United Church of Christ Ordination

An Invitation to United Church of Christ students from Harvard Divinity School

Imagine yourself preparing to tell the “old, old story” and in the same moment, being welcomed into an interfaith story. Imagine listening for the Still Speaking God, befriending folks from around the world, and learning in an academically rigorous setting. Imagine having full access to the full resources of a prominent university and nine other nearby graduate theological schools. Imagine an abundance of congregational and non-profit field education settings. All of these opportunities are available to United Church of Christ students at Harvard Divinity School.

“The uniqueness of the HDS MDiv experience lies in the belief that to be a learned minister it is imperative both to study one's own religious tradition and to be exposed to others” (from the HDS website). The non-credal and progressive nature of our denomination lends itself to study in a multi-religious setting; the innovative models of ministry explored at HDS help prepare UCC students for contemporary ministry. Current students and UCC alumni agree—HDS is a wonderful place to train for ministry within the United Church of Christ.

Vocational Discernment

Students at HDS are preparing for a range of careers, including education, non-profit work, chaplaincy, and parish ministry. Your path after graduation is not pre-determined. Your vocational discernment will be supported by wise colleagues and compassionate faculty, including many affiliated with the UCC.

Ordination preparation

UCC Members in Discernment are able to complete all academic requirements for ordination through coursework and field education at Harvard Divinity School. There are ample HDS courses on preaching, worship, scripture, faith formation, pastoral counseling, administration, and UCC Polity. Students are also welcome to take course throughout Harvard and the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium member schools. Additionally, students are supported by a denominational counselor and Ministry Studies faculty and staff. (See details on UCC Ordination requirements below.)

Field education opportunities

There are an extraordinary array of Field Education opportunities at HDS. Candidates pursuing ordination will find many options for Field Education in a nearby UCC congregation. Students pondering non-profit careers have dozens of options for sites. Many students intern at both a parish and non-profit while at HDS, complementing parish experience with non-sectarian ministry. The interreligious nature of the HDS community gives UCC students diverse perspectives on the nature of ministry in the 21st century.

The DUCCS

UCC Students at HDS are part of a robust “DUCCS” (Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ) student group which celebrates together, worships together, and supports one another. The DUCCS are supported in vocational discernment and denominational connection by a Denominational Counselor as well as by Ministry Studies faculty and staff. DUCCS students also find many opportunities for worship with the wider HDS community, including Wednesday Noon Worship, Morning Prayers, and Weekly Eucharist.

Robust financial aid

HDS offers generous financial aid to admitted students. Some students are surprised that HDS is financially accessible and in line with other graduate theological schools and seminaries—be sure to talk with a Financial Aid officer!

A vibrant and diverse city

Boston is a city known for culture, politics, history, sports, social activism, and religious heritage—and there are dozens of UCC congregations within an easy bike, bus, or car ride of HDS.

As you consider the setting best suited for your preparation for ministry (lay or ordained) in the United Church of Christ, be sure look at Harvard Divinity School. For more information, contact admissions@hds.harvard.edu or Rev. Reebee Girash, HDS UCC Denominational Counselor.

More details about ordination preparation

“Ordination is the rite whereby the United Church of Christ, through an Association in cooperation with the person and a local church of the United Church of Christ, recognizes and authorizes that member whom God has called to ordained ministry, and sets that person apart by prayer and the laying on of hands.”

The default guidelines for ordination specified by the national body of the United Church of Christ can be found in the Manual on Ministry. Please note that the Manual is currently in the process of revision, so check frequently for updates.

Association Committees on Ministry determine local requirements and therefore candidates should consult with their local COM for current information. Most require that a candidate have a longstanding relationship with a sponsoring local congregation, and complete a discernment process specified by the local Association.

Associations also specify coursework and training requirements, which typically include a bachelor’s degree and M.Div. or equivalent, a unit of CPE, a ministerial internship (field education), a psychological assessment, a UCC polity course, Boundary Awareness Training, and courses on scripture, preaching, and other relevant topics. After the Association’s Committee on Ministry approves a candidate to seek an ordainable call, an Ecclesiastical Council is also required, either before or after a Profile (aka résumé) may be circulated. Ordainable calls within the United Church of Christ are calls to “ministries of Word and Sacrament” which may involve a three way covenant with a local church calling body, or a four way covenant involving a non-parish calling body.