The pastor promised to preach and teach the word of God "with fidelity" and the congregation pledged "to walk in love, one with another."
Even the Roman Catholic saints on the walls of what used to be the Sacred Heart Seminary seemed to smile approval as Faith Independent Church last Sunday became Faith United Church of Christ, a move that enrolled the overwhelmingly black congregation as a full-fledged member of one of the nation's most WASP-ish institutions.
Yet in affiliating with a denomination in which fewer than 3 percent of the membership nationally is black, Faith Church was following the pattern of three other strong black churches of the Washington area: Lincoln Temple, People's Congregational and Plymouth Congregational. Faith, however, is the first black church in the District to join the UCC in 90 years.
Faith Church began as an independent congregation about 18 months ago. But the members soon concluded that "we wanted to become part of a denomination in order to have a more biblical ministry," explained the church's pastor, the Rev. Joseh Taylor. The group looked at a number of denominations in their search for a wider Christian family, including the Presbyterians and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
"We chose the CC primarily because of the autonomous relationship that the local church has with the denomination," Taylor said.
The pastor, who also teaches in the urban ministries department of Howard University Divinity School, acknowledged that he also was favorably inclined toward the UCC from his association with his boss, Divinity School Dean Lawrence N. Jones, who is a minister of that denomination, and by other UCC leaders whom he has come to know in the Washington area. One of these is the Rev. Ben Chavis, leader of the so-called Wilmington Ten, whose imprisonment on charges growing out of civil-rights activities nearly a decade ago was doggedly fought by the UCC.
The 1.8 million-member United Church of Christ is the present day expression of the faith that brought the Pilgrims and Puritans to this country four centuries ago. It is among the most liberal of Protestant Churches, both theologically and in its social views. It was in the forefront of the abolition movement of the 18th and 19th centuries as well as the civil-rights movement of the 20th century.
Nationally, the UCC is organized into area conferences and regional association. There are no bishops; each local church is free to hire or fire its own pastor.
This autonomy was particularly appealing to the members of Faith Church, about half of whom followed Taylor out of the black Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in a dispute with a bishop over reassigning Taylor.
"But they've grown significantly since that," observed Carroll E. Kann, of Columbia, Md., who as the conference minister of the UCC for this area formally installed Taylor as a pastor of that denomination.
Faith has 137 members and is growing steadily. Taylor characterized his congregation as "a good mix of black- and white-collar workers in the middle-income range."
Since its beginnings July 1, 1979, Faith Church has been worshipping in the chapel of the Sacred Heart Seminary at 4900 10th St. NE, which no longer is used for Catholic worship, and is now "negotiating to buy the property," Taylor said. Catholics have turned the dormitory of the facility into a school for children with learning disabilities. Eventually, said Taylor, "we'd like to be able to take that over, too."