Remembering Disciples United Community Church (DUCC), 1998-2013
A former progressive, inclusive Christian church in Lancaster County, Pa.
DUCC was a church that existed from 1998 through 2013 for people who were...
- …“spiritual but not religious/”
- …looking for a justice-seeking community of faith where you are welcomed and affirmed/
- …seeking a safe space to tell your sacred story and to ask your spiritual and theological questions/
- …searching for a supportive place in your journey to find God in your own time and in your own way.
- …a spiritual seeker feeling uninspired, put off, or even alienated by "traditional" churches.
DUCC was a safe, affirming spiritual space.
Though other churches may require certain beliefs in order to walk through their doors, DUCC recognized that not everyone is on the same spiritual journey. All questions are valid.
DUCC had a big message.
The truth is, though DUCC appeared small, it had a big theology, a big spirit, big hopes, and a big mission. At DUCC we honored our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when we choose a different path from them, because our calling was to embody an ever new and changing, mysterious adventure with God that is big enough to embrace the 14 billion year journey of our entire universe, yet intimate enough to welcome every believer and seeker, be they 99 years or nine months old, gay or straight, male or female. We welcomed people of every color of the rainbow!
Milestones in DUCC’s history
While DUCC (Disciples United Community Church) has had a rich and colorful ministry since the autumn of 1998, our history can be summed up in a simple sacred story: A few visionaries in the Lancaster County area, who came from the Christian tradition, knew that church could be different. It could be affirming and welcoming of all who sought to commune with God and with others at Christ’s table. No minimum requirements would be necessary to share in the unconditional love of the still-speaking God. The rest, as they say, is history!
- In October 1998, a small group of persons from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including Rev. Susan Minasian and Rev. Belva Brown Jordan, began gathering on the second and fourth Saturday evenings of the month for Bible study, reflection, communion, and a potluck meal.
- On September 25, 1999, this community adopted the name Disciples United Community Church (DUCC) and began weekly worship Saturday evenings at First Reformed United Church of Christ in Lancaster, PA. The Rev. Susan Minasian and the Rev. Belva Brown Jordan were named founding pastors of the community. Wendy Aichele was named Minister of Music.
- On June 3, 2000 the community began meeting in Millersville.
- Rev. Belva Brown Jordan was released as co-pastor with the congregation’s thanks and appreciation to pursue ministry as a dean at Harvard Divinity School. Doug Fauth assumed the role of Minister of Music.
- In May 2001, the community began to meet in Lancaster at Lancaster Theological Seminary.
- On May 20, 2001, Disciples United Community Church received official church standing in the Lancaster Association of the United Church of Christ, becoming the first ONA/O&A church in the Penn Central conference.
- DUCC adopted its constitution and by-laws.
- In September 2001, the community began to meet at the Lancaster Friends Meeting House. Kathy Kurek was welcomed as the new Minister of Music.
- On December 8, 2001, DUCC officially adopted its Open and Affirming (ONA) position and was recognized by the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns.
- Disciples United Community Church held its first congregational meeting on April 27, 2002.
- On January 25, 2003, DUCC’s remaining founding pastor, Rev. Susan Minasian, and Kathy Kurek, Minister of Music, resigned from their positions on the ministerial staff. Kathy graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary in May of 2003. Susan was called to ministry at Lancaster Theological Seminary as Director of Admissions.
- On February 9, 2003, Duane Romberger was named as Part-Time Bridging Pastor of DUCC.
- DUCC recognized its first ever pastoral search committee during a time of worship on March 8, 2003.
- On June 28, 2003, DUCC thanked Duane Romberger for his work as the bridging pastor and released him from service.
- DUCC was awarded the Open and Affirming certificate from the United Church of Christ at the General Synod Conference in July.
- August 1, 2003, Rev. Nancy Dahlberg began as DUCC’s interim pastor.
- During a time of worship on July 24, 2004, the congregation thanked Rev. Nancy Dahlberg for her dedication as interim pastor and released her from service.
- DUCC’s first seminarian in-care, David Stiffler, was ordained a pastor on July 25, 2004, at a service hosted by DUCC and Grace United Church of Christ, making him the first GLBTQ person to be ordained within the Lancaster Association of the United Church of Christ. David was called to serve as a resident chaplain at Lancaster General Hospital.
