JMU professor examines United Church of Christ in new book

Dr. H.B. Cavalcanti, a professor of sociology at James Madison University, has written a book about the United Church of Christ from the perspective of one of the smallest associations within the 1.2 million-member denomination.

The United Church of Christ in the Shenandoah Valley: Liberal Church, Traditional Congregations, which was published in September, studies UCC churches in the Shenandoah Association of the Central Atlantic Conference. The publication is the first study at the grassroots level of how members of autonomous UCC congregations are practicing the faith, said Cavalcanti.

The 27 congregations that make up the Shenandoah Association are located in Basye, Blacksburg, Bridgewater, Broadway, Charlottesville, Conicville, Edinburg, Elkton, Hamburg, Harrisonburg, Keezletown, Luray, Middlebrook, Mount Crawford, Mount Jackson, New Market, Purcellville, Timberville, Toms Brook, Weyers Cave, Winchester and Woodstock, Va., and High View, W.Va. Approximately 2,400 people are members of churches within the Shenandoah Association.

The UCC was formed in 1957, merging four very different groups. In 1931, part of the Restorationist Christian Churches merged with Congregationalists to create the Congregational Christian Churches. In 1934, the German Reformed branch merged with the Evangelical Synod to become the Evangelical and Reformed Church. In 1957, the two denominations merged to create the United Church of Christ, which currently has approximately 5,600 churches.

The mergers of the 20th century brought together three distinct confessional groups in the Shenandoah Association, churches of German Reformed heritage, congregations of Christian Church origins and UCC-founded religious communities.

For more information, visit these related links:
Cavalcanti’s JMU faculty page –
JMU Department of Sociology and Anthropology –
United Church of Christ –
Shenandoah Association of the Central Atlantic
Conference, United Church of Christ –

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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