What is Congregationalism?

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/Separatists). 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, each other, and 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, national, and international associations. These are not governing bodies, but gatherings for discussion, sharing information, and faithful support.

Freedom: Church members are expected to use their freedom of conscience to live by the teachings of Christ. Early Congregationalists often said they 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? 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, Christ is seen as the head of the Church, and the members work together in equality and charity.

(the above was created by First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa, WI)