WHO WE ARE

 An Open & Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ


We are a group of dedicated individuals passionate about serving God.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a distinct and diverse community of Christians that come together as one church to join faith and action. With over 5,000 churches and nearly one million members across the U.S., the UCC serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world. The UCC is a church of firsts, a church of extravagant welcome, and a church where "…they may all be one" (John 17:21).

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?

Come as you are.


We want you to come just as you are. When you walk through our doors, you may see people in suits and ties, but you will also see people in jeans and t-shirts. We want to make sure that when you visit, you are comfortable and feel loved and welcomed. If you ever need anything, always feel free to connect with us. We love to hear from our new visitors. 

OUR BELIEFS

We are united through Christ.


We believe in The Creator, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

The unity we seek as the Body of Christ requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view nor a rigid formulation of doctrine.

We believe God is the creator of the universe and giver of all that is good. God is the savior—known boldly and intimately in Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection—who shows us how to live and love. God is the Spirit who enables us to make a difference in our world and in the lives of others. We believe that grace is the love, honesty, and compassion that God gives and shows us in Jesus. It’s how Jesus saves us, heals us, sets us free, and increases our capacity for love. We believe that we need each other. Whether single, married/partnered, divorced or widowed, it’s a lot easier to follow God with friends than it is by ourselves. We believe in the priesthood of all believers: All members are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God.

OPEN & AFFIRMING

All are welcome.


We strive to be affirming of all people as children of God.

Jesus extended his welcome and love to all. This teaching is the center of who we are as a congregation and is the value that led us in May 2005 to become an Open and Affirming Church (ONA for short). We welcome all those who come to worship God and declare ourselves to be open to all for participation in the full life and ministry of the church regardless of age, race, gender, religious background, physical/mental abilities, or sexual orientation. We strive to be affirming of all people as children of God, and to provide a safe physical, emotional, and spiritual haven. As a declared "Open and Affirming" congregation, we commit ourselves to work to end ignorance, fear, hatred, prejudice, and discrimination against all people.

 

Throughout the rest of 2018 we are exploring anew - through worship, music, prayer, education, mission, scripture, and art - what it is to be Open and Affirming. 

 

OUR STAFF TEAM

Get to know us!


Rev. Dr. Bill Smutz

Interim Senior Minister

The Rev. Dr. Bill Smutz, has been an ordained Presbyterian pastor for over thirty years. A native of the St. Louis area (Webster Groves), his academic background includes a B.A. in Economics & Business from Westminster College (Fulton, MO), a M. Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a D. Min. from Eden Theological Seminary. Bill has served churches in Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Indiana. He served as the interim pastor at St. John’s UCC, Chesterfield from September 2015 – November, 2017. Bill and his wife, Gina, have three adult sons, and are over-the-moon grandparents of Taylor, age 3! Bill is an anglophile, music lover, apple grower, architecture junkie, stamp collector, frustrated model railroader……who thinks the Green Bay Packers hold a special place in the divine pantheon……who trusts that there will always be a Church of Jesus Christ, but believes the Holy Spirit is presently shaping the church in new and different ways for God’s future! 

Connor Filkins

Student Pastor

Hello FCC family! My name is Connor and I am excited to join you all this year! I am in my final year at Eden Theological Seminary, seeking to become an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ. I came to St. Louis in 2016 from my home town in Connecticut after graduating from Albertus Magnus College, where I played volleyball and earned a degree in Religion and Philosophy. When I am not pouring over my seminary reading and writing papers, I enjoy playing and coaching baseball, as well as volleyball! I look forward to a fruitful and fun year and am grateful for being welcomed into your church family!


Connor is serving as our Student Pastor for the 2018-2019 school year.

Emily Stokes

Minister of Children & Families

Emily attended the University of Evansville and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, with a minor in Art. She received her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Eden Theological Seminary in 2016. Emily is currently serving as the Central Regional Representative on the board of the Association of United Church Educators. She also facilitates the local chapter of AUCE in an effort to encourage networking, resourcing, and collegial support of local Christian educators. 

