Discovering our roots
Sixteenth century European Christianity was rocked by the Reformation begun when Martin Luther questioned the practice of indulgences being practiced by the Roman Catholic Church of the time. The Reformation soon spread throughout the Western branch of the church resulting not only in Lutheran, but also Reformed, Baptist, Quaker, and other denominations. In England the Church of England was birthed. Congregationalism was a revolt against the Established Church of England.
Congregationalists came to the Americas on the Mayflower, that famous ship bearing the Pilgrims which landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The passengers were members of John Robinson's congregation in Holland, originally of Scrooby, England. In New England numerous communities were established based on Congregational-type religious principles. In America Congregationalism reached its greatest public influence and largest membership. Congregationalists took a leading part in the Great Awakening, a religious revival that began in 1734 by the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, their most famous preacher.
Pilgrims were followed to the new world by the Puritans, another group from England, who protested the Church of England. Puritans wished to reform the church from within; the Pