Discover ... Union avenue christian church

Where diverse minds and hearts come together ...
to worship God and to become Biblically informed ...
socially responsible ...
artistically alive ...
and to demonstrate Christ's love.

Union Avenue Christian Church is not just a place, and it is much more than a building. It is a caring community of people who desire an intimate relationship with God. There are some who desire to know God better and still others who have just begun their search for a relationship with God.

... caring community

We are a community of diverse people who gather to worship God, to serve, to learn from the Bible and each other, to pray, to laugh, and to help each other grow in our faith. Shared vision and core values have shaped this community of faith. We believe that together we can build a community that celebrates possibility and the promise of God. Our challenge is to engage the heart, mind and soul in order to enhance the quality of life for ourselves and others.

Our challenge is to engage the heart, mind and soul ...

As an open and affirming Disciples congregation, we are striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political affiliation or theological perspective; and we affirm the faith, baptism, and spiritual gifts of all.

we affirm the faith, baptism, and spiritual gifts of all

As we consider our future in the urban core of St. Louis – a future that our children will know in the twenty-second century – an important question comes to mind: who are we as Union Avenue Christian Church? The answer is surely found in what we profess, but even more so in how our professed faith lifts up our neighbors and friends.

who are we ...

We are a community of individuals with strong voices and many talents, encouraging discussion, dissent, compassion and challenge. We are a community committed to vigorously defending those whose voices have been limited by fear or intolerance. We are a community in possession of a building who will never see it as a possession to be counted, but, rather, as a place of grace to be shared. And we are a community of imperfection, needing and desiring more and varied voices of love and peace to keep us humble and push us ever onward.

we are a community of imperfection

Through the foresight and planned giving of past generations and the generosity of current members and friends, we have a strong and stable financial foundation upon which to build. Inside the walls of Union Avenue Christian Church we have the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus Christ in a safe and, yet, challenging manner, embraced by each other in our joy and suffering. Outside, we carry our commission to our local schools, our brothers and sisters living with HIV and AIDS, our global partners, our neighbors in faith, our arts community, our community partners and activists, and our educators and students.

we have the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus Christ ...

This work and atmosphere can and must continue, for it is the ministry to which Jesus calls us. There is no greater entity with the potential for radical, Christ-centered and creation-affirming change than the church. And Union Avenue Christian Church, having thrown its lot in with the lovers, peacemakers, hungry, and willing, is poised to remain a leader in transformative change.

poised to remain a leader in transformative change

We are a community growing in the treasures of love, justice, stewardship, artistic expression and hospitality.

We are the Body of Christ.

For more than a century, God has inspired generations to walk through the doors of Union Avenue Christian Church. Some have come seeking to learn from the teachings of Jesus. Some have come seeking to be fed. Some have come looking for a place to belong. Some have come to experience the artistic grandeur of opera. Some have come seeking shelter from life's storms.

Some have come to serve God with their talents. And some have come seeking a safe place to forge a relationship with the holy.

All have come because God has called a caring community to be the Body of Christ in this place.

We continue to give thanks that our ministries in this place attract all shades of the rainbow and all ages of the spectrum – young missionaries seeking to serve, artists learning their craft, young adults discerning their call, neighborhood children finding enrichment, senior adults modeling faithfulness and compassion, young families putting down roots, people forced to the margins organizing to share, and disciples of Christ learning to care.

In addition to the variety of worship services, we serve and nourish our congregants with inspiring music, youth programs, adult and children's faith formation, fellowship gatherings, small group programming, spiritual nurture, compassionate care, ecumenical outreach and more.

Advent Taize service in the chancel

We serve the broader community via education ministries and artistic programming, while also providing meeting and training space for programs that support outreach and care to children living in the foster care network and people living with HIV and AIDS.

Union Avenue Opera's 2016 production of The Mikado in the very same (chancel) space as the last picture

Our vision at Union Avenue Christian Church is to help restore relationships, re-build community and enable more people to collaborate, combine strengths and discover the difference working together as communities of care can make. We stand committed to re-imagining our world with churches and schools at the center of our communities – with churches that meet multiple congregational and community needs, serve as social and cultural centers, collaborate with neighbors and protect "community spirit" as a valued public asset.

Little Free Library – inspired by members' granddaughter – on our property along busy Union Blvd.

Union Avenue Christian Church is filled with people and laughter and the smells of food being prepared and the sounds of theatrical sets being constructed 365 days a year. It is the home to many organizations and activities that feed the needs of our community.

Thank you so much for hosting us in the Urban Mission Inn. Our group had an amazing experience! We were challenged by everything from humidity to fear to hard work and breaking long-held assumptions. It was a transformative experience and since returning home we have already done mission work here to continue 'seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly' as we did in St. Louis. – First Christian Church, Fort Morgan, Colorado
I attended my first meeting of the Metro St. Louis HIV/AIDS Planning Council in September 2004. The meeting, I was informed, was to be held in a church. Frankly, I wasn't certain how I felt about that. It had been more than 10 years since I was last in a church. Even though I had been raised in "the church," I no longer felt welcome in "the church." But I decided it was time to take a chance; surely "the church" had changed since the time I was told there was no room for people with AIDS in the church. Surely there had been change, I prayed! My prayers were answered. There is a place for people with HIV/AIDS in the church. It's a big warm place where we do the work of advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS. It's a big warm place called Union Avenue Christian Church ... that's the place where God's love and our work meets. – J. Jones

Following are two cornerstone outreach ministries of Union Avenue that require the support and involvement of many within the congregation.

