To the Editor:
Re: “Yale to Reform Campus Religion,” 1/20: I applaud the University for its recognition that spiritual and religious life needs nurturing in a university setting, and that Yale must recognize and support the diverse faith traditions on campus. Also welcome is the creation of a second associate chaplain to be responsible for Protestant worship at Battell Chapel. However, I am disappointed by the recommendation that Yale sever its ties with the United Church of Christ denomination and the 248-year-old resident congregation at the Church of Christ in Yale.
Congregational ministers founded Yale, and by 1757 the Yale Corporation had established this Congregational church. CCY became a UCC congregation in 1961 after the Congregational Church joined with other denominations to form the UCC. Because the UCC has no controlling hierarchy, it recognizes each individual congregation as the decision-making body. Thus liturgy at CCY has always borrowed from various Protestant traditions but is uniquely its own, welcoming all to worship and communion. The active members of CCY are from many different faith backgrounds, but we believe that the UCC is the appropriate covenant partner for a Protestant university church. The UCC is the leader among Protestant denominations in its open and affirming stance, which welcomes everyone, regardless of race, class or sexual orientation, not as sinners in need of repentance but as equally valued people of God. The UCC is committed to a progressive message of peace and justice. Since these are also the values of the University, we believe Yale should embrace, not break, its historic tie with the UCC.
The recommendation that CCY’s self-governing congregation be dissolved also seems at odds with the University’s desire for a “vibrant worship experience” at Battell, as well as with the Corporation bylaw that provides for a governing Council at CCY. Members of CCY have always sought a partnership with our chaplain/pastors and the University. We provide a number of key services both within CCY — preparing communion, greeting students and visitors, setting up the chapel for Sunday worship and offering coffee hour afterwards, and taking in care individuals seeking UCC ordination — and without, supporting an annual $25,000 benevolences budget and doing volunteer work in New Haven. The members of CCY are a faith community in a covenant relationship with each other and the church. We do not want to become just an audience for University Public Worship. A non-denominational chapel does not necessarily welcome a broader range of students. These new worshippers would be welcomed by our church community — the same community that Yale is choosing to dismiss. We invite the University to work with us to craft a uniquely Yale solution to satisfy the needs and interests of Yale and the committed UCC congregation in its midst.
Dianne Davis NUR ’72
Jan. 24, 2005
The writer is the moderator of the Church of Christ in Yale University.