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Finding Aid to the United Church of Christ, Northern California Conference Records, 1961-1986
larc.ms.0055  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Indexing Terms
  • History
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: United Church of Christ, Northern California Conference records
    Date (inclusive): 1961-1986
    Creator: United Church of Christ. Northern California Conference.
    Extent: 2.0 cubic feet (1 carton, 1 box)
    Collection number: larc.ms.0055
    Accession number: 1990/050
    Repository: Labor Archives and Research Center
    J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
    San Francisco State University
    1630 Holloway Ave
    San Francisco, CA 94132-1722
    (415) 405-5571
    larc@sfsu.edu
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English.
    Abstract: Minutes, correspondence, resolutions, reports, and newsletters, demonstrating the role of the United Church of Christ, Northern California Conference and affiliated religious organizations in the farm labor movement, California farming communities, and the Conference's strong support for farm workers and small growers, from 1964 to 1986. The collection contains minutes from the California Migrant Ministry (CMM), which co-sponsored programs with the Conference, such as the Tulare County Community Development Project, which focused on economic and political issues. The bulk of the material from the CMM consists of resource materials about farm workers compiled by Chris Hartmire and mailed to the Conference, and reflects the debates about the worker-priest program proposed by the CMM. Resource material from the CMM and the United Board for Homeland Ministries demonstrates the information available to the leaders of the Conference. The files include material such as the statements of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Labor; the resolutions in support of the grape boycott sponsored by the United Farm Workers in 1968; and the records of the Goshen Project, a small community development program.
    Location: Collection is available onsite.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], United Church of Christ, Northern California Conference Records, larc.ms.0055, Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University.

    Restrictions

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives and Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Labor Archives and Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Acquisition Information

    John R. Deckenback, Associate Conference Minister of the Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ, donated selected records of the Conference to the Labor Archives and Research Center in August 1990, accession number 1990/050.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Glenn Humphreys in October 1990. Collection folders renumbered in 2014 by Tanya Hollis.

    Indexing Terms

    Chavez, Cesar, 1927-1993.
    Hartmire, Chris.
    Huerta, Dolores, 1930-
    Agricultural laborers--California--History.
    Agricultural laborers--Labor unions--United States--History.
    Church records and registers--California--Tulare County.
    Churches--California--Tulare County.
    California Migrant Ministry.
    Goshen Project.
    Tulare County Community Development Project.
    United Farm Workers.

