Thriving Congregations Initiative

Reimagining Church

New Models for the 21st Century

Shalom UCC

Shalom United Church of Christ in New Haven, Connecticut, is a church without walls.  Shalom has consistently met on Sunday afternoons in spaces shared with other New Haven congregations, serving not only as a primary church home for many congregants but also as a place for local clergy to be congregants.  With a governance style centered around consensus-based circles rather than majority-vote based committees, they have not tended to have paid, solitary head pastors, preferring instead to forge their own way without stratified divisions between clergy and laity.  As the pandemic moved worship to Zoom, Shalom began to gather congregants not only from the New Haven area, but from the West Coast as well: some congregants zoom in from as far as Hawaii for Sunday worship!

Shalom’s liturgy is eclectic, planned by the worship circle, a team of liturgists who share responsibility for liturgial leadership.  Roles are filled by various community members on Zoom, from lectors to singers, with some content being shared via YouTube and screenshare.  This method of worship not only brings in people from across the country, but also keeps costs down: community members either view their bulletins on their devices, or print them themselves.

Shalom has a charism of community and service, and are very connected to not only the New Haven community, but engage in community projects across the state of Connecticut.  In the lives of many congregations, personal and communal volunteering and advocacy tend to be separate – but Shalom UCC’s weekly emails are full of opportunities to work in the community, both for individuals and for the congregation at large.  The division between the sacred and the secular is, for Shalom, negligable – if it exists at all.