Congregationalism came to America with the Puritans and Pilgrims beginning in the 1620s and 30s. The Puritans were seeking freedom to practice Christianity as the early Christians of the New Testament did. As believers freely choosing to follow Jesus Christ and accepting full responsibility for their relationship with God without the dictates of king or pontiff.
Today, First Church still identifies as Congregational and this affects our structure and faith practice in distinct ways.
Congregational churches like First Church accept Jesus Christ as the sole head of the church and are autonomous and self-governing, free of any outside authority and owing allegiance only to the teaching of Christ and the leading of God’s Spirit. The congregation meets together regularly for worship, prayer, study, and ministry and at least once a year at an Annual Meeting to discuss matters of business and to gain consensus through discernment and prayerful discussion. The congregation elects its own leadership, calls its Senior Minister, and manages its own funds and finances, ministry, and missions.
Congregational churches have a well developed sense of covenant not as a means of control but as a sacred freewill bond that honors and emulates the presence, grace, and love of God in relationships. Our members live in covenant with one another forming the church and we live in covenant with our sister churches in the United Church of Christ and the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. The regional and national settings of these Congregational traditions speak “to” and not “for” the local church since mutual respect for diverse expressions of sincere Christian belief is a primary conviction of the Congregational way.