In 1632, only twelve years after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, some families had settled permanently in the Marshfield area. At their request, the church leaders allowed them to establish a congregation closer to their homes.

The Marshfield church was “the second church of God that issued out of the church of Plymouth,” the first being in Duxbury. The churches in Duxbury and Plymouth eventually switched to Unitarian Universalism, and are no longer Trinitarian Congregational churches. Other Trinitarian Congregational churches that were established by colonists who arrived in the New World after the Pilgrims also switched to Unitarian Universalism. As a result, the Marshfield congregation is now considered the oldest continuing Trinitarian Congregational church in America.

At first, our church met in homes, until our little congregation constructed its first building on land donated by William Thomas, near the present Winslow Cemetery. It was small and had a thatched roof. In 1706 the congregation constructed a meeting house in a more convenient location, a few yards to the east of the present site on Ocean Street. In 1759, a larger building was erected on the present site and eventually it was replaced with another. The current and fifth building was completed in 1838. Reverend Seneca White, whose portrait hangs in the narthex, became the tenth pastor at that time. Reverend White was a Trinitarian, and his calling as our pastor was in effect a vote to continue as a Trinitarian Congregational church, and not to switch to Unitarianism.

Edward Winslow, a Mayflower Pilgrim and governor of the Plymouth Colony, was a founder of the church. His marriage to the widow Susannah White in 1621 was the first in the colony. She was the mother of Peregrine White, the first child born to the Pilgrims in the New World on the Mayflower in 1620. Peregrine White became a member of the congregation in 1698. A son of Edward and Susannah, Josiah Winslow, later became the governor of Plymouth Colony.

The great statesman Daniel Webster attended the church for over twenty years. He owned two pews for his family in the front row and for his servant in the back. His funeral in 1852 was held on his estate, but at his request the service was conducted by Reverend Ebenezer Alden, then pastor of the church. The pew he occupied is marked by a plaque.

For generation after generation, The First Congregational Church of Marshfield has been a spiritual center in the community. For 378 years our church has inspired, encouraged and comforted families and individuals. We pray that with Divine Guidance our church will continue to serve God’s people for countless generations to come.

The below link is a file which was written and produced by Linda Ashley, a member of our church:

"In the Pilgrim Way" by Linda Ashley, a history of our Church"


AD 33    The church belonging to Jesus Christ established on the first Pentecost following His resurrection.

The movement to which the name came to be applied began in the 16th and 17th century in England in a revolt against the Established Church. Robert Browne published in 1582 the first theoretical exposition of Congregational principles and expressed the position of some of those separatists. Churches established on such lines were started very early in the 17th cent. in Gainsborough and Scrooby, but government opposition drove them into exile in Holland.

1603  King James, takes the throne upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and whose name is now revered with the King James Bible , said of the dissidents, “I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of the land!”    

1620 – We avoided Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Dark Ages, Famine, Black Plague, Rome, Henry 8th sword, a costly voyage across the ocean, and now lay our Faith onto you as our living testament that you may grow and prosper in religious freedom…
It should be noted that the Separatists, in total opposition to King James, did not accept the King James Version of the Bible. They used the Geneva Bible, published in Switzerland.

The original First Church of Plymouth counts 1620 as its establishment in this country, and its origins in Scrooby, England, in 1602, and subsequent removal to Leyden, Netherlands, in 1607, as actually predating any Congregational Church in this country.

1630  A Puritan group, led by John Winthrop, sailed into Boston Harbor with a fleet of ships, and by sheer numbers and better finances soon overshadowed Plymouth Colony. They formed a colony called Massachusetts Bay Colony. These two colonies existed side-by-side until 1692, when Massachusetts Bay absorbed Plymouth Colony to form the Colony of Massachusetts.

1632 - In the records of the First Church in Plymouth, under the date 1632 and written in the margin, are found these words:
In the beginning of the church of Marshfield was the second church of God that issued out of the church of Plymouth. From marginal notes in records of First Church in Plymouth; The Congregation was formed by a "gathering in homes of church without a minister".

