St. Peter's Union Church

7863 St. Peters Rd, Macungie, PA  18062
"Inviting all to grow and live joyfully centered in Christ"

St. Peter's is a Union Church

What is a Union Church?

The concept of Union Church originated in Germany, in the Palatinate, following the Protestant Reformation of the 1500ís. The Palatinate region found itself in great strife religiously and politically. During the Thirty Years War the area was virtually ruined. Poverty reigned and there was no stability regarding religion, vacillating from one Christian group to another depending on who was the Elector. Ultimately the Lutheran and Reformed people lost their buildings to the ravages of war, and to the Roman Church. In order to continue to exist they shared a building where they could. There were no formal agreements.

By the early 1700ís the Lutherans and the Reformed were seeking a change. These churches were not only the religious centers of the communities, but also cultural centers where the community gathered for fellowship and worship. At one time there was over 500 such Union Churches spread across Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, and as far West as Indiana. In the 1980ís they decreased to just over 100, and today there are less than 75.

What is a Shared Ministry?

As communities grew and the population became more mobile, identification with the Union Church decreased. Some felt Union Churches were the best example of local ecumenicity, while others felt they should become a phenomenon of the past. In order to speak to this growing tension, the Commission on the Welfare of the Union Church was established in 1948. This Commission secured the services of two Consultants Ė one Lutheran and one Reformed, to work with the remaining Union Churches. Their task was to: 1) search for better ways to negotiate Union Church difficulties, 2) provide an arena for discussing problems between representatives of each communion, and 3) offer guidance to Union Church Pastors and Congregations for the enhancement of local ministries. The results ranged from a deeper commitment to the Union Church concept and ministry to moving to separate buildings for ministry.

As the number of Union Churches has continued to decline, the focus has moved from simply property and building concerns to ministry concerns. In addition to sharing a building, ministry is now shared between the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations. In these Shared Ministry Congregations, although in covenant with both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, there is one pastor, one worship service, one membership list, and one budget. Without sacrificing the unique elements of each faith tradition, there now exists a common witness and outreach.

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