Finding Aid to the United Church of Christ, Northern California Conference Records, 1961-1986

Finding aid prepared by Glenn Humphreys, revised by Labor Archives and Research Center staff.
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
© 1999, revised 2014


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.

Container List

 

Series I:  Northern California Conference Office, 1965-1976

Extent: 14 folders

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection is in this series, which includes correspondence about the Conference, farm laborers, and small growers as well as letters between the Conference Minister and leaders of affiliated organizations. Also included are the files from the Goshen Project and the Tulare County Community Development Project.
 

Board of Directors

Box 1, Folder 1

Resolutions, 1966

Box 1, Folder 2

Correspondence, 1965-1970

Box 1, Folder 3

Financial Records, 1966

Box 1, Folder 4

Report, 1965

 

Conference Minister

 

Correspondence

Box 1, Folder 5

1965-1967

Box 1, Folder 6

1968-1969

Box 1, Folder 7

1970-1976

 

Assistant Conference Minister

Box 1, Folder 8

Correspondence, 1965-1972

 

Tulare County Community Development Project

 

Administrative Committee

Box 1, Folder 9

Minutes, 1965

Box 1, Folder 10

Recommendations, 1965

 

Pastor

Box 1, Folder 11

Field Reports, 1965

Box 1, Folder 12

Proposals, circa 1965

Box 1/, Folder 13

Newsletter, 1964-1965

 

Commission on Social Concern

Box 1, Folder 14

Newsletter, 1965

 

Series II:  United Church of Christ Board for Homeland Ministries, 1965-1985

Extent: 5 folders

Scope and Content

This series consists of information packets sent from Board for Homeland Ministries to the Conference and publications of the Board.
 

Resource Material

Box 1, Folder 15

1965 November-1973 April

Box 1, Folder 16

1973 August-1974 July

Box 1, Folder 17

1974 June-1976 August

Box 1, Folder 18

1976 December-1985 March

Box 1, Folder 19

Publications

 

Series III:  Affiliated Organizations, 1965-1985

Extent: 131 folders

Scope and Content

This series is comprised of the records of the California Church Council, the Committee for Economic Justice in the Agricultural Community, National Farm Workers' Ministry, Northern California Ecumenical Council, California Rural Legal Assistance, and the United Farm Workers. Included in these records is information about the selective-buying grapes in 1968. In addition, the information packets from the National Farm Workers' Ministry, known as the California Migrant Ministry before 1972, contain information about the worker-priest program as do the correspondence files.
 

California Church Council

Box 1, Folder 20

Correspondence, 1968-1972

Box 1, Folder 21

Proposal, 1966

Box 1, Folder 22

News Release, 1966

 

Committee for Economic Justice in the Agricultural Community

Box 1, Folder 23

Minutes, 1966-1968

Box 1, Folder 24

Correspondence, 1966-1968

Box 1, Folder 25

Report and Proposals, 1966-1972

Box 1, Folder 26

EJAC Diary, 1967-1969

Box 1, Folder 27

Resource Material, 1966-1970

 

National Farm Workers' Ministry

 

Commission on the California Migrant Ministry

Box 1, Folder 28

Minutes, 1965-1968

 

Executive Committee

Box 1, Folder 29

Minutes, 1965-1966

 

Ad Hoc Group for the California Migrant Ministry

Box 1, Folder 30

Minutes, 1973

 

Chairman

Box 1, Folder 31

Report, undated

 

Director

Box 1, Folder 32

Reports and Proposals, 1965-1969

 

Resource Material

Box 1, Folder 33

1966-1968

Box 1, Folder 34

1969-1972

Box 1, Folder 35

1973-1985

Box 1, Folder 36

Newsletter, 1963-1969

Box 1, Folder 37

1970-1985

 

Northern California Ecumenical Council

 

Board of Directors

Box 1, Folder 38

Minutes, 1976

Box 1, Folder 39

Financial Records, 1976

Box 1, Folder 40

Resolutions, 1965

Box 1, Folder 41

Farm Labor Resolution, 1968

 

President

Box 1, Folder 42

Correspondence, 1965-1966

 

Commission on the Church and Economic Life

Box 1, Folder 43

Report, 1966

Box 1, Folder 44

Study Papers, 1973

Box 1, Folder 45

Annual Report, 1964, 1968

Box 1, Folder 46

Newsletter, 1961, 1965

 

California Rural Legal Assistance

Box 1, Folder 47

Activities Summaries, 1967-1971

 

United Farm Workers

Box 1, Folder 48

Resource Material, 1965-1985

Box 1, Folder 49

Newsletter, 1972

Box 1, Folder 50

Grape Boycott 1984-1985

 

Series IV:  Northern California Conference Information Files, 1964-1986

Extent: 8 folders

Scope and Content

In this series are the articles, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, papers, and reports that the Conference collected about the agricultural communities in California.
 

Papers and Reports

Box 2, Folder 1

1964

Box 2, Folder 2

1965-1966

Box 2, Folder 3

1964-1985

Box 2, Folder 4

Publications, 1966-1973

Box 2, Folder 5

Newsletters, 1965-1985

Box 2, Folder 6-8

Newspaper Clippings (3 folders)