1632 - The Plymouth Court set apart a tract of land for the support of the ministry in Marshfield in 1640.

1632 - The Cambridge Platform, a summary of principles of church government and discipline was drawn up.

1640 - Marshfield was recognized as a town and the minister was supported by the town which was identical with the parish until formation of the Second Church a century later.

1641 - The first church building, probably a small plain thached structure, was erected on land given by Edward Winslow near Winslow Cemetery.

1642 - Members of the congregation attended services armed as there was a danger of an attack from the Indians and hence at one time four guards were appointed as lookouts.

1643 - Kenelem Winslow was put under bonds for saying of the Marshfield Church that "they were all liars". Failing to find surety, he was imprisoned.

1646 A group of Massachusetts ministers asked the Massachusetts General Court (the colonial legislature) to call a special synod of the Congregational churches throughout New England for September 1646 to debate a number of questions which were troubling the Congregational churches regarding baptism and church membership"

1651 - William Thomas died and left a legacy of one hundred acres of land for support of the gospel; also a "draper cloth of 9 foot longe" for the communion table. A parsonage was erected on the same farm.

1653 -  The Town Meeting of July 7th "agreed that the meeting house shall be covered with good spruce or cedar boards, and that Josiah Winslow, Sr., and John Dingley shall agree with a workman, or workmen, for the doing of it".

1657 - The second church of the congregation was erected at a new location, near the present building. The old structure was sold for 50 shillings.

1657 - Anthony Ames, Moderator, noted, that:
“The inhabitants then present have concluded and agreed that the meeting house of the Town shall be builded and set up upon the land of Timothy Williamson near the training place, and the said Timothy Williamson and Joseph Rose, which is now tenant upon the said lands, are willing to consent therunto”.

1658   The Savoy Synod meets in London, over 100 churches were represented. With the Restoration came repression for the Independents, partly relieved by the Toleration Act of 1689.

1663 - Timothy Williamson conveyed by document to the town of Marshfield the common in front of the Congregational Church, South Marshfield.

1665 - The second building, then, was completed. Its exact location can be determined by finding the graves of Deacon William Ford and his wife, Sarah.

1696 - Reverend Edward Thompson, a graduate of Harvard, 1684, accepted the pastorate for 50 pounds a year.  He noted church members as "13 males and about 30 females" in the first church records kept. During his time, items recorded were the admission to the church of an Indian, the ordination of a deacon, and the occasion for discipline - which was the violation by the unmarried of the Seventh Commandment.

1698 - The first white child born in New England, Captain Peregrine White, in his 78th year became a member of the congregation. His two sons gave pewter cups for the Communion Service now on display in the foyer of the sanctuary.

The First Signs of Awakening

The sparks of revival were struck in New England. Solomon Stoddard's sermons in Northampton, Massachusetts had led to revivals breaking out as early as 1679. And after that, periodic revivals would occur and then die out. One of the reasons they would be extinguished was the smothering influence of the Enlightenment.
With the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica in the 17th century, traditional religious formulations had been under pressure. That is because implicit in the work of Newton and others was the assumption that human beings had the ability to discover the secrets of the universe and thereby exert some control over their own destiny.

1700's  Begin American Expansion and Independence

1706  A third meeting house was built, this one on the location of  our current building. It was forty-four feet by thirty-four feet, and had a "Turrett or Bellfree."

1707 - The fourth pastor, Reverend James Gardner, was ordained.  Services were conducted by Cotton Mather, Thomas Bridge, Benjamin Wadsworth and Ephraim Little, the latter a native of the town.
1733–1746   The Great Awakening was a period of crisis for the Congregational way. On the one hand, the evangelical wing of the church wished to return to the earlier ideal of a converted church of "visible saints." On the other hand, the liberal wing of the church, which was moving in a more latitudinarian direction, was offended by the emotionalism and lack of clarity of the evangelicals. The more extreme evangelicals withdrew from the state church system to establish their own separate churches, and many Boston-area liberals accelerated their movement toward Unitarianism. Some Congregational churches even disbanded after the Revolutionary War.

