How is First Church run?
If you’re unsure about organized religion, give disorganized religion a try! Just kidding. We’re actually quite organized at First Church, if you can keep track of all our fun acronyms. Our Congregational forebears have deep roots in the history of democracy in America. Here’s a little more about how we organize and operate (and if you really want some riveting bedtime reading, you can check out a full copy of our bylaws here).
First Church has an elected Church Council which meets monthly to oversee various congregational processes and decisions, and make recommendations to the Congregation. The chairs of the six main, elected Ministries (see below) serve on the Council along with the church officers (Moderator, Vice Moderator, Treasurer and Clerk), four At-Large members, and several staff members (ex officio). Members of the Council are nominated by the Committee of Involvement and elected by the congregation at the Annual Meeting in February. Every Church Council meeting is open to the community, usually 4th Tuesdays at 7:15pm in Durant House. Church Council handles important decisions, represents the congregation in legal matters and acts as the engine of the church, but refers the biggest decisions to the entire congregation for discussion and ratification at congregational meetings at which all formal members (ages 13+) may vote.
Ministry Organization & First Sunday Meetings
In collaboration with our dedicated Staff, much of the heartbeat of our church is led by devoted volunteers on our six central Ministries. Members and friends may volunteer (at any time!) to serve on any of these six main ministries or may be invited to do so by the Committee of Involvement. All six ministries gather for First Sunday Ministry Meetings on the first Sunday of the month after worship (11:45am-1pm), and all are warmly invited to pop into any of these groups to learn more about what is cooking.
Adult Education—We are a church of life-long learners. Adult Education plans and creates educational opportunities for adults in the congregation, including the programming of many of the Learning Hours (after worship most Sundays, 11:45am) and beyond.
Families, Children & Youth (FamChY)—We are a church that loves children and youth, and recognizes them as the present, not the future, of the church. FamChY dreams up and organizes a wide variety of educational and community events for children, youth and families on and beyond Sunday mornings: Sunday School, youth programming, special community events and more. Let the little children come!
Stewardship, Finance & Administration (SF&A)— We are a church that recognizes money matters are spiritual matters. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” SF&A oversees the financial affairs of the church including monitoring our money throughout the year, creating budgets and overseeing stewardship and sustaining giving. This Ministry is also responsible for the long-term care and upkeep of the building and rentals to outside organizations.
Care, Fellowship & Invitation (CF&I)—We are a church that takes seriously Jesus’ call to hospitality and mutual love. CF&I organizes activities and events that promote community and connection within the congregation and invitation and welcome to visitors and newcomers, from the Welcome Table folks who greet you when you walk in to the last bowl of homemade soup served at the Afterparty.
Justice & Service — We are a church that listens to the Hebrew prophet Micah who said, “What does the Lord require of us, but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?” Justice & Service selects and interfaces with organizational partners who receive our weekly plate offerings, which we give away in full each week to support justice work in the world. They also organize service opportunities like Save the Bay cleanups, Youth Spirit Artworks Tiny House builds, and Alameda County Food Bank service days.
Worship & Spiritual Life—This Ministry (sometimes referred to as the “Deacons”) makes up our team of lay spiritual leaders who oversee activities related to the worship life of the church, including the weekly and monthly serving of communion.
Other standing and ad hoc committees/teams have been and will be formed by the Church Council, like Long Range Planning or our Blue Fire Recovery Team, or by members and friends. Some are “Ministry Teams” nested under Justice & Service (like our Green Team), or another ministry. The Church Council also appoints Search Committees and Task Forces that may take on particular projects or studies.
And then, of course, there are all kinds of small groups, longstanding and newly forming! Read all about them back on the full Small Groups & Ministries Page.
Covenant and Autonomy in the UCC
In the United Church of Christ (UCC), congregations have a high degree of authority to make decisions about the way they run themselves, what they believe and how they function. They own their own property, and have the authority to call and dismiss ministers. Congregations are in covenantal relationships with the other settings of church organization. The church is part of an association (in First Church’s case, the Bay Association), which are combined together into conferences (Northern California Nevada Conference). The relationships between First Church and the other settings of the denomination are cooperative and mutually beneficial.
While our church gets to choose our ministerial staff, it is the Association that has the power to ordain clergy, and the conference partners with local churches in the process of supporting and developing emerging church leadership. The national setting of the church provides leadership and services and organizes a national meeting called General Synod every two years, where church members from throughout the denomination gather for worship, education, debate and action. First Church Berkeley supports the conference and the national setting financially, with a voluntary tithe (10% of our sustained giving), which supports justice work all over the world, as well as overhead and administration.