Who We Are and How We Believe
At Hancock United Church of Christ, belonging is as important as believing. What holds us together is not that we all agree on what we believe, but rather our covenant of membership: we all belong to one community together.
Jesus once asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Our believing and our belonging is our answer to this question.
To belong to Hancock means that each of us seeks to strengthen our beliefs, and we do this through several important practices:
We worship together, seeking to understand God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through prayer, preaching, singing and witnessing.
We study and learn as we are able: reading the Bible, engaging in Christian Education programs, talking and sharing faithfully with each other.
We engage in good works together, reaching out to the sick and the lonely, the poor and the powerless.
We gather together for friendship, fellowship and kindness toward one another.
As we do these works, the truths described in our UCC Statement of Faith become increasingly powerful in our lives. We do not have to believe every part of the statement. It is not a creed that establishes the last word on what must be believed; rather, it is a witness, the first word in our on-going conversation with one another about our common life together.
At Hancock we can and do believe in a variety of ways. We take the Bible seriously as a witness to God’s interaction with human beings, but we never read it literally. We celebrate the use of human reason, and regard science and faith as equally essential and highly compatible. Each of us is responsible for growing in our understanding of faith and belief, and no member is compelled to agree with any other member. Our ministers do not speak for us, but bear witness to us.
But even when we disagree, especially when we disagree, we belong together. We listen, we respect, we witness, we grow. We create room for the graceful change of mind, will and life. We engage in the quest to determine our beliefs while belonging to a community of others who are engaged as we are.
We welcome all who seek to know God. We believe that, although we are many members, we are one body in Christ. We have been called as well as challenged by God to respect and reconcile our differences. We recognize and love each individual as a child of God. We welcome, respect, support, and lovingly encourage people of every race, ethnicity, creed, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical and mental ability to join us on our journey of faith. This faith journey indeed calls Hancock Members not to be silent in the face of prejudice, injustice, and exclusion, but to express our faith, in word and deed, for justice and inclusiveness for all humanity. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “In Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one…”
At Hancock we celebrate two sacraments (sacred events established by Christ): Baptism and Communion.
Baptism marks our welcome into the household of faith, and signifies our belonging to the community of Christ. Baptism is appropriate for any age, though baptism of infants and young children is most common. One must be baptized before joining the church as an adult. The United Church of Christ honors baptisms from any other Christian tradition and therefore we do not re-baptize new members when they choose to become part of our community from another church.
Communion (The Lord’s Supper) is the central meal of fellowship and remembrance for the Church. Communion is received in individual cups in the pews, served by Deacons. This is an open sacrament, meaning that anyone who seeks new life in Christ is welcomed.
At Hancock we think there are four essential spiritual practices…
To celebrate the power, the presence, and the love of God for the world.
Worship can take many forms:
Prayer, both private and communal
Music, both listening and making music praises God
Silence, in a world of constant din, making time for silence opens doorways for God.
Proclamation, both preaching and testimony are important, saying what you perceive God is doing in your life, and listening to the witness of others
To give ones time and resources to those in need is an essential facet of Christian living. It too takes many forms:
Contributing financially to the life of the church and to people in need creates generous hearts
Mission trips to distant places help us understand new cultures, and challenge the way we live, even as our efforts improve the lives of others.
Projects close to home give us the opportunity to be merciful, and thus be changed
Advocating for the changes needed to improve equality, make peace, and establish justice.
Enriches our understanding, and widens our perspective; God speaks in many ways to many people. Again, many forms:
Daily reading of the Bible and/or reflections on faith
Conversation with others about what you’re learning
Simply being with others, sharing the life of faith in a variety of ways:
Visiting and otherwise caring for church members in need.
Going to fellowship events, talking and sharing
Sharing your faith with others, in your own way, inviting them to join you at Hancock events.