What historians call “the first Great Awakening” can best be described as a revitalization of religious piety that swept through the American colonies between the 1730s and the 1770s. That revival was part of a much broader movement, an evangelical upsurge taking place simultaneously on the other side of the Atlantic, most notably in England, Scotland, and Germany. In all these Protestant cultures during the middle decades of the eighteenth century, a new Age of Faith rose to counter the currents of the Age of Enlightenment, to reaffirm the view that being truly religious meant trusting the heart rather than the head, prizing feeling more than thinking, and relying on biblical revelation rather than human reason.

1741  Jonathan Edwards, a minister in Western Massachusetts, was truly a "fire and brimstone" preacher. His most famous sermon, was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, one of the classic sermons of all time.

1752 - After only fifty-two years, the church building was too small to hold all the people, so a fourth building was constructed. For a year or two, consideration had been given to cutting the existing building in two pieces and moving them apart, adding a section between them. But that seemed impractical, so the building was razed and

1775 The Revolution was a most trying time in all American towns, but in Marshfield in particular because of the unusually large number of loyalists.
It was here in the 1st Parish Meeting House that the notorious “Marshfield Resolves” were passed in town meeting, February 20, 1775. This was two months before the battles of Lexington and Concord. The leading Tory, Nathaniel Ray Thomas, had fled Marshfield for Boston but there were plenty of them left in town and most of them attended or were members of the Church.

June 19,1776 – “The King of Great Britain has become a tyrant… he has wantonly destroyed the property of Americans...he has passed acts of Parliament calculated to subjugate the Colonies… Alliance with him is now treason to our country, but we wait patiently till Congress, in whose council we confide shall declare the colonies independent of Great Britain. The inhabitants of this town, therefore, unanimously instruct and direct you that, if the Continental Congress shall think it necessary for the safety of the United Colonies to declare them independent of Great Britain, the inhabitants of this town with their lives and fortunes will support them in the measure”…
This document was delivered to the General Court by Deacon Nehemiah Thomas, Representative; thus making Marshfield one of the first towns to publicly declare for independence, preceding by fifteen days the national Declaration.
(It should be remembered that in 1776 the church and the government were one. The meeting house held both church services and town meetings. “ In spite of this “ our forefathers were able to build the free-est nation in the history of the world).

The Church lost a number of families after 1780, when a group of young Marshfield men decided to migrate to Maine. One of those was Nathaniel Kent who died soon after the move, and the town they founded was named “Kent’s Hill” in his memory.

1790–1840s - The Second Great Awakening  was a great religious revival in United States history and consisted of renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings.

1800's – Manifest Destiny, Benevolence, and Civil War

1801 The Plan of Union, an agreement between Congregational and Presbyterian churches to do joint missions in the Old Northwest Territory of the Great Lakes, again brought Congregationalists and Presbyterians together into what some called "Presbygational" church polity. While these churches were generally more tolerant about the inner workings of local church government, they reintroduced elder rule into Congregationalism—which, in turn, set an anti-elder faction into motion.

1810  The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions began its work; in 1826 the American Home Missionary Society was formed.
1805–25  Congregationalism is only one of the religious bodies derived from the congregational churches of colonial New England. In these years, the churches of the Standing Order divided into two groups. The liberal wing became a separate body called Liberal Christians, or Unitarian Congregationalists, and finally just Unitarians (see UNITARIANISM,). The other was called orthodox or Trinitarian Congregationalists, and then just Congregationalists.

The Standing Order, as it was called, came under attack in the 18th century by minority groups, particularly the Quakers, Baptists, and Anglicans. With the growth of religious pluralism, tax support for public worship became increasingly hard to justify, and the Standing Order was abolished in Connecticut in 1818; it was abolished in New Hampshire in 1819 and in Massachusetts in 1833.

Some call it the “Second American Revolution,” since it convinced Britain once and for all that this country could not be intimidated. But it was not universally supported then, and particularly in Coastal New England. Newspapers glued to the wall in a closet of the John Alden House in Duxbury, dated during that war, clearly show the objections to the war and to the embargoes against shipping that were enforced. Once again, there seemed to be no fallout within the Church itself.

1819  There was a revival of the Methodist Churches, under the preaching of Mr. Taylor, known as the “Seaman’s Preacher.”  Several members of the Congregational Church went to the Methodist Church at this time.   Several others went to the Baptist Church. The letters from those who left the Church at this time are still found in the records. However, there were fourteen new members in the Congregational Church, perhaps partially in response to the new interest in religion in general. From this year on, however, the membership continued to diminish.

1828  Luther Thomas, in consideration of $1, sold our church an acre of land. This appears to be part of the property where this Parish House now stands. This deed was not recorded until 1956.

1838 – 1847  The Ministry of Seneca White.

1838 - It was a real leap of faith to build this new church building. At the time “over this church there hung a cloud of spiritual desolation. The membership was down, probably to about twenty-five adults. Yet apparently these people decided that to attract new people and encourage the growth of the church, a new building was necessary.

1838  It was during this time that Daniel Webster and his family began attending the church when they were in Marshfield. At the auction of pews to raise money to build the church, Webster bought two pews, the front left for his family and the back left for his servants. His five children, all by his first wife, Grace, were baptized at the Brattle Street Church in Boston before he came to Marshfield. Two of the children were originally buried there.

1839 -  The Amistad case was an important milestone in Congregational history. In that case, a group of slaves overtook the vessel in which they were being transported, and killed the Captain and others. The Churches took up the cause, and led by John Quincy Adams, argued that since the slaves were being transported illegally, they were within their rights to resist. Eventually the slaves were released.

1846 The American Missionary Association, primarily devoted to missionary work among African Americans and Native Americans. The early part of the 19th century brought the Unitarian secession, when over 100 churches left the main Congregational body. The early part of the nineteenth century also saw the splitting off of the Unitarian churches, which were located primarily in the area around Boston. But Congregational parishes continued to thrive among the older, more static communities of New England. Along with the Federalist Party, many Congregational clergy opposed the War of 1812. A number of prominent Congregationalist women, such as Emma Willard, Catherine Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, took leading roles in promoting public school reform and opposing slavery.

1848 -  A systematic benevolence manifested itself in the establishment of the Ladies’ Benevolent Society. This organization was not limited to the First Congregational Church, then called the South Parish, but invited the community at large. Rev. Luther Farnham, who preached when Seneca White was unable to, encouraged the establishment of the Society and was a working member, even though his wife was ill and could not participate.

1853   Formed with the gift of 56 books from its owners' personal collections, the Congregational Library now holds 225,000 items documenting the history of one of the nation's oldest and most influential religious traditions.

1850s to the 1900s - The Third Great Awakening was a period of religious activism in American history. It affected pietistic Protestant denominations and had a strong sense of social activism. It gathered strength from the postmillennial theology that the Second Coming of Christ would come after mankind had reformed the entire earth. The Social Gospel Movement gained its force from the Awakening, as did the worldwide missionary movement. New groupings emerged, such as the Holiness movement and Nazarene movements, and Christian Science.

1865  In the years following the end of the Civil War, a series of mergers with a number of denominations brought churches of widely differing backgrounds into Congregationalism. The result being that "among modern conservative Congregational churches, it can accurately be said that 'Congregationalism,' as a term, is not used to describe a form of local church government; it is used to describe a method of inter church relations"

1871 - Congregational churches began to meet in local and then in statewide conferences, out of which developed the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States. But each local church remained free to make its own declaration of faith and free to decide its own form of worship.

1900's- Technology, Global Wars, and Social Change

1912 - There were ninety-two members of the church in. Again, the women were heavily in the majority, as there were only twenty-two men, including the minister and his son.     The Ladies Benevolent society had bought a clock for the church in 1855. In 1912, it was moved to the “sewing room” of the Parish Hall. In 2008 it is in the library and keeps almost perfect time.

