Peace – Prayer – Joy – Love
Who We Are: Our Historic Roots

Our Historic Roots

Checking our ancestral DNA

The Reformation: Background of Congregationalism

500 Years Ago – Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther’s 95 Theses
Three Streams of Reformation:
German – Luther
Swiss – Zwingli & Calvin
English – King Henry (1521 Defender, 1534 Supremacy)

Origins of Congregationalism

Purify the Church of England of “papist innovations.”
Presbyterians – elected presbyters/elders region/synod.
Independents – no authority above the local congregation.
Congregationalists – independence of local churches …
But equally committed to the fellowship of churches
by the bonds of Christian love.
– Separatist (go/outside) & Non-Separatist (stay/within)
Congregationalists & Puritans: one mind in their intentions:
– Purge the Church of England of Roman Catholicism
– Restore the doctrines & practices of the NT Church
– Queen Elizabeth had not gone far enough in reforms
– Supreme authority of the Bible in Christian faith & practice
– Tenets of Reformed Theology – from John Calvin & others.

“God hath yet more truth and light to break out of his Holy Word.”

Creating a “New” England

Separatists in Scrooby England 1st Congregationalism to America
King James I wouldn’t tolerate any worship outside C.of England
Brief time in Holland, then (1620) Mayflower, Plymouth, & T-day
Mayflower Compact: missed NY accompanied by “Strangers”
Great Migration of 1630 (Dillinghams in 1634, Sandwich, Mass)
Salem – witches & a great covenant written & 1st elections in USA
More people brought more diversity and more conflict

Tensions & Declensions in New England

1640’s Civil War in England
Royalists (C.of England) vs. Parliamentarians (Puritans)
Puritan Commonwealth & then Royalist Backlash
1660’s+ Tension/Anxiety: Distrust Others & Spiritual Self-Doubt
Pluralism, Witchcraft, Natives, Monarchy, & Leaders Deaths
Cast doubt on ideals of “God’s Elect” & their “City on a Hill”
Heavy Handed English Monarchy Set The Stage for AWI

The Enlightenment & Its Legacy for Faith

Knowledge, reason & observation > tradition & revelation
Rejection of oppression in autocratic civil & religious authority
18th c. Skepticism put the Church on the defensive
Age of Faith gave way to Age of Reason: Bacon, Newton, & Locke
Embraced by Puritans, Boston: Freedom & Reason, Love>Wrath
Unitarian v. Trinitarian Congregationalists, Arminian v. Calvinist

“God hath yet more truth and light to break out of his Holy Word.”

First Great Awakening’s Legacy for Congregationalism 1730-40’s

Revivalism originated in Congregational churches in the 1730’s
George Whitefield & Jonathan Edwards Sinners-Angry God Wrath
Reversed decline in Congregational Churches
Spiritual Awakening & Clergy Discord & Itinerate Revivalists
National movement & division caused in Cong. & Pres. Churches
                 “Old Lights” – formal decorum of traditional worship
                  “New Lights” – emotional converting worship

Puritanism & American Values

Puritan Ethic with Enlightenment democratic political theories
The Puritan clergy of N.E. enthusiastically endorsed the revolution
& from their pulpits declared the colonists’ cause to be a just one…
The formation of the world’s first constitutional secular nation,
but whose soul was thoroughly religious.
– Rev. Dr. Chittum

Missions & The Second Great Awakening 1800-1865

Opening new territories drew Puritan settlers
Plan of Union: Congregationalists & Presbyterians 1801-1852
Global Missions established with enthusiasm (ABCFM)
Native American missions & resisting relocation
Sunday School Society & Foundation of Western Universities
Second spiritual revival; missions & social reform
Millennial hopes: Gospel world peace & idealism till Jesus’ return

The Social Gospel Movement 1865-1950

Growing urban populations in the U.S.: human crisis & injustice
Asked “What Would Jesus Do?” & “What should churches do?”
         Pastors & churches engaged in addressing emerging social crisis
Saw gospel opportunity. Took guidance from OT prophets & Jesus
Council for Social Action 1934, ground breaking for it’s day but
declared “un-American” by some. Social Justice & Civil Rights 60’s
Our own congregation formed during these times:1852
(Missions, 2nd Gr.Awakening, Civil War, Abolition & Social Gospel)

Mergers and Not

National meeting in Boston 1865: ecumenical awareness of unity
National body of Congregationalists at Oberlin, Ohio 1871
Divergent thoughts & diverse efforts toward unifying
General Council of the Congregational & Christian Churches 1931
20th cent. More historical & critical approach to Scripture
Emphasis on Jesus’ teachings, not historical creeds & literal read
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference 1945
United Church of Christ 1957
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches 1955

“God hath yet more truth and light to break out of his Holy Word.”

[EDIT: I ended by claiming that I had kept the message to just about 20 minutes, but realized later that I had actually gone over to 24 minutes.]


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