So if you’re from a more hierarchically aerodynamic religious tradition (read: Catholic, and – until recently – Anglican/Episcopalian), this part gets a little strange. The United Church of Christ maintains its congregationalist roots by having the fundamental structure of the larger “Church” being any local church. Instead of a single, large organization leading many smaller organizations (Honcho -> Cardinal -> Bishop -> Local Clergy), the UCC’s local congregations are all autonomous… but not.
As far as I know, all congregations of the UCC are members of an association (just a collection of congregations led by the whole of the association’s clergy). Those associations are then part of a larger “conference” which then sends representatives to the UCC General Synod where we debate issues like “Is Jesus Christ our sovereign Lord?” for long periods of time. (Like lawmakers, when you see a proposal for something that seems simple or obvious it usually means there’s a hidden agenda… it’s in that last question, you just have to want it a bit. Anyway, that was a BIG issue.)
SO: I belong to The Church of the Redeemer of the New Haven Association of the Connecticut Conference of The United Church of Christ, If you want to get technical.
Now, I understand the UCC to be a bunch of churches and administration in conversation with each other, not a leadership telling the churches what to do, so the local church stays the real guts of the life of the (big ‘C’) Church. Except for:
The local church approves of the candidate (or may not), but then the Association governs the in-care process. That’s who you are “in-care” of. The Association accepts you into care, assigns an advisor for you from within its ranks, and has regular meetings with you to follow your process through divinity school, and eventually, ordination. Well, actually a committee, hilariously enough called The Committee on Ministry does all of that in the name of the Association, but hey, who’s counting.
Side note: The Association also is who shows up and installs or ordains your minister in a local church.
House cleaning: I’m going to try and stick to Thursdays for posts, the school year is getting a bit more hectic.