Electricity was added to the Church in 1916, there was a large chandelier handing from a rosette in the center of the ceiling. Perhaps that rosette was there in the beginning.

1931   The trend toward broader fellowship and larger cooperation was notably indicated in the merging of the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States and the General Convention of the Christian Church (see Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) to form the General Council of the Congregational and Christian Churches of the United States. A move to unite the Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church was approved by the councils of the two denominations in 1957, forming the United Church of Christ. The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in 1955 by churches that chose not to join in the merger; it had about 70,000 members in 1997.The UCC is the largest church in the Congregational family. However, not all Congregational churches were content with the new body. In 2002 the somewhat liberal Congregational Christian Churches (continuing Congregational) had 70,000 members, down from 110,000 in 1973. By contrast, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, which opposed abortion rights and believed homosexuality to be a sin, had grown from 19,000 members in 1973 to 40,000 members in 2002. The Unitarian Universalist Association should be considered a member of the Congregational family. The Unitarians withdrew from orthodox Congregationalism in the early nineteenth century under the leadership of such eminent pastors as William Ellery Channing. Initially, the group stressed the unity of God, the revelation by Christ but not His divinity, a nonsubstitutionary doctrine of the atonement, and each human's ethical duties to his or her neighbor. The rise of transcendentalism in the 1830s further liberalized the movement, and the Unitarians have been moving progressively away from distinctively Christian affirmations since that time. Unitarians now stress an intellectual humanism rooted in the values of all religions.

1935 - The church pews remained in private ownership until 1935, though many families continued to sit in “their pew.” Through the years of ownership, visitors might be invited to sit with a family.

1947 - Central to their opposition was the belief that the merger would create unwieldy bureaucracies that might impinge upon the historic freedom of the local congregation, one of the few ideas that have united this otherwise theologically diverse fellowship. These concerns drove activists, beginning after World War II when talks between the national entities of the two merging denominations reached the point of preliminary organization planning, to persuade local Congregational Christian churches to refuse their support to this movement. These clergy and laypeople first organized at a meeting in Evanston, Illinois, in 1947 to express their concerns about not only the possible loss of autonomy on behalf of individual churches, but also their contentions that the General Council of the CC Churches possessed no authority to enter its churches into any legal union with another denomination. Other related issues were control over missionary funds and a possible diversion of some of them into ministerial pension annuities; fears of imposition of creeds, confessions, and neo-orthodox theology onto their ministers (who generally favored a 19th-century liberal, tolerant outlook); and ownership of church property in cases of congregations withdrawing from the proposed UCC.

1948 - Some Congregational (later Congregational Christian) churches took exception to the beginnings of a growth of authority in bodies outside the local church, such as mission societies, national committees, and state conferences.
Also, some congregations opposed liberalizing influences that appeared to mitigate traditional views of sin and subsequent corollary doctrines such as the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.
1948 - Some adherents of these two streams of thought (primarily the latter one) started a new fellowship, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the first major fellowship to organize outside of the mainstream Congregational body since 1825, when the Unitarians formally founded their own body.

1952  The Congregational Christian Historical Society assists local churches in preserving and celebrating their past. In cooperation with the Congregational Library, CCHS provides ideas for anniversary events and resources for church archivists. The Fagley and Guptill awards, conferred annually at the spring lecture series, honor the best anniversary volumes written by local church historians.
Congregational churches seek fellowship with other churches, but shun the lordship of one church or one body over another. Rather, Congregationalists believe that all born again Christians can be equally guided by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. However, for the sake of church government, more mature Christians are elected to rule, yet their decisions are subject to ratification by the ruled. Successful Congregational churches (unified in truth and Spirit) maintain a high view of Scripture (God's Word is infallible and sufficient), a high view of worship (not high liturgy, but worship in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit), a high view of the church (active participation in the life of the church), and a high view of calling to personal discipleship.
Congregationalists seek democratic life and organization, simplicity and vitality of faith, intellectual freedom to follow the dictates of conscience enlightened by the Holy Spirit, educational quality, evangelistic purpose, missionary zeal, social passion, nonsectarian fellowship, and unselfish devotion to the kingdom of God.
The object of a Congregational Church shall be to bind together the followers of Jesus Christ for the purpose of sharing in the worship of God and in making his will dominant in the lives of men and women, individually and collectively, especially as that will is set forth in the life, teachings, death, and living presence of Jesus Christ.

