1 Corinthians 12:1-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit

Central Union Church is a part of a much larger body.  We are members of a network of churches, a denomination, called the United Church of Christ (UCC).  The UCC is distinctive in a number of ways both in terms of theology and governance.  Many of its distinctive features arise from its congregational structure.  Congregationalism is the primary governing structure of UCC churches.

Congregationalism is often described as a church structure where the members of the church, the congregants, have the decision-making authority.  In other words, there is no pope for Congregational churches.  In Congregationalism, decisions for the vision and mission of the church rests with the congregation.  I am a big fan of congregationalism but I fear that too often we Congregationalists miss out on the why.  Members of the church have decision-making authority because of a theological conviction; “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit.”  Our responsibility is built upon the belief that the Holy Spirit has been given to us.  The Holy Spirit was given to us to strength us, encourage us, and guide us to God.  Congregationalists must discern the movement and voice of the Holy Spirit.  Expertise and experience will certainly play a role but these individualized traits are only one part of the decision-making process.  Where have we seen the spirit of God at work?  What are we hearing in the scriptures?  What truths have surfaced in our service to our community and in our worship of God?  When addressing these questions, Congregationists are called to remember that each is given a manifestation of the Spirit and as such, everyone’s voice needs to be respected.

I love congregationalism because it is a high calling.  It boldly affirms the value and giftedness of the individual and it requires a big picture, or communal, mindset.  As a church we will have many decisions to make in the year ahead.  Let us remember what it means to be congregational.