What role did the Congregational church play in the life of New England villages?
Frank W. Blackmar (2002) says the name Congregational Church “is applied to a religious denomination in the United States and the English colonies which assumes to follow the New Testament” (p. 1). Congregational churches played a large role in the life of New England villages. The history of the Congregational Church along with its growth and development led to prosperous religious communities within a multitude of New England villages.
According to Henry J. Sage (2007), the Congregational Church was a “religious system that emphasized local control and independence” (p. 2). Each person enjoyed the ability to make decisions for himself/herself. Sage says that the Puritan political structure and religion were closely connected, so the congregational system often overlapped into their civic institutions. A result of this is the “New England town meeting”-a pure form of democracy. A New England town meeting was a form of democracy in the way that people got to make suggestions and aid in decisions that would affect their lifestyle and the rules and laws of their village. This was testimony to the idea of self-government. “They recognized no higher authority than the Bible” (Sage, 2007, p. 2). The Bible is still important to day, but not all people take the Bible as literally as the people of the Congregational Churches in New England would have. According to Course-Notes.Org (2010), “the Congregational Church had grown out of the Puritan Church, and was formally established in all the New England colonies except independent minded Rhode Island” (p. 1). Sage (2007) states, “the forces that led to the settlement of New England… stemmed from the religious controversy begun by Martin Luther’s Reformation movement” (p. 1). According to Blackmar (2002), the Congregational Church came as a result of the “dissensions during the English Reformation” (p. 1). Congregational Churches began to be established after, in 1567, a group of men and women formed a Congregational church in London. This church did not last but set a Congregational system into effect. Blackmar determines the “real founder of the church” to be John Smith, “who gathered a congregation in 1602 at Gainsborough” (p. 1). The New Englanders managed to create a society based on religious belief. Today societies may still be somewhat based on religion, but not as seriously or devotedly as the members of the Congregational Church. Their faith came to be known as Congregationalism (Sage, 2007, p. 2). The people of this church followed the New Testament “with regard to church administration, and the idea of the primitive and apostolic church” (Blackmar, 2002, p. 1). Blackmar (2002) goes on to describe the basis of the Congregational Church. He states that this church is based on local organization. The congregation is “competent to elect its officers, admit members, make rules for church discipline, state its faith and order its worship.. its affairs are decided by the vote of the congregation” (Blackmar, 2002, p.1). This system is similar to many forms of government today. Some of our governmental forms could be partially attributed to the way that the Congregational Church was run. Furthermore, Sage (2007) explains that the Puritans were passionate people. They strived for a vivid life. The Puritans worked hard and “saw themselves as stewards of God’s bounty” (p. 2). A common belief among the Puritans was that one that through pleasing God, one’s life would be successful. Prosperity was seen as a positive aspect of life. Although the Congregational Church was one that dominated the region of New England, it was not the only major religion of the time. According to Course-Notes.Org (2010), another established religion was the Anglican Church. These two churches were both tax-supported (pg 1). Course-Notes.Org (2010) states “Puritan New England was more interested in education than any other section” (p. 2). Since New England was primarily dominated by the Congregational Church, “it stressed the need for Bible reading by the individual worshiper” (Course-Notes.Org, 2010, p. 2). Although Puritans took a mainly congregational approach to community, they believed in individualism. They felt that each person had the right to interpret the Bible in their own way. All of these things led to growth among the Congregational Church. Statistics in Blackmar’s article show that there were 157 Congregational church organizations in the state of Kansas by 1875. There were also fifty-nine church edifices and a membership of about 5,620 (p. 1). Membership in the Congregational Church continued to spread throughout New England and throughout the country.
Congregational Churches in New England were especially important in developing morals and values among the village people. They greatly improved the lives of many people.



The Congregational Church's role in New England:

The following link shows a picture of a church from the late 1800's:
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http:www.lodi.gov/100/photos/CongregationalChurch.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.lodi.gov/100/history.html&usg=drybkrQe1BIqfwl5OOPEpC4sfYM=&h=698&w=1093&sz=516&hl=en&start=0&sig2=ffwKB7aJHLdguZzbFLVJ2A&zoom=1&tbnid=zT-MlBCSE5dDrM:&tbnh=109&tbnw=171&ei=4AB1TZ2WLsL-8Ab-r4GUDw&prev=/images%3Fq%3DCongregational%2BChurch%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D759%26bih%3D490%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=666&oei=4AB1TZ2WLsL-8Ab-r4GUDw&page=1&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0&tx=32&ty=14


This link shows a sign explaining the origin of Congregational Churches:
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http:www.examiner.com/images/blog/replicate/EXID50243/images/PlymouthCongregational_02.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.examiner.com/city-guide-in-lansing/plymouth-congregational-church-michigan-historical-marker&usg=mFF40cfmstj4gLoe5vRtKNoz_Pw=&h=500&w=375&sz=60&hl=en&start=0&sig2=2yK3C0o4-rJC8nUOcPyR_A&zoom=1&tbnid=RU3YJsnYZ3cyxM:&tbnh=186&tbnw=194&ei=qwF1TfaCGcL38AahkpyPDw&prev=/images%3Fq%3DCongregational%2BChurch%2Band%2BPuritan%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D759%26bih%3D490%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:10%2C159&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=168&vpy=121&dur=815&hovh=259&hovw=194&tx=130&ty=98&oei=qwF1TfaCGcL38AahkpyPDw&page=1&ndsp=6&ved=1t:429,r:3,s:0&biw=759&bih=490

These links help to aid in the understanding of Congregational Churches in New England.


Works Cited:
Sage, Henry J. (2007). The Puritans of New England. Colonial New England. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from http://www.academicamerican.com/colonial/topics/puritannewengland.html.

Chapter 05 - Colonial Society on the Eve of Revolution 1700-1775. Course-Notes.Org. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from http://www.course-notes.org/US_History/Notes/The_American_Pageant_12th_Edition_Textbook_Notes/Chapter_5_Colonial_Society_on_the_Eve.

Blackmar, Frank W. (2002). Congregational Church. Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ...?. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from http://skyways.lib.ks.us/genweb/archives/1912/c/congregational_church.html.



By: Maggie Hussey