1954 - The church suffered a fire on Sunday morning, January 31, 1954. Most of the damage was confined to the front, near the pulpit. Part of the ceiling and all the windows had to be replaced (both frames, sills, and glass). By August 22, the work had been completed, and a service of rededication was held. The topic of the sermon, by Rev. George D. Hallowell, was “Except the Lord Build the House,” based on Psalm 127:1. Lawrence H. Mounce was Chairman of the Board of Trustees, which also included ErnestChandler, Benjamin Ellis,
John Nangle, Mrs. Ellis C. Rand, and C. Stafford Ryder. The building committee was
Mr. Mounce, Chairman, Wilfred Henderson, Louis B. Handy, Helmuth Weber, August Schatz, and Russell Chandler.

1957 - The General Council of Congregational Christian Churches in the U.S. merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. About 90% of the CC congregations affiliated with the General Council joined the United Church of Christ. However, some local churches abstained from the merger. Most of these congregations became members of either the CCCC (mentioned above) or the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, which came into being as a result of failed protest efforts against the UCC merger, the arguments for which revolved around governance concerns rather than theology; Congregational Christian-heritage churches of all theological persuasions belong to this group, much like the UCC. Still other congregations, not many in number, chose not to affiliate with any particular association of churches, or only with regional or local ones.

1957 - The United Church of Christ came into being with the union of two Protestant churches or "denominations." They were the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches.
The Congregational Churches were organized when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
1957 - The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) is an association of about 400 churches providing fellowship for and services to churches from the Congregational tradition. The Association maintains its national office in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. The body was founded in 1955 by former clergy and laypeople of the Congregational Christian Churches in response to that denomination's pending merger with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ in 1957.

1967 – FCC Marshfield joins UCC by a narrow majority.

1960s and early 1970s - The Fourth Great Awakening was a Christian religious awakening that some scholars say took place in the United States in the late 1960s. The terminology is controversial, with many historians believing the religious changes that took place in the USA during these years were not equivalent to those of the first three great awakenings. Thus, the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening itself has not been generally accepted. Whether or not they constitute an awakening, changes did take place. The "mainstream" Protestant churches weakened sharply in both membership and influence while the most traditional religious denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) grew rapidly in numbers, spread across the United States, had grave internal theological battles and schisms, and became politically powerful. Other evangelical and fundamentalist denominations also expanded rapidly. At the same time, secularism grew dramatically, and the more conservative churches saw themselves battling secularism in terms of issues such as gay rights, abortion and creationism. The NACCC has cordial relationships with a number of state and regional Congregational associations. These, however, are independent of the National Association, and the NA is likewise independent of them. Many Congregational Christian Churches choose to belong to both the NA and a state or regional association, but they are not required to belong to either.
In sum, it might well be said that the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches is a body purposely designed to have no power. It is designed this way so that local churches may enjoy the benefits of national fellowship without the slightest compromise of their freedom. For more information on Congregational history and polity, see The Congregational Way Series.

Recap of Origins in the United States

Many Congregational churches trace their descent from the original Congregational Church, a family of Protestant denominations formed on a theory of union published by the theologian Robert Browne in 1592 and arising from the Nonconformist religious movement in England during the Puritan reformation. In Great Britain, the early Congregationalists were called separatists or independents to distinguish themselves from the similarly Calvinistic Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists there still call themselves "Independents".

