Church name/type: First Congregational Church (Albany), part of the UCC -United Church of Christ
Format summary: Again the format was structured like either Methodist or Reformed, and I got to sing the doxology.
Overall Impression: Very good
I haven’t mentioned use of the bulletin or program in a while. This church had a nice, easy to follow bulletin. It included hymn page numbers for short response songs the regular churchgoers would sing every week, but newcomers wouldn’t necessarily know. I think it’s a small point but a good one. It shows a level of concern that all who arrive through the doors be able to join in easily.
I found a lot of things at this church to recommend both it and the denomination. The pastor gave a really interesting sermon about change and upheaval. We were reminded of the Reformation which started so many different types of Protestant groups. Even at the very beginning it was never just one Protestant church. There were a bunch and they weren’t all reconciled on various points. The pastor mentioned a theory of the 500 year shakeups. The theory goes, every 500 years people shake things up and make great changes. The Reformation marked one of these. If accurate we are on the brink of another one. Reformation Sunday should not be a day on which we congratulate ourselves on leaving behind old stuff and finally getting it right. It should be a day we think about what change still needs to be made and what lists need to be nailed to the church door. Keep in mind these are the points I usually make in my own notes, however in this case I didn’t have to introspect them, the pastor actually said them.
Next comes the most awesome thing of my journey so far. The pastor of this church spoke about being gay. Yes that’s right. This church and denomination are good with that. And everything it means. Some other closely related denominations still seem to be in a state of flux about the question of gay ministers and gay in general. It’s cool and unexpected to find a place that has finally settled on “yes it’s ok”. I’m not even sure there’s another Congregational church on my list, but I am fairly excited about the denomination right now.
*It was recently pointed out to me that it’s the denomination UCC (United Church of Christ) that is ok with homosexuality. Congregationalist is a term which refers to the fact that each church is rather independent of the other Congregational churches. So every church calling its denomination Congregationalist makes many of its own choices as to teachings and beliefs. Some churches consider themselves UCC and Congregationalist, but not all Congregationalist churches took on the UCC modifier.
More again?: Yes I’d return. I’m strongly considering it in two weeks when the pastor talks some more about history on Founder Sunday. Plus I think I’d like to have another chance to chat with church members.