On Sunday, June 4, after a full year of study, discussion, book groups, panel discussions, and guest speakers, our congregation voted overwhelmingly to become an Open and Affirming church as the United Church of Christ defines it. This vote makes official what our congregation has felt for a long, long time, namely that we want our purple doors to be open to everyone…period. Just as our communion table has a place for everyone, so does the full range of activities and ministries that our church provides. Here is our church’s official statement, the covenant we made with each other and with God when we voted to become Open and Affirming:
We, as participants of 1st Congregational United Church of Christ, Charlevoix, Michigan, seek to follow the life and teachings of Jesus in all we do, so that we may obey the Great Commandment to Love. We will open our purple doors more widely to all people who seek God.
In this particular age, we seek to be especially sure that people of any sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or family configuration will find safety, love and full inclusion among us. We affirm people in the LGBTQ+ community as children of God and enthusiastically invite their full participation in the life and leadership of this congregation.
We officially adopt the UCC’s Open and Affirming designation. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, our family of faith will continue to learn and grow by ongoing education, sensitivity, language, and action to truly become a spiritual home for all people.
We will never exclude anyone on the basis of their gender identity, expression, or family configuration. If you want a church that celebrates and fully includes all people, the church with the purple doors at 101 State St. in Charlevoix may be the right one for you. Check us out!
Another unique feature of our church family is that we do not have members or a concept of membership. Instead, as a part of our commitment to welcoming all people, we emphasize participation. Anyone who participates in any aspect of our ministry is a part of our congregation…period. In other words, you don’t “join” our church; you simply start participating with us.
Our congregation has been around since 1882, which means that we recently celebrated our 140th birthday. And while we celebrate and honor our rich and diverse history, it is not the past that is our focus. We are seeking to live the teachings of Jesus today in 2022, and that takes study, creativity, and commitment. Our church family lives out the teachings of Jesus in two equal and balanced ways: Reaching In and Reaching Out. For us, Reaching In means developing our vertical relationship with God. Since God lives within each of us, prayer, meditation, study of the scriptures, and worship are all ways we can stoke that divine fire within, staying truly connected to the vine of Christ.
But in order to live like Jesus and to fully embody his teachings, we must be equally committed to Reaching Out in love and service to those outside our purple doors to the Charlevoix community and beyond. Our congregation has board members and volunteers plugged into virtually every local non-profit organization in our town, from The Rainbow Shoppe and B.A.S.E.S. Teen Center to Northern Community Mediation and The Charlevoix Area Hospital Foundation. We even have an entire team of people dedicated to directing our time, talent, and treasure to those places where we can have the most positive and lasting impact on our world. When things really started to heat up in Ukraine and Ukrainians were fleeing their country in droves, our Reaching Out team immediately organized a fundraiser/ worship service at which we raised nearly $10,000 and sent it to an organization assisting Ukrainian refugees at the borders.
Perhaps the most unique attribute of our congregation is our worship services. Toby Jones, our pastor, draws from a massive range of religious traditions, musical genres, and personal experiences to weave a beautiful and unified tapestry every single Sunday morning. Every song, prayer, and hymn is carefully selected to work in perfect harmony with the morning message, with the result that our congregation remembers and draws from each and every message for years after the fact. Most weeks you are just as apt to hear a song by Bob Dylan as you are a hymn from Charles Wesley, and that’s because our pastor is a long-time rock-n-roll musician, whose first book, The Gospel According to Rock, put the Judeo-Christian scriptures in conversation with the best Classic Rock songs of the last 50 years. Once every 8 weeks or so, he sets aside his sermon and does a live Q&A with the congregation about topics we choose. Dress for all our services is casual, and we can promise that you’ll find worshipping with us to be not only inspiring but life-changing.
Music is particularly strong at our church, partly because we have such a close relationship with the Bay View Music Festival and The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra. Our worship services and special concert events regularly feature musicians from these and other outstanding area organizations. Seasonally, we have our own choir, a bell ensemble, and a variety of vocal and instrumental performers. Our contention is that God can speak through all musical genres and through a great range of abilities, in order to enhance worship.
During the summer months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we offer two distinct worship experiences. Our First Light Service is at 8:30 a.m. and takes place outdoors at Michigan Beach, overlooking the lighthouse and channel. Worshipers gather on picnic tables and lawn chairs to discuss and reflect upon the day’s scripture. The Sanctuary Service takes place inside the purple doors at 101 State St. at 10:30 a.m. throughout the year. Our 10:30 service is live-streamed on our website and can be viewed anytime of the day or night!
Come participate with us as we seek to embody God’s Spirit and live the teachings of Jesus together.
This video is so touching and is reflective of the ethos and theology of our church!