First United Church of Christ, Bridgeport, Conn., in May donated $50,000 each to the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia and to the UCC-affiliated Lancaster [Pa.] Theological Seminary. The ELCA and the UCC are full communion partners.
"These gifts acknowledge our oneness in Christ and the ministry that is ours," said Karen DeWerth-Wamester, an ELCA pastor serving First.
Faced with a dwindling membership, the congregation, founded in 1894 by Hungarian immigrants, sold its building in 2006 to a Seventh-day Adventist Church, with the agreement that it could worship there rent-free for another 20 years. Funds from the sale have allowed First to give and minister in new ways.
"We're in a unique position" to give, Nancy Szwejkowski, chief elder, said in a UCC Connecticut Conference news release. "My theory is that it doesn't do any good sitting in the bank."
"What a wonderful witness to the full communion agreement," said Philip D. Krey, president of Philadelphia Seminary. "Our traditions have grown together, our students study together, our pastors like Pastor DeWerth-Wamester serve one another's congregations, and now we support one another in the preparation of leaders."
First's gift will also be counted toward the ELCA New England Synod's goal of raising $1.5 million for the seminary.
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