On Being People of the (Red) Cup

“It’s called the ‘Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).’ Chalice_High-2You might have seen our churches before; our denomination’s logo is a red chalice with St. Andrew’s Cross”

The other person stares at me blankly. I sigh.

“Ok, really, it looks like a red wine glass with a big white X on it…”

They say, “OOOOHH, yes! Now I know what you’re talking about. I’ve seen that before!!”

I find myself repeating this conversation often. Since my husband is an Army chaplain, I meet Christians of many stripes who frequently ask about our denomination; they’ve heard of Baptist and Methodist and Lutheran, but oftentimes aren’t as familiar with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I love taking the opportunity to share about this denomination and about my church.

And that’s why THIS red cup matters.

The red cup means that the Table is our focus. This red chalice – representative of what was used by Christ during the Last Supper – shows that we are people of the Table. We have differing interperetations of the Bible, and have differing ways of living out our faith, but the Table unifies us. By partaking of this meal together, we remember the life and teachings of Christ; we are woven together, continuing the story of God’s people on earth. Disciples churches celebrate Communion every time we gather in worship. I used to think that the frequency would make it meaningless; on the contrary, it has become the most meaningful part of my week. As we partake, we are fed and filled and sent forth into the world. And because of that… 

The red cup means that ALL are welcome to the Table. We welcome all to the Table as God has welcomed us. There is no ten-page doctrinal statement to sign, no list of rules by which we must abide. We require no proof or documentation to partake. We do not tell anyone they aren’t good enough – or anything enough – to celebrate the Lord’s Table. Our value of inclusion does not end at the Table; as a woman, in the Disciples I am able to use all my gifts from God for God’s people and the church. Here, I am welcome. We take this from our doorsteps into the ends of the earth because…

The red cup means that we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As an Army wife, I am ever aware of the fragmentation of our world, of the conflicts that cause blood to be shed, families to be torn apart, and people everywhere to draw lines in the sand about who is in and who is out and why. People are hurt by the church; people suffer with loneliness and suffer because of oppression. Disconnection leads to all sorts of tragedies. We are continually fragmented from the earth and the interconnectedness of all life. And yet, as people of God, we are called to bring wholeness. We are called to live into God’s realm in the earth today, not only waiting for some future hope, but making that hope a reality now. I cannot think of any greater identity statement for a denomination. Which is why…

The red cup means that I am home. Brand recognition matters. Driving through a new community, a sign that says “Christian Church” could mean almost anything. But when I see that little red chalice with St. Andrew’s Cross? I know I’m home. As I’ve written before, my husband and I have only been Disciples for about six years now, and making this shift was an intentional and prayerful decision. We’ve been to Disciples churches all over the country, and each is remarkably different. And yet, in each, we are welcome; in each, we worship God together; in each, we celebrate communion every Sunday; in each, we are home.


We are diverse, we are faithful, we are God’s people but not God’s only people. We are the Disciples of Christ: People of the (Red) Cup.
** AUTHOR’S NOTE, OCTOBER 2019: I wrote this post on a whim in 2015 when Starbucks’ Red Holiday Cup was causing controversy. The then-General Minister & President of the CC(DOC), Sharon Watkins, posted on social media about how we should all share about “our red cup,” and this blog post was a response to that call. It has continued to be shared in the past few years, particularly in the past couple months, which is a great reminder that the “red cup” of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) continues to be a beacon of our shared hope! 

20 thoughts on “On Being People of the (Red) Cup

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  1. And this week, it is a delight to be a part of a Red Cup movement that DOESN’T make social media as a token in the “war on Christianity.”

  2. I am a non-Christian non-theist. My very good friend is an Elder at a Disciples church, and I have rung in their handbell choir and support their Helping Hands room (clothing dispensary). One of my performing groups plays at a variety of our members churches, and we try to provide special music at the church at least once a year. I take communion when I attend services there precisely because of the open communion, and in that moment, establishing my fellowship with them at that table.

    I was on vacation in northern Washington this summer, and on our way back from Olympic National Park’s headquarters at Hurricane Ridge, we drove past a small church in Port Angeles…with the red chalice and Saint Andrew’s cross. I know that, had we needed anything, we could have gone there. Thank you.

  3. I appreciate this article, and have similar feelings. My first experience with the “Disciples” was when I was hired as Music Director at a local church. Communion became something that I cherished and anticipated each week. I also loved the openness and inclusiveness
    of membership. After my marriage, the same kind of experiences charmed my husband, who was a student at a seminary at the time, and caused him to change denominations.

    We knew the man who designed the red cup with the cross, and, incidentally, also preached my husband’s ordination service.

    I would be pleased if this reply brings someone to understanding of the “Disciples”, and a desire to experience it for themselves.

