Congregationalism began in England in the early 1600’s and was born out of the Protestant reformation and the desire for separation from the Church of England. Influenced by the teachings of John Calvin, a Puritan movement was established which sought to purify the church of Roman Catholic beliefs and practices, and to oversee individual churches locally rather than ecclesiastically by bishops or other centralized denominational leaders. These separated, Puritan churches were governed by their local congregations and quickly became known as Congregationalists. Because of their actions, they suffered persecution by the British government and state sponsored church. Believing that reformation of the Church of England was not possible, a group within the Puritans, know as Separatists, decided to leave England to establish more religious freedom in the New World. These early Congregationalists set sail on the Mayflower in 1620 and established their first settlement at Plymouth Plantation. Eventually the Separatists formed an association with other New England Puritan settlers and these early Congregationalists became a dominant force both religiously and culturally in the region.The First Congregational Church of Holden is governed in much the same way as those first churches of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. At the head of the church is Jesus Christ. Our church is subject to the control of no other ecclesiastical body. Our pastor and all church officers are congregationally elected. All spiritual and business matters are decided by the local church leaders and the congregation, under the guidance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The church membership meets twice a year to vote on the annual budget, to receive the annual committee reports, to select officers, and to vote on other matters that come before the congregation. Each member of the First Congregational Church of Holden is entitled to one vote at each congregational meeting.
How We Operate
We are a "congregational" church run solely by the members of the congregation - guided by the Holy Spirit and yielding to the authority of Jesus Christ as revealed to us in scripture and in life.
It is hard to diagram exactly how our church is governed, but right under the Lord Jesus Christ come the members of the church. This is why membership in a congregational church is such a big responsibility and a privilege. Members elect the Pastor and Leadership Council and Team Members (for at least three year terms). These all carry out various functions in keeping with the Purpose and Vision of the church. The Leadership Council along with the Senior Pastor governs the everyday affairs of the church. Big matters still come before the entire congregation for a vote. (For complete details see our Church Bylaws)
Polity (as stated in Article III of our Church Bylaws)
A. This church is subject to the control of no other ecclesiastical body, although it sustains a cooperative relationship through membership in the United Church of Christ
B. The government of this church is vested in its members who exercise the right of control in all its affairs, subject to the Articles of Incorporation granted it on December 24,1888, by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
C. In matters not provided for in these bylaws, the church shall be governed by established practice of the United Church of Christ.
The United Church of Christ
While we govern ourselves independently, we recognize a wider unity within the United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC is "a community of faith that seeks to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. The UCC was founded in 1957 as the union of several different Christian traditions: from the beginning of our history, we were a church that affirmed the ideal that Christians did not always have to agree to live together in communion. Our motto-‘that they may all be one'-is Jesus' prayer for the unity of the church. The UCC is one of the most diverse Christian churches in the United States." (from the UCC web site www.ucc.org ).
As a result of such a wide diversity and the freedom of each church to determine its own faith and practice we find that sometimes we agree and other times we do not; some UCC resolutions reflect the faith and practice of our church while others do not. This arrangement is freeing to some but confusing to others (talk to our Pastor or a Deacon if you have any questions or concerns). We do strive for a greater and gracious unity with other churches within our own denomination and even across denominational lines.