In 2014, Union Avenue Christian Church was a founding congregation – together with the National Benevolent Association – of the NBA XPLOR Residency. XPLOR is a prophetic movement of and for young adults who are considering lives of care and service. The residency provides 10-month professional development and vocational discernment opportunities for 21- to 30-year-olds to live simply in community and engage in direct service and justice work.

Ninety years ago, St. Louis was home to a young Army veteran named Charles Lindbergh, who worked for the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, flying mail between Chicago and St. Louis. In pursuit of greater opportunities and new adventures he persuaded a group of nine St. Louis business leaders to finance the cost of a plane that just might be capable of making a solo transcontinental flight from New York to Paris. He knew that the right mix of experience, commitment and passion could lead to a life-changing opportunity. He seized the opportunity, and with the words "all systems go; ready for takeoff," he began a journey that changed the trajectory of his life.

We hold the same hopes for the young women and men who come into our community as XPLOR Residents.

Our XPLOR Residents become involved in every aspect of congregational life at Union Avenue Christian Church. Serving the community outside the church as well as the community within the church, they live in a four-bedroom apartment attached to the church building. They are a blessing to us individually and collectively, and we trust that we are a blessing to them as well.

The four cornerstones of XPLOR: Hands-on Service/Justice Work, Simple Living in Community, Spiritual Discernment on Vocation, Disciples Leadership Development

Union Avenue's XPLOR Residents have served a wide variety of service sites, including Neighborhood Houses, Ferguson-Dellwood Community Resource Center/St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Webster Groves Christian Church, Memorial Boulevard Christian Church, Lutheran Senior Services (Centennial, Hylton Point I, and Hylton Point II Senior Living Communities), and Doorways – Interfaith Residence.

One of our former XPLOR Residents is presently attending seminary and three others have their sights set on completing a seminary education and serving the church.

What is the role of the church in the world?

That is the question we pose to the youth and young adults who come to Union Avenue Christian Church to serve our community through the Urban Mission Inn. During their stay with us, we design and coordinate programming that will help them formulate answers to that question that might include, for instance, choices such as these: to care … to feed … to provide comfort … to serve those in need … to break down barriers … to worship and share God's love.

Beginning with an initial investment of less than $2500, the URBAN MISSION INN was whipped into shape by congregational volunteers who cleaned out years of accumulated clutter, painted walls, laid carpet, and built a few bunk beds on the third floor of Union Avenue Christian Church. In the summer of 2009, the first guests checked into the Urban Mission Inn, and an outreach ministry to our community was begun.

In COMMON FIRE: LEADING LIVES OF COMMITMENT IN A COMPLEX WORLD, Sharon Parks and her collaborators looked for commonalities among people who were living "lives of commitment." Among the men and women they studied, only one kind of experience was common to them all. Each one, early in his or her life, had spent a time in a culture unlike his or her own, experiencing life outside their own "normal." This type of experience is life changing and shapes vocation and perspective for the rest of a person's life (the authors discovered).

Union Avenue Christian Church's Urban Mission Inn experience is shaped to provide just such a culturally immersive opportunity for groups of youth and young adults.

Youth from Allisonville Christian Church visiting the "civil rights" exhibition at the Missouri History Museum.

Youth and adults who have visited the Urban Mission Inn leave having experienced something outside their day-to-day "normal" in their home communities. Over and over again, our visitors share with us stories expressing how their UMI experience has brought their youth together, broadened their perspectives on life, challenged their comfort zones, empowered their youth, and created opportunity to share sacred space. They leave St. Louis and Union Avenue having experienced the love and transforming power of God.

Youth from FCC, Rockwood, TN, participating in Tuesday afternoon "drum circle"; experiencing worship in a new and unique way.

Over the past eight years, the Urban Mission Inn has housed more than 2500 guests who have provided more than 50,000 hours of volunteer service in the greater metro St. Louis community.

The summer of 2017 we will have Presbyterians visiting from Denver, and Methodists from Buffalo, Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas, and Luddington, Michigan. We will welcome UCC youth from Canton, Ohio, and Disciples from Burlington, Iowa, Galesburg, Illinois, Canton, Ohio, Nicholasville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Bloomington, Illinois. We will partner with Disciples Homeland Ministries and Global Ministries to host two interns to coordinate UMI programming – a senior-to-be from TCU and a young missionary from Bogota, Colombia.

So ... what makes the Urban Mission Inn a successful community outreach ministry? The congregation is fully committed to it, but, more importantly, Urban Mission Inn experiences demand participation — faith steps beyond the doors of the church and demands to be applied to real-world living.

Union Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) | www.union-avenue.org

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