Map and Directions
About us : Congregational Way
The Congregational Way is a way of following Christ. People of
a Congregational Church do not seek to be led by a creed, but
by the Spirit. Ours is the tradition of a free church, gathered
under the headship of Christ and bound to others by love, not
When King Henry VIII of England broke with Rome and made the Church
of England subservient to the English crown, many of his subjects
thought he had not gone far enough in reforming the church. These
people, sometimes called Puritans, wanted a church that was thoroughly
reformed in its worship, governance, and outlook.
Some of them tried to purify the English Church from within. Others,
known as Separatists, left the state church and formed local groups
of believers bound together by mutual covenants. They found warrant
for these gathered churches in Matthew 18:20, which says, "for
where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
One of these churches was gathered by covenant in the village
of Scrooby in 1606. They met on Sundays in the home of the postmaster,
William Brewster, for Bible study and prayer. Such gatherings
were banned by British law, which demanded that all subjects of
the king belong to the Church of England and no other. When the
threat of persecution by English authorities became severe, the
little church of Scrooby, led by its pastor John Robinson, fled
After a few peaceful and prosperous years in Leiden, the Scrooby
congregation made plans to establish a Separatist colony in America.
Sailing on the Mayflower from the port of Plymouth, England, in
1620, the 102 voyagers arrived off Cape Cod in late autumn and
landed in a harbor they named Plymouth. Before stepping ashore,
they drafted an agreement as the basis for the civil government
of their colony. This Mayflower Compact was the first written
expression in history of a social contract, in which the people
agree among themselves to form the state. It can be seen as a
civil counterpart to the covenant by which they had formed their
church in Scrooby.
These people have been called Pilgrims by later generations of
Americans. Their first winter on American soil was very hard,
claiming the lives of half the group. But under the leadership
of able governors such as William Bradford, the colony at Plymouth
In 1629 and 1630, the Pilgrims of Plymouth were joined by a much
larger migration of Puritans from England, who founded the city
of Boston and other towns and villages which together made up
the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These newcomers, led by Governor
John Winthrop, were better financed and more numerous than the
Pilgrims of Plymouth, and they soon dominated the civil and religious
life of Massachusetts and the other New England colonies.
Unlike the settlers of Plymouth, most of the Massachusetts Bay
party were non-Separatists. They were Puritans who did not necessarily
want to separate from the Church of England. Nevertheless, persecution
at home had driven them to a physical, if not a spiritual, separation.
Most importantly, the non-Separating Puritans who came to Massachusetts
formed their churches in the same way the Scrooby Separatists
had formed theirs: by covenanting together, without the aid of
king, bishop, or synod. Thus, in the decades that followed, New
England became filled with Congregational churches.
Boston eventually had several such churches, but each frontier
settlement of any size had its own church. Each church hired its
own pastor and ran its own affairs. Periodically, lay and clergy
representatives of these churches would meet to discuss matters
of common concern -- but any conclusions reached were advisory,
not mandatory upon the churches. Only the congregation could decide
matters for the local church.
The original Congregationalists were strict Calvinists, who espoused
a covenantal theology. Ensuing generations began to fall away
from the particular tenets of this belief, until, in the early
1700s, New England was ripe for the first religious revival movement
on American soil. This Great Awakening was led primarily by Jonathan
Edwards of Northampton, Massachusetts, who worked with spiritual
and intellectual distinction over the course of a long life to
support the tenets of the original New England theology.
Also in the eighteenth century, the tradition of freedom and self-government
started by the Congregationalists of New England fostered the
spirit of independence which informed the American revolutionaries.
Many small New England churches participated actively in the War
By the 1800s, as the effects of the Great Awakening began to recede,
many were turning to more liberal theologies. A great controversy
arose in which many of the old First Churches of New England became
Nevertheless, the Congregational churches went on, joining with
the Presbyterians in a Plan of Union for the purpose of joint
missionary endeavors on the western frontiers. The Congregationalists
pulled out of this Plan of Union later, when fifty years' experience
showed its effect had been the building of a large number of Presbyterian,
not Congregational, churches in the western states.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many
of the Congregational churches in the United States, which had
resisted the Unitarian impulse, nevertheless became more liberal
in their theological outlook. No Congregational church could impose
a particular creed on its members. But the members, in general,
came to see Christianity in a different light: They interpreted
the Bible less literally than their ancestors did, and they began
to re-adopt some previously discarded worship practices of the
more liturgical churches.
At the same time, Congregationalists often led in Christian social
activism. They championed the abolition of slavery, the elevation
of women's status -- a Congregationalist, Antoinette Brown, was
the first woman ordained to the Christian ministry in America--
and the new "social Gospel" movement of the later years. The Social
Gospel, championed by the Congregational minister Washington Gladden
and the Baptist Walter Rauschenbusch, attempted to get Christians
to embrace the struggles and relieve the difficulties of impoverished
The early twentieth century was a time of mergers. The Congregational
churches had formed a national body, the National Council of Congregational
Churches. In 1931, this National Council merged with the General
Convention of the Christian Church to form the General Council
of Congregational Christian Churches. (The Christians were a group
of churches operating on principles almost identical to those
of the Congregationalists, but laying more importance on the use
of the name Christian to identify followers of Christ.) This merger
was accomplished smoothly and with little dissent.
A few years later, another merger was proposed: Churches of the
General Council would merge with the Evangelical and Reformed
Church, a group of mainly German heritage which had theological
affinities with many Congregationalists but did not accept the
autonomy of the local congregation, which had always been the
distinctive feature of Congregationalism.
This merger was eventually completed, to form the United Church
of Christ. But about 200 Congregational Christian churches chose
not to join the merger, mainly on the issue of congregational
polity. The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
was formed in 1955 to give those congregations a national fellowship
which would not threaten the freedom of each congregation.
Since that time, the National Association has doubled in size
and has remained true to its guiding vision. New churches are
added to our number each year, and the future growth and vitality
of our fellowship is grounded in the mission statement of the
To encourage and assist local churches in their development of
vibrant and effective witnesses to Christ in Congregational Ways.
(above taken from the NACC website:
Cleveland Road South Bend, Indiana
Phone 574-272-2991--- E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2005 Community Congregational Church Last Modified: Monday
June 15, 2015