Article 5, paragraph 9 of the Constitution of the United Church of Christ states, “The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church.” Paragraph 10 goes on to say, “A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.”
Paragraph 17 of Article 5 adds that the local church has, “in fellowship, a God-given responsibility for that Church, its labors and its extension, even as the United Church of Christ has, in fellowship, a God-given responsibility for the well-being and needs and aspirations of its Local Churches. In mutual Christian concern and in dedication to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, the one and the many share in common Christian experience and responsibility.”
In this sense each individual member in covenant with the local church and in covenant with the other members of the local church, have a responsibility to and for each other to make sure that Christian witness is happening, that Christian fellowship is being advanced and that there is Christian worship. In other words, the energy and the motivation to live in fidelity to the Gospel does not come from above or outside the local church, but rather remains within the local church.
So what do we look like as a local church? Here are some references from the BY-LAWS OF THE SUN LAKES UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (S.L.U.C.C.) that were amended and approved by the congregation on February 25, 2010
ARTICLE I. MEMBERSHIP
Membership in this Church is open to all baptized Christians who shall own the covenant of the Church and receive the right hand of fellowship at a regular service of worship; or in case of extra-ordinary circumstances such as illness or infirmity, on some other occasion approved by the Diaconate.
Members are expected to the best of their ability to attend the regular services of worship, to contribute financially to the support of the Church, to participate in its life and work, and to evidence in their daily lives a Christian life-style.
In other words, membership involves mutual obligations and responsibilities to live out our covenant with each other.
How do we organize ourselves? Again from our by-laws:
ARTICLE IV. BOARDS, COMMITTEES AND REPRESENTATIVES
BOARDS. The Church shall elect the following boards:
The Board of the Diaconate The Board of Christian Education The Board of Mission and Service The Board of Trustees We place first our commitment to service and care of the community, then to education and then to mission and outreach. These are the priorities of our community. Finally the Board of Trustees oversees the financial obligations of the community. The other needs of our community are then addressed in the by-laws in the various committees.
COMMITTEES. In addition to the Committees formed under the respective Boards, the Church shall establish the following Committees by appointment and/or election as specified for each Committee. Each of these committees shall prepare an annual budget and submit it to the Budget Committee no later than December 1st.
The Music Committee
The Pastoral Relations Committee
The Budget Committee
The Nominating Committee
The Church Growth Committee (Includes Publicity)
The Social Activities Committee
The Long Range Planning Committee
CHURCH COUNCIL. The Church Council shall consist of the Officers of the Church and the Chairmen, or designated representatives, of the Boards and Committees established in the by-laws. Other members shall be the Chairman of the Music Committee, the senior representative to the Sun Lakes Chapel Board, the senior representative to the Interfaith Council, and not less than three (3) members of the congregation, elected at large, who are not members of a Board or Committee nor hold any other elected office. The Moderator shall act as the Chairman of the Council. The Council shall have the responsibility for the coordination of the program activities of the Church and shall have the powers of the Church between meetings of the congregation including the authority to elect delegates, and to install and ordain councils and other ad hoc interchurch bodies.