Faith is a verb

Belief at FCC is best understood as a way of living, rather than an adherence to creeds or confessions.  Faith is not just a noun, but a verb, a process of sojourning with God, by which we are continually transformed.  As we seek to model our own lives after the life of Jesus, this way of living finds expression in several key characteristics.

Unabashedly Christian, Unapologetically Progressive.  FCC is a Trinitarian church in the Protestant tradition.  We understand God as expressed in the world as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer (in the traditional language, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”).  We are a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a denomination that traces its roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans (we’ve loosened up a lot since then!).  As a Christian church, we are empowered by the risen Christ to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, pursuing ministries of mercy, justice, and peace.

Ours is a progressive theology characterized by intellectual curiosity and an embrace of diversity: theological, political and personal.  We see the face of God in all peoples and places.  We acknowledge the Bible as holding the sacred stories of our faith, but we take them too seriously to take them literally.  We recognize the Bible as a human account of our shared quest for God.  Faith and reason are both gifts from God that accompany us on our journey.

We understand Jesus’ ministry on earth as profoundly counter-cultural, challenging the dominant powers and voices of his day.  He preached a gospel of peace, reconciliation and renewal, crossed accepted boundaries to welcome all to the table of God.  As one who came to “bring good news to the poor” he lived a gospel of liberation and love, emptying himself so that he might be one with the Spirit of God and a source of reconciliation for all people.  As followers of Jesus we are called to speak to and into the culture, institutions and laws of our own times, seeking justice and liberation for all.

A Place of Extravagant Welcome.  We welcome into the full life of our community all who seek to know God and live in love and fellowship with God, God’s people, and God’s earth.  In 2004 we became an Open & Affirming (ONA) congregation which means that everyone is welcome in our church regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, class, age, gender, marital status, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, gender orientation and gender expression:

On July 18, 2004, First Congregational Church of Montclair New Jersey, declared ourselves to be Open and Affirming (ONA). In so doing, we wish to honor and embrace our founding principle that discrimination is incompatible with Christ’s gospel of unconditional love. We acknowledge that in the past the Christian church has often condemned and excluded  people because of race, culture, age, gender,   economic status, disability or sexual orientation. While the church has made progress in being open and affirming of many groups, there continues to be condemnation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons by the community of faith, or at least, a tolerance of such condemnation and exclusion through silence. We believe such actions are inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. With God’s grace, we seek to be a congregation that includes all persons, embracing differences of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, religious upbringing, age, mental and physical ability, as well as racial, ethnic, or socio-economic background. We recognize, celebrate and give thanks for the diversity in which God created us, each in God’s image and loved by God. We welcome all to share in the life and leadership, ministry and fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities and blessings of participation in our congregation.

We believe that we need everyone, because God could be speaking to – or through – any of us!  Or as our sign boldly proclaims, “Jesus didn’t turn people away.  Neither do we.”

A Place Where We Continue Our Journey With God.  We gather together as a community in response to God’s invitation to the journey of faith, a journey that is enlivened and animated by our worship together and sustained through our relationship with God and each other.  Worship of God is the heart and center of our lives, a “deep time” where we are fed and challenged, inspired and equipped to embark on this great adventure of faith.   We seek to enact worship that is beautiful, engaging, inspiring, enlightening, authentic, honest and brave.  All the rest of our lives together – our service to the world, our learning, our fellowship – flow out from there.

A Place Where God is Still Speaking. We believe that the promise of God is still alive, whispering words of truth and reconciliation into the world; that God didn’t stop speaking at the end of the Bible, but has more to say; that God is still trying to get our attention…trying to get us to look, to feel, to listen; that God is still speaking through the life and teachings of Jesus, even today.  To paraphrase words spoken by our Pilgrim forebear,  John Robinson, nearly 400 years ago, “there is yet more light and truth to break through from God’s Word.”