 

Emily loves to travel, is an avid movie watcher, and enjoys crafts of all sorts. She finds joy in spending time with her family and friends. She has been a member of Bel Canto, a women’s ensemble, since 2010.

Dr. Sarah Bereza

Minister of Music

Dr. Sarah Bereza has served at First Congregational since 2018, and has led God’s praise as a church musician since 1999. She is also a musicologist who studies Christian congregational music and shares her work through her website and podcast, Music and the Church, and through conference speaking. 

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She holds master’s and PhD degrees from Duke University, a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and a bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University.


Sarah has often worked in professional and semiprofessional settings and performed early music as a continuo player and choral vocalist, including as the accompanist of the Duke Vespers Ensemble. She also enjoys making music with amateurs and encourages the personal growth of musicians at all levels in the church. Sarah lives in St. Louis with her husband, a physician, and son.

Hannah Rice

Minister of Administration

and Membership

Hannah first served First Congregational Church as the Interim Minister of Faith Development for Children and Youth from 2012-2015, and then returned in August 2015 as the Minister of Administration and Membership.

 

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Missouri with a BA in Communication and a minor in Religious Studies. She then spent three years in the Master of Divinity program at Eden Theological Seminary, graduating in 2012. She grew up in the United Methodist Church, but became a member of FCC in 2015. She has been a member of the Committee on Ministry: Preparation for the St. Louis Association of the UCC since 2016. In 2017 Hannah became a member of the First Congregational Preschool board, and in 2018 began serving as the board president. As a lover of music, Hannah plays in the FCC handbell choir and sings with the chancel choir. She has also sung with a local women's choir, Bel Canto, since its founding in 2010. Hannah loves crafting, reading, Netflix, and snuggling with her dogs Marco and Polo. 

Anne Chao

Preschool Director

James Harrison

Custodian

314-721-5060 x26

Mehran Moslehikhah

Sunday Custodian

OUR HERITAGE

We are United Church of Christ.


The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 with the union of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. First Congregational Church of St. Louis was founded as an abolitionist church in 1852 under the leadership of Dr. Truman Marcellus Post. In 1969 the congregation voted to officially affiliate with the United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC is a church of many "firsts." We took early stands against slavery and were the first denomination to ordain an African American, a woman, and an openly gay minister. The UCC has taken bold stances for civil rights and marriage equality. Today, the UCC extends an extravagant welcome to all of God's people.


SELF-GOVERNANCE

We are congregational.


In the United Church of Christ, each congregation is self-governing and self-supporting.

Members of each congregation covenant with one another and with God. These congregations, in turn, exist in covenantal relationships with one another to form the UCC. First Congregational Church is governed by a Council of 12-15 church members, which includes the Executive Team (moderator, vice-moderator, treasurer, and clerk), the chairs of each of our Ministry Teams, and members-at-large. Our Ministry Teams are Membership & Fellowship, Mission & Outreach, Stewardship & Administration, and Worship & Education. The members of our Council and Ministry Teams are voted on at our Annual Meeting by congregation members.   

OUR MISSION


To Know God's Word,

Do God's Work,

Live God's Love


OUR VISION


To be a beacon of faith, compassion, and justice for St. Louis, the wider community, and beyond.

OUR CORE VALUES


Community & Fellowship

We are a Christian community where all can and do participate. Grounded in God’s love, we nurture one another.

Open Minds & Hearts

We are all God's children, and we accept and affirm our differences. God loves each of us unconditionally, and we reflect that love in our openness to others.

Shared Worship

Creative, participatory, and expressive worship helps us encounter God and binds us together into the Body of Christ. The Spirit is at work through music, the Word, and celebration of our life together.

A Thinking Faith

Young and old, we are all growing in our Christian formation. Inquiry and dialogue draw us to God and open us to the change needed in ourselves and the world.

Mission & Service

We are called to do God's work of justice and peace. We seek to serve others as Jesus served, and to be transformed by the encounter.