So…What is the Eliot Church?
This is a question that is sometimes asked both by long-time members and first-time visitors. As such, it deserves some of our attention from time to time. After all, there are many different ways to describe Eliot.
The sign on our lawn describes us as “A Community Church in the Christian Tradition.” More often, we describe ourselves as being in the liberal Christian tradition. This, we certainly are. Our original founding was as a Puritan mission. Even though we have been reorganized and “re-founded” many times since, each of these congregations affirmed its dedication to the Christian movement as they understood it. This dedication can be seen in our recitation of the “Ames Covenant” every Sunday morning.
We are also a community church, grounded in one place. This place happens to be the intersection of Union, Eliot, and Pleasant Streets. This influences who we are, too. We strive to participate in and to serve the community of Natick. The most obvious outlet for service is through the outreach committee. However, each of us–when we go to work or to volunteer–is in many ways bringing a piece of our church to the experience. This tradition of community involvement has also been a part of our mission since the beginning.
Not only are we a Community church, we are also a Union (or United) church. That is, we are an ecumenical congregation, affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and The Unitarian Universalist Association. In fact, the UCC describes us as an Ecumenical Shared Ministry (ESM), an accurate term to explain this dimension of who we are. Through the UUA, the UCC and other bodies, we connect with the “church universal,” with those who choose to worship elsewhere, but with whom we share many hopes, dreams and aspirations.
We are also an Open and Affirming church. A few years ago, we made the choice to become a community that explicitly welcomes people of every family structure, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. We also welcome people of all ages, genders, abilities, races, nationalities, faith backgrounds, and of every economic and social status. Back in 2009 we unanimously passed an “Open and Affirming” statement for our congregation that is posted both in the church foyer and in the Ladies’ Parlor.
Through these broader associations and through our own separate and unique tradition, we affirm our role as a Congregational church.That is, we are a part of the Congregationalist tradition. This is a faith-view that places the individual, local church at the center and head of the movement. We alone choose how to live and worship as a people of faith sharing our own perspectives and resources.
So, as we say on Sunday morning, “we bring many gifts and together build one church community.” Our tradition and identity as a non-creedal church open to a broad understanding of Christianity and of religion in general is the cornerstone, not just of Eliot, but of a great and vibrant tradition. It is a tradition worth exploring!
If you haven’t been to Eliot church, we hope you come and check us out. After the service, please feel free to join us for coffee and conversation as well. We are open and welcoming toward all, regardless of your theology or faith journey.
Yours in Faith,