The Congregational Way of doing Church is based on the teachings and practice of the movement that sought to purify the Church of England (Puritans). The Congregationalists are America's Pilgrim Faith. Our Way can be summed up in three words: Faith, Fellowship, and Freedom.
Faith: Theologically Congregationalism stands in the English Reformed tradition: centered on Christ, holding to the Bible, and to the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, we are classical Christians.
Fellowship:Congregational Churches are formed when individuals, called of God to follow Christ, gather together and write a Covenant or promise to be faithful to God, to each other, and to the community they serve. Members join the Church by "owning" or agreeing to the Covenant, rather than assenting to a prescribed set of doctrines. Congregational Churches are in Fellowship with sister Churches to form regional and national and international associations. These are not governing bodies, but a forum for discussion, sharing information, and faithful support.
Freedom: Church members are expected to use their freedom of conscience and live by the teachings of Christ. Early on the Congregationalists wanted their meeting houses to be places where people could bring their heads in along with their hearts. Freedom of conscience, the ability to read, to hear, to think and to respond is an important part of our life together and our Way of being Church. Freedom also extends to each local Church since each Congregational Church is autonomous, in that it calls its own Minister and governs itself. The members of the Congregation elect lay leaders. Each member of the Congregation, including the Minister, has a voice and a vote.
In a `nutshell' what are Congregationalists? Congregationalists are classical Christians who hold to the idea that the local congregation of covenanted believers is the most authentic way to approach the task of being Christ's body in the world. Within the gathered people, then, Christ is seen as the head of the Church (his body) and the members work together in equality and charity.
Church Polity We believe in the freedom and responsibility of the individual soul, and the right of private judgment. We hold to the autonomy of the local Church and its independence of all ecclesiastical control. We cherish the fellowship of the churches, united in district, state and national bodies, for counsel and cooperation in matters of common concern.
Church Covenant We covenant with the Lord and with one another, and do bind ourselves in the presence of God, to walk together in all His ways, according as He is pleased to reveal Himself to us in His Blessed Word of Truth.
(The First Congregational Church Covenant above is the same covenant adopted by the church in Salem, Massachusetts in 1629, and is widely known as The Salem Covenant.)