  4. I find that my beliefs are not consistent with any of the mainstream denominations, but upon researching I decided I would be comfortable in the red cup church. We visited a few times and I loved it, but there weren’t enough children for my kids to enjoy “hanging out” with, as it’s an older congregation. Once the kids leave home I would consider going back.

    1. When we moved from one town to another we sought out the local DoC congregation, because wwe wanted to remain within the denomination. We were sad to determine that there were almost no young children, though we had two. Because of that we stalled and stalled about joining, but there was no other place where we felt at home. Untimately, we decided to join and put our energies into expanding children’s programming and bringing other families into the congregation. We found a lot of support for those efforts and it didn’t take long for our efforts to begin to pay off. Sometimes you have to be willing to be the catalyst.

  5. A friend recommended your blog. I loved this entry about the Red Cup, Disciples of Christ! Beautifully written, as a Dicsciples member I totally able to visually each aspect of how it feels to attend a Disciples Church. Bless you and thank you for sharing your insights.

  6. I became a Disciple 46 years ago, coming from the related Church of Christ. I treasure my denomination and my local congregation, where my husband, who believes in God but does consider himself a Christian, sings in the choir and takes communion every Sunday. I look forward to Sunday mornings, where love is palpable in the service, and I leave filled with joy.

  7. I became a Disciple 46 years ago, coming from the sister denomination Churches of Christ. My husband, who believes in God but does not consider himself a Christian, sings in the choir and takes communion every Sunday. I look forward to every Sunday service, where love is palpable; and I leave filled with joy.

  8. I and my husband were both born and reared in the fellowship of the DOC churches. It is a RARE thing to find that common ground in this denomination. My reason for continuing in this church fellowship after I was grown is the “no creed but Christ”. We were taught to follow what Christ said were the two most important commandments “Love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In following these two commands, all the others are covered. I have been a member of at least 5 Disciples churches, and though they are different from each other, you are right…the feeling of home is in each one of them.

  9. I left Disciples (I was a 3rd generation Disciple) to find a denomination where not only all are welcome at the table, but where all are welcome in the pulpit, whether lay or ordained. My brother was gay, was an active Disciple in youth (though closeted) and was invited to speak in the pulpit on Youth Sunday for six years. As an openly gay man after high school, he was welcome at the table in the Christian Church – but not in the pulpit. He could not be ordained. Nor was he welcome to marry his beloved partner of 23 years.
    Disciples are too glib about the welcome table. There are plenty of churches that discriminate while proudly proclaiming “all are welcome.”
    It is misleading and cruel to those on the margins to continue with this deceitful boasting. Please, be honest and admit a lot more work needs to be done before all are welcome at the table. Too many fences elsewhere send people in search of a more welcoming church. I’m grateful to have found such – but it wasn’t a Disciples’ church.
    Just asking for a little honesty – thanks.

    1. Hi Robyn,

      Thanks for your comment. First of all, I am sorry your family went through that experience – I cannot imagine how it must feel to have your gifts in ministry affirmed, then have that taken away. One of the “messy” attributes of the Disciples is that we have no official stances or creeds… as my first Disciples pastor told me, “Once you’ve seen one Disciples church… you’ve seen ONE Disciples church!” 🙂 What makes that hard, as you said, is that there are such differences in policy and beliefs between churches. I do know many openly gay and lesbian ordained Disciples ministers, so the fence your brother experienced was local, not a denominational guideline. Many DOC churches do welcome ALL not only to the Table, but behind the pulpit as well. I am glad you were able to find a church that met your needs, and I am sorry for the hurt you experienced.

  10. Thank you so much for this article!!! I have been a “red cup” chick for 10 years now. This church has met me right where I am. I am a woman in my second marriage, covered in tattoos, and march to the beat of my own drum. I also serve in the praise band for our contemporary service, as well as on different committees, and just got back from another fantastic DSM trip with our youth. I can say without a doubt that I feel welcome and lived in my church!!! It’s wonderful. The people are wonderful. We have a great youth group! Lots of kids! And one of our focuses is growing the church for our future. I found a home the day I decided to leave my old church of 27 years and walk through the doors of the Christian Church.

  11. I remember when we Disciples adopted the red Chalice logo, and some people thought the white X signified our opposition to alcoholic beverages! None who worshipped among us for very long!

  12. Fellow Disciple pastor here: thank you so much for this! It’s great to see other people’s thoughts and appreciation of what it means to be a part of this unique, but hard to explain, part of God’s family. This column just turned up in a friend’s newsfeed and I am very happy to have found it. It will be a great introduction for a sermon series we are putting together using the Disciples’ identity statement.

  13. I’ve been a member of the Christian Church all my life. As a child it was an independent Christian Church in a very small farming community and after college I joined DOC and have been ever since. I’ve never heard “the church of the red cup”…. so enjoyed your remarks…

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