First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Eugene, Ore., and Community Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tempe, Ariz., are two of five congregations honored as “model interfaith engaged congregations” by the National Council of Churches. David Leslie, Executive Director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, presented the award for First Christian Church to the congregation on Sunday, January 29th.
In June, the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission asked for nominations from its member communions and other communities affiliated with the Council of congregations that “have something important to share about interfaith engagement.”
As a result of the national initiative, the Commission announced the following honorees:
- Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, Tulsa, Okla.
- Community Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Tempe, Ariz.
- Episcopal Tri-Faith Ministries, Ashland, Neb.
- First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Eugene, Ore.
- St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
The honored congregations will receive a certificate of recognition citing its “exemplary efforts in strengthening its own self-understanding and identity as a community deeply rooted in the Christian faith and, at the same time, being open to learning from, working with, and sharing with those of other faiths.”
On receiving the award, Senior Minister Dan Bryant said “This award is really a recognition of the wonderful interfaith community we have in Eugene and the rich variety of activities, shared service and dialogue occurring in many places here. We just happen to have the privilege to host some of that.” A monthly Interfaith Prayer Service which occurs on the 11th of every month at First Christian Church is now in its 11th year. The church was also cited for its support of the Lane Interfaith Alliance, the Lane Institute of Faith and Education, the Interfaith Shelter, the annual Interfaith Community Breakfast, the Egan Warming Center and its ongoing service to the community.
Each congregation recognized for its engagement in interfaith relations will in turn serve as a mentor for other congregations seeking to enhance their interfaith relations.
Five additional congregations received honorable mentions from the Commission:
- First Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis.
- First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Carbondale, Ill.
- Midvale Community Lutheran Church, Madison, Wis.
- Rush Creek Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Arlington, Tex.
- The United Church of Christ at The Villages, Oxford, Fla.
The Carbondale church is pastored by the Rev. Bryant’s sister, the Rev. Katherine Graves. “It was a nice surprise to learn that my sister’s congregation was also honored,” noted Bryant. “Neither of us were aware that the other had been nominated. We have a very proud father.”
“These recognitions advance congregational mission and health by empowering congregations to share their story with denominational partners, local media, and potential funders,” said Kireopoulos.
In lifting up these stories, the initiative is also aimed at “encouraging creative interfaith engagement through inclusion of interfaith content in curricula, preaching, theology, vision and mission, and budget; and equipping leaders to affirm and celebrate all who have contributed to the recognition and providing an impetus for more people to get involved,” according to Kireopoulos.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s 37 member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.