    History

    The Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ played a significant role in the agricultural communities in the Central Valley of California, most notably in the 1960s. In 1962, after ministering for decades to members of the small valley towns, the Conference began a dramatic new program in Goshen, a small town in Tulare County. The Goshen Project specifically sought to minister to farm workers, whose needs moved the Conference into nontraditional programs. Working with other organizations throughout the decade, the Conference struggled to serve farm workers as well as other members of Northern California's agricultural communities.
    The leaders of the Conference recognized the plight of the farm workers was one of the most divisive issues in California as they sought to minister to groups on all sides of the situation: growers, shippers, laborers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. The position of the Conference became more difficult as it developed new programs to serve the farm workers. The programs attacked problems such as wages, housing, and lack of county services. Staff members participated in demonstrations, strikes, and voter registration drives. Staff members also developed close ties with leaders of other groups such as Chris Hartmire, the dynamic leader of the California Migrant Ministry, and Cesar Chavez, who organized and guided the United Farm Workers. Some members of the churches in the valley towns complained that the Conference had overstepped its boundaries. In response Richard Norberg, the Conference Minister, and Walter Press, the Assistant Conference Minister, wrote letters and spoke publicly about the position of the Conference. In 1966 the Board of Directors issued a position paper explaining once again the theological base for its new programs: "To say God should have a voice in our prayer life and our Scripture reading but not in the way we earn our living or treat other people is to depart from the declaration of the Christian faith that God reigns." Throughout the 1960s and the next two decades the Church has developed programs that addressed the needs of farm workers.
    During this time the Conference was acutely aware, too, of the needs of small growers and participated in programs to help them as well as farm workers; for example, Norberg served on the Committee on Economic Justice in the Agricultural Community, an ad hoc advisory group to the California Church Council. The Committee reviewed the rising number of corporate farmers, mechanization, and the 160 acre limitation on water rights, among other issues. It sponsored seminars, reports, and open discussions. In 1968 when the California Church Council voted to support the grape boycott sponsored by the United Farm Workers committee members agonized over the problems of small growers.
    At times the Conference worked so closely with other organizations that it is difficult to examine the activities of the Conference alone. Not only did the staff of the Conference work cooperatively, but they frequently served on the boards of other institutions; for example, Walter Press served as the Chair of the Commission of the California Migrant Ministry, which was active in the Tulare County projects of the Conference. Richard Norberg, in addition to serving on the Committee for Economic Justice, was elected President of the Northern California-Nevada Council of Churches in 1964 and again in 1965. After he completed his terms as president, he maintained close contact with the Council.
    Together these organizations and the Northern California Conference worked together to find solutions to the problems of farm workers, growers, and other members of the agricultural communities in the Central Valley. The programs of the Conference at times caused conflict among the other religious organizations as well as among members of the Church. Much of the work of the staff of the Conference was to resolve these conflicts while actively developing programs to serve its constituencies. Above all the Conference sought to serve all members of the communities in Northern California.
    The social activism of the staff of the Northern California Conference was not out of step with the views of executives in the national bodies of the United Church of Christ. National staff members such as John Morse, the secretary of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, supported the work of the Conference and regularly sent packets of information about farm workers. The Church's liberal position on agricultural labor was consistent with other positions taken in the 1960s, such as advocating economic sanctions against organizations that discriminated on the basis of race, national background, or ethnic origin (1963). The Church's social activism can be traced to the progressive work of Horace Bushnell (1802- 1876), Washington Gladden (1836-1918), and William J. Tucker (1839-1926) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Church also participated in the work of Jane Addams (1860-1935) at Hull House in Chicago.
    The Northern California Conference is one of thirty-nine UCC conferences in the United States and Puerto Rico. The geographical area of a UCC conference is usually determined by the boundaries of the state; California, however, has two conferences. The territory of the Northern California Conference ranges from Fort Bidwell in northeastern California to Porterville in the Central Valley and includes 120 churches with 360 clergy and seminarians and 27,000 members. A Board of Directors, consisting of thirty persons serving four-year terms, manages the Conference between annual meetings. In addition, there is a system of committees, commissions, and associations. The staff of the Conference is comprised of four Conference ministers, three secretaries, a part-time bookkeeper, and a part-time clerk. The charges given to the Conference from the UCC and the member churches of the Conference include ministering and placing pastors; offering counseling and consulting services, resources, and outreach efforts to member churches; and working with affiliated organizations, among other duties. The Northern California Conference can trace its roots to the nineteenth century but it has existed in its present form since the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches in 1957. The merger produced the current United Church of Christ.
    Information for this descriptive guide is from records in the collection and the following works:
    Northern California Conference. The United Church of Christ. San Francisco: Northern California Conference, undated
    Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Profiles in Belief. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.
    Smith, Sydney D. Grapes of Conflict. Pasadena, CA: Hope Publishing House, 1987.

    Scope and Content

    Minutes, correspondence, resolutions, reports, and newsletters, demonstrating the role of the United Church of Christ, Northern California Conference and affiliated religious organizations in the farm labor movement, California farming communities, and the Conference's strong support for farm workers and small growers, from 1964 to 1986. The collection contains minutes from the California Migrant Ministry (CMM), which co-sponsored programs with the Conference, such as the Tulare County Community Development Project, which focused on economic and political issues. The bulk of the material from the CMM consists of resource materials about farm workers compiled by Chris Hartmire and mailed to the Conference, and reflects the debates about the worker-priest program proposed by the CMM. Resource material from the CMM and the United Board for Homeland Ministries demonstrates the information available to the leaders of the Conference. The files include material such as the statements of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Labor; the resolutions in support of the grape boycott sponsored by the United Farm Workers in 1968; and the records of the Goshen Project, a small community development program.
    The records in the collection have been organized by institution to reflect the activities of each group as it worked independently and in association with the Northern California Conference; the records of the Northern California Ecumenical Council contain the correspondence and resolution files from Norberg's presidency as well as minutes and financial records from later years, and the records of the Committee on Economic Justice in the Agricultural Community reflect Norberg's membership on that Committee.