Goals and Priorities
We can never say it often enough: Our goals are to love our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. These goals are high; some would say unattainable. However, as we strive for them, we find our lives enriched by them.
We reach for them through:
- Worship: We seek to connect our hearts to God’s through public worship, individual devotions, and small-group sharing.
- Christian Formation: We try to model our lives after Jesus of Nazareth, cradle to grave. This includes Christian education, learning centers (a.k.a. Sunday School), lived experiences from turtoring in our fellowship hall to mission trips abroad, small-group studies, hosting theologians, and an action/reflection approach to life!
- Children at service to the community
- Christian Outreach: We are a “hands on” and “empty our pockets” kind of church. “Hands on” means among other things: serving in a soup kitchen, welcoming those who are temporarily homeless to live in our church building, and working on a Habitat House. “Emptying our pockets” includes giving change for Souper Bowl Sunday, raising dollars to build a school room abroad, and providing four digit gifts to local not-for profits. Our financial goal is 25% of our current local expense for others.
- Congregational Life and Fellowship: One could describe Union Congregational Church as a partying church, because we follow Jesus, who enjoyed good meals and good times with his friends--and made sure that everyone knew they were his friends. Among our favorite activities are retreats, small groups, music and drama events, and, yes, breaking bread together!
Some of our specific priorities are:
- Doing justice: We are a part of the newly formed New Jersey Together at Montclair, a faith based community organization;
- Going green: We are trying to reduce our foot-prints on God’s good earth;
- Maintaining our buildings for use by the congregation and community;
- Being a source of beauty in Montclair (for example, by restoring our stained-glass windows and rebuilding our antiphonal organ).
The congregation was first gathered in 1881. Early years were spent stabilizing the congregation via clergy leadership, facilities, and budget. As Montclair grew and prospered, so did Union. Always active in the community, Union was responsible for or related to the formation in the early 1900s of Boy Scout Troop 13, the Women's Club of Upper Montclair, the Montclair Operetta Society, the Montclair Society of Engineers, and the Rose Society, and more recently, the Montclair Counseling Center begun by William Lutz, then an associate minister at Union, and our much-esteemed Weekday Nursery School. Our congregation is known around the world. Frank Laubach, the originator of the each-one-teach-one literacy program was ordained at Union. Our fifth minister, Howard Bliss, left Union to be the president of American University in Beirut. And Betty Bailey, also an associate minister, followed her retirement in 1994 with a three-year ministry in the Middle East.
In 1957, the Congregational-Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church joined to form the United Church of Christ. The denomination’s offices until the mid-1980's were in New York City, and Union served as the home church for many officers during these years. It continues to be known throughout the denomination as a vital church and a leader in theological education. We have served as a field education site for dozens of student ministers, ordained five women in quick succession during the late 1970's and 1980's, and have had many theological students in our care as they moved toward ordination, the most recent being Julie Rogers, who grew up in our midst.
As our name implies, the founders of the congregation hoped to serve the spiritual needs of everyone. As our community has become more pluralistic, we've recognized the richness of diversity and the value of mutual respect, and we are active in the interfaith community. Our congregation draws both individuals who are on lifelong spiritual journeys and families with blended religious traditions.
With our sister congregation, First Congregational United Church of Christ, we received strength from Watchung Congregational Church, which disbanded following a devastating fire in the 1970's. We enjoy our relationship with First Cong, which is both collegial and congenial.
Markers along the way of the current generation at Union include:
- the formation of the Weekday Nursery School in 1968;
- the fire of 1975 that destroyed the interior of the Sanctuary Building but bonded the congregation as it rebuilt;
- the consensus to become an Open and Affirming Congregation in 2000;
- the response to the tragedy of 9/11;
- and the recent refurbishing of the church buildings both inside and out.
- The very best characteristic of our history is that it is always in the formative stages. As much as we treasure the past, we hope for the future, confident that we will continue to increase love of God and neighbor in this our time and place.