There are difficulties in identifying a specific beginning because Congregationalism is more easily identified as a movement than a single denomination, given its distinguishing commitment to the complete autonomy of the local congregation. The idea that each distinct congregation fully constitutes the visible Church can, however, be traced to John Wyclif and the Lollard movement which followed after Wyclif was removed from teaching authority in the Roman Catholic Church. The early Congregationalists shared with Anabaptist theology the ideal of a pure church, which made adult conversion experience important for full membership in the church, unlike other Reformed churches. As such, the Congregationalists were a reciprocal influence on the Baptists, differing from them in that they counted the children of believers in some sense members of the church unlike the Baptists, because of baptism.

Congregationalists include the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which were organized in union by the Cambridge Platform in 1648. These settlers had John Cotton as their most influential leader, beginning in 1633. Cotton's writings persuaded the Calvinist theologian John Owen to separate from the Presbyterian church, after which he became very influential in the development of Congregationalist theology and ideas of church government. Jonathan Edwards, considered by some to be the most important theologian ever produced in America, was also a Congregationalist.

The history of Congregational churches in the United States is closely intertwined with that of the Presbyterian church, especially in New England where Congregationalist influence spilled over into the Presbyterian church. The first colleges and universities in America, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst, all were founded by the Congregationalists, as were later Carleton, Grinnell, Oberlin, and Pomona.

Without higher courts to ensure doctrinal uniformity among the congregations, Congregationalists have been more diverse than other Reformed churches. Despite the efforts of Calvinists to maintain the dominance of their system, the Congregationalist churches, especially in New England, gradually gave way to the influences of Arminianism, Unitarianism, and transcendentalism. Thus, the Congregationalist churches were at the same time the first example of the American theocratic ideal and also the seed-bed from which American liberal religion and society arose. Even still, many Congregationalist Christians consider themselves to be Reformed first.  

A Congregational Christian Church is a church of self-governing Christian believers organized on a democratic basis. Congregationalists believe in a free church, one unfettered by established creeds and outside control, under the sole authority and leadership of Jesus Christ represented by the Holy Spirit. The free church insures true freedom of the individual before God, liberty of conscience, the autonomy of the local church, and the free fellowship of churches.
A Congregational Church acknowledges Jesus Christ as its head and finds in the Holy Scriptures, interpreted by the Divine Spirit through faith, conscience, and reason, its guidance in all matters of faith and practice. The government of the Church shall be vested in its members, who exercise the right of control in all its affairs.
While Congregational Churches recognize no superior denominational law, they accept all the obligations of mutual council, courtesy, and cooperation involved in the free fellowship of the Congregational Christian Church, and pledge themselves to share in the common aims and work of the Congregational Christian Churches in state associations or fellowships and in the national association.

Self-government under God is the distinct witness of churches of the congregational order. The small "c" is deliberate here in order to include denominations such as the Baptist and Unitarian, which have a polity like ours. It is worth remembering that the most popular polity in the United States is congregational. In practical terms, Autonomy means that a local Church is free from the bondage of ecclesiastical control. In our long, harsh struggle to maintain the autonomy and freedom of the local Church, we have unfortunately been forced to stress our principal doctrine to the exclusion of the second great truth of Congregationalism.

That truth is THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CHURCHES. In the New Testament we find the Churches associated with one another as equals, with neither one Church claiming authority over the others, nor the several Churches lording it over the one. The early Churches lived together in an atmosphere of mutual love, not in a relationship of dominance and submission. Congregationalists, following their example, have companied together because they wanted to, not because a book of discipline forced them to. Any ecclesiastical organization which attempts to define, describe, or delineate the life, work, and relationships of our Churches violates the Congregational principle of fellowship because it presumes to put in black and white what ought to be written only on the heart.

We covenant one with another to seek and respond to the word and the will of God. We purpose to walk together in the ways of the Lord, made known and to be made known to us. We hold it to be the mission of the church to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world, while worshipping God, and striving for truth, justice and peace. As did those who came before, we depend on the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us. We pray for the coming of the kingdom of God, and we look with faith toward the triumph of righteousness and eternal life.