UCH Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about United Church of Huntsville. They are here to make you feel more comfortable and welcome should decide to visit.
I don't want to stand out by wearing the wrong clothes. Is there any informal "dress code" at UCH?
No, there's not. Whether you attend the first "contemporary" service, or the second "traditional" service, you won't look out of place clothed in anything that you might wear in any public place. On any Sunday morning, you'll see some members dressed in suits and ties and some dressed in jeans and t-shirts. When the weather's hot, some folks might even be in shorts. Comfortable, casual clothes are probably the most typical attire in either service. We care about welcoming you, not trying to make you coordinate your fashions.
How many people can I expect to be there?
At the 9AM service, expect 10-20 congregants. At the 11AM, there are commonly around 50-60.
We're not married, but we live together. Can I attend with my partner?
We'll be happy to see you together with the one you love, whatever your legal marital status. Not every loving couple wants to marry, and far too many loving couples are, for now, anyway, prohibited from marrying in this part of the country, and we understand that. You can worship together at UCH.
What do I call the pastor? How should I address the members of the congregation?
There's no special church terminology you need to learn to address anyone at UCH (for example, no one calls each other "Brother Bill" or "Deacon Jones", like they do in some churches). You're welcome to call our pastor by his first name, "Bob", if you want, or "Dr. Hurst" or "Reverend Hurst", if you feel more comfortable with a more formal initial relationship. Most of the congregation will want to be on a first-name basis with you, but again, if you're more comfortable addressing new people as "Mr. Kirby" and "Ms. Simon", no one will mind that.
Do I have to worry about sitting in someone's "assigned space"?
Don't worry, there's always plenty of room in every pew. It's human nature that people tend to sit in the same general parts of the church every time they attend, but no one has staked out any specific spot!
What if I don't know the hymns?
The congregation typically sings along with 3 or 4 hymns during the service, and sometimes the hymns are new ones to long-time members, too. Just follow along with the words in the hymnal. And you don't have to sing if you don't want to.
What about Communion?
At UCH, we practice an "open communion table," when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.. That means that you don't have to be a member of UCH to participate, and that your participation does not require an explicit affirmation of faith.
Communion is not celebrated every Sunday; we do share communion on special days in the liturgical calendar: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, A Close of Summer Sunday, World Wide Communion Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve.
Our communion is one in which the elements are passed out to the congregation, so you won't have to go up in front of everyone to receive it. The first element is the bread, and a tray of small pieces of bread (with a gluten-free alternative for those who need to avoid it) is passed around. Participants take a piece and hold it until everyone has received their share, and then the pastor tells us when to eat. The second element is the wine, and a tray of tiny cups is passed around (the darker liquids are grape juice, for those who wish to avoid alcohol). Participants take a cup and hold it until everyone has received their share, and then the pastor tells us when to drink. After you are done drinking, there is a holder on the back of the pew in front of you where you can put your empty cup so that we can gather them after the service.
Are there any other rituals I might not be expecting? Any foot-washing or things like that?
Nothing like that.
There is a responsive call to worship, in which the congregation, as a group, responds to the pastor's words; this is usually short, and it changes every week. The words are printed in the bulletin, which is handed out when you enter the sanctuary.
There is usually a congregational recitation of "The Lord's Prayer" (we provide the words in the bulletin in case you don't know them by heart).
There is also a portion of the service set aside for sharing joys and concerns, in which people can express thanks for the week's blessings, or request prayers for their concerns. Visitors are welcome to participate if they want to, but no one is ever pressured to share anything.
We usually join hands and sing "Shalom" at the close of the service (it's an easy song to learn, but we don't assume everyone knows it the first time they visit and the words are printed in the bulletin).
Do I have to be baptized to join or attend UCH?
No. If you want to be baptized, you are welcome to talk with our leadership team to arrange a baptismal service for you, but it is not required, nor is it expected or assumed. No one will pester you about baptism, or ask "Have you been saved?" or "Have you been baptized?" When baptism is performed at UCH, it is typically the "sprinkling" kind, not the "total immersion in a tub" kind.
I have strong political opinions. Will my politics make me seem like "the enemy"?
While our denomination, the United Church of Christ, has a reputation for supporting progressive social causes, our local membership is politically diverse. You won't be ostracized or disliked for your political preferences, and you won't be presumed to support any specific political policy or ideology just because you're at the UCH. Politics are not typically subjects during our fellowship hours, but those who wish to might discuss them politely and with mutual respect. Just don't expect a church full of people who agree with you, whatever your political affiliations may be.
How can I learn more about The United Church of Huntsville?
In addition to the information on our website, we hold about four Inquirers Sessions each year. There are three one-hour sessions that explain the history of the denomination and the local church. In addition, they explain how the church is organized and operates. Attending the sessions is not a requirement to join the church. If you have any other specific questions please ask the Pastor or any church member.