“I grieve that, now having celebrated our 66th anniversary, three generations of United Church of Christ children have gone through confirmation being told that there were only four streams present at our birthing. There were always five.”
— Former General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer
This past summer, during the plenary session at the UCC’s General Synod, Rev. John Dorhauer apologized for the denomination’s failure to acknowledge the Afro-Christian Convention as its “fifth stream.”
In fall 2022, the UCC’s Historical Council had officially named the Afro-Christian Convention as one of the five major traditions that formed the Church, joining the already acknowledged Congregational, Christian, Evangelical and Reformed traditions.
Rev. Danielle Bartz, senior pastor at First Congregational Church of Winona, learned about this newly acknowledged fifth stream from her colleague Jerry Locula, licensed minister for racial justice at Peace UCC in Rochester. For her, this was a momentous announcement — one she wanted more people to understand. “This reshapes the history of the UCC and acknowledges that our denomination flows directly from Africa,” she says.
Bartz and Locula reached out to The Congregational Church in Rochester and the three churches decided to host a five-week discussion series and book study on the “fifth stream,” using the book Afro-Christian Convention, edited by the renowned UCC elder Yvonne V. Delk.
In an interview with the UCC News, Delk said, “It’s not sufficient to see the Afro-Christian story as a hidden history or as a footnote. It has to be a headlight, empowering the United Church of Christ to live out its identity and its mission in new ways.”
The response to the five-week series, being held on Zoom, has been exciting, Bartz says. Approximately 30 people from the three congregations are participating. One session featured Brenda Billips Square, the archivist of the UCC. “She was fabulous,” says Bartz. “She talked about the records she has discovered related to this fifth stream. We were mesmerized by her and her commitment to understanding and passing on this history. This whole series is helping us recognize that who we think we are is actually much broader. We hope other churches in the Minnesota Conference will be inspired to learn more about this important recognition.”
View the study guide the three churches are using.
To learn more about the discussion series, contact Rev. Danielle Bartz.