Midwestern evangelicalism in Cincinnati

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Visit this post for more photos from University Christian Church.

On Thursday 14 June, after 3 very busy days in Washington DC, I travelled to Cincinnati (surely the most difficult US  city to spell!) at the invitation of my friend Troy Jackson, another graduate of Princeton Seminary. Troy is pastor of University Christian Church (UCC), which serves students and families on the edge of the University of Cincinnati campus. On its website, UCC describes themselves as ‘a community of Christ-Followers, striving to embody our core values—Justice, the Arts, Relationships, and Spirituality—through our daily involvement in the life of our urban, university neighborhood’.

‘Christian Church’ is a title used by congregations who are loosely affiliated in what has been called the ‘Restoration Movement’. This movement came out of the ‘Great Awakening’ which stirred the religious life of the American frontier regions in the early nineteenth century. Despairing of the rigid orthodoxy of the old denominations (including Presbyterianism, which even in the West was being affected by the battles going on over patronage in the Church of Scotland), the Restorationists abandoned their denominations and sought a new church polity based on congregational autonomy and a Biblicist evangelicalism. Their attempt to return the Church to what they understood to be its New Testament form led them to embrace believer’s (adult) baptism and weekly communion.

UCC was founded in 1989, and moved into its present church (an old church building abandoned by another denomination) in 1994, at the same time as Troy became Associate Pastor.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During his time with UCC (he became senior pastor in 1996), Troy completed a PhD about the situation in Montgomery, Alabama prior to and during the ministry of Dr Marin Luther King Jr. in that city, and how he was shaped by the experience. This became the book Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader. King, published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2008. Troy is married to Amanda, a social worker, and they have three children.

Troy is deeply concerned with social justice issues in the city of Cincinnati and beyond. Recently, the Church allowed him to reduce to working for them 1/2 time, in order that he could become the 1/2 time director of Ohio Prophetic Voices, a campaign organisation he had helped set up. There is a fascinating story based around the formation of Ohio Prophetic Voices in this article from the Los Angeles Times, headlined ‘Obama could have a prayer among Ohio’s white evangelicals’. Ohio Prophetic Voices was one of the agencies organising the Community Organising course to which Troy was to take me on Sunday 17 June.

Troy is now co-pastor, with the other pastor leading the staff, and Troy having the role of ‘teaching and vision’. There are altogether 6 part-time staff at UCC,  including a coffee bar manager. The old church building which houses UCC, on the edge of the university district in Cincinnati, has been converted, not just to allow a less formal style of worship, but also to house facilities such as the coffee bar, which is open daily. The coffee bar is a popular student haunt, with free Wi-Fi, and is linked to the sanctuary by a folding wall, which allows people to move freely from worship to coffee at the end of the service. Upstairs there is an open-plan office for the staff, and in the basement bright and friendly children’s areas. The church is funded 10% by supporters and 90% from offerings. There is no formal membership, but during term-time around 140 to 160 people come to worship, mostly students and young families.

I thoroughly enjoyed Troy and Amanda’s generous hospitality, and took the chance in the few days I was with him to see a little of what Troy is involved with, and to see something of the city. I was at a meeting about a tour of Midwestern churches by a Palestinian Christian; I met other local church leaders; and I got to know a congressman. I experienced Cincinnati food, and learned about the city’s role in the slavery era. I’ll be writing about these in subsequent posts.

Visit this post for more photos from University Christian Church.

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About Rev Peter W Nimmo

Minister of Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness, Scotland, UK www.oldhighststephens.com
This entry was posted in Cincinnati, Ohio, Community Organising, Congress, Evangelicals, Middle East and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Midwestern evangelicalism in Cincinnati

  1. Pingback: Photos from University Christian Church, Cincinatti, Ohio | peterstudyleave

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