pagels, Spong and the like; we are in pursuit of the historical Jesus while turning a skeptical eye on the additions made by organized religion over the ensuing centuries. Those pursuits are all balanced against what it means to be a 21st-century Christian concerned with social justice, global stewardship and today’s needy. We meet once a month at a local restaurant for fellowship and a relaxing meal.
Our Service Work—includes volunteerism as well as financial contributions. We serve meals to the hungry as part of an ecumenical community group called Jericho Road. With those same folks, we also pack and deliver food-filled backpacks through the schools to food-insecure families for weekend sustenance. Financial support goes to Jericho Road, a housing organization for the homeless, St. Vincent de Paul (both Bend and Redmond), Water for Haiti. APUCC has been a Five-4-Five congregation ever since our founding.
By Pris Hardin