- On September 25, 2004, DUCC celebrated its fifth anniversary at a special service planned by Roger Eberly. DUCC is truly thankful to God for allowing continuing opportunities to worship and serve during these years.
- DUCC called Rev. Katherine Epperly, D.Min., and Rev. Bruce Epperly, Ph.D., as co-pastors at a special worship service led by the Epperlys on November 13, 2004. This was a culmination of seventeen months of discussion, discernment, and prayer on the part of DUCC’s first-ever pastoral search committee.
- At a special service on June 4, 2005, Rev. Kate Epperly, D.Min., and Rev. Bruce Epperly, Ph.D., were officially installed as co-pastors of DUCC. Founding co-pastors Rev. Susan Minasian and Rev. Belva Brown Jordan delivered a reflection and a solo. Many representatives from both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) were on hand to witness the service and affirm the new co-pastors.
- On June 17, 2006, DUCC was recognized as a congregation in full partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Region.
- Minister of Music, Marge Egger, graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary. On August 19, 2006, she accompanied her last service at DUCC, and then moved to Indiana, where her husband received a call to pastor a church. Michelle Dickert then assumed the role of Minister of Music.
- DUCC discerned a new three-year vision of its ministry in August of 2006. The congregation affirmed this vision as God’s calling for us, which includes extending extravagant hospitality to visitors, nurturing current congregants, building a more participatory and intentional worship, and creating a mission in downtown Lancaster.
- In the fall of 2006, DUCC launched a worship study group to examine worship theology, styles, and resources, and after a period of discernment, created and affirmed an “emerging worship” for DUCC that celebrates gifts and talents of the congregants, draws upon sensory and participatory experiences, and is intentional in its being. The congregation affirmed this new worship in January 2007.
- Lori Unger Brandt, a Lancaster Theological Seminary student, began serving as keyboardist for DUCC’s worship services on alternating weeks in September 2007. As part of the emerging church model, DUCC began singing a cappella on the other weeks.
- DUCC commissioned church member Diane Brandt as its first Minister of Liturgical Arts and Music on April 12, 2008. Now as a member of the ministerial staff, Diane’s ministry includes planning worship, creating liturgy, leading congregational singing, and nurturing congregants to share their gifts in worship.
- The Pennsylvania Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) commissioned Irving Perez, a member of DUCC, on April 26, 2008 as a Commissioned Minister to serve at DUCC.
- On April 28, 2008, the Lancaster Association of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ licensed Diane Brandt, DUCC’s Minister of Liturgical Arts and Music, as a Lay Licensed Minister to serve at DUCC.
- At its annual meeting on June 28, 2008, DUCC called Diane Brandt to serve as Assistant Pastor of Liturgical Arts and Music, and DUCC also called Irving Perez to serve as Assistant Pastor of Community Outreach.
- Upon her graduation from Lancaster Theological Seminary in May 2009, Lori Unger Brandt continued to serve as keyboardist through the summer until she returned to Canada in September to continue her studies.
- DUCC lovingly released Rev. Katherine Epperly, D.Min., and Rev. Bruce Epperly, Ph.D., from their positions as co-pastors with deep gratitude for their minsterial gifts at a special worship service and potluck on August 7, 2010. Kate was called to serve as Intentional Interim Minister at Dover United Church of Christ in York County, PA.
- Assistant pastors Diane Brandt and Irving Perez were named co-pastors.
- In an effort to evolve into more of an intentional community, DUCC, at a special congregational meeting on December 17, 2011, amended its leadership structure to empower the congregation as a whole to take active roles in leadership. Additionally, the concept of church membership transformed from a traditional model to one of annual commitments and partnerships.
- At a special service and community meal on April 21, 2012, Diane Brandt was released from pastoral service. The DUCC community expressed its heartfelt thanks and prayed its intentions for Diane on fabric branches and leaves for her to adorn the walls of her prayer space.
- DUCC explored the concept of a designated pastor—working with a pastoral leader outside a contract or covenant who would help with specific issues and challenges on a short-term basis. Kent Rhodehamel agreed to serve in this role beginning August 1.
And God is still speaking…and we are still listening as our story continues to unfold.
- During the summer, we introduced a new program, “Big Questions,” that located us in public places to welcome anyone who was interested to discuss big questions related to faith and spirituality.
- Facing mounting challenges of participation and finances, DUCC made the difficult but loving decision at a meeting on September 28 to end ministry as a legal and denominational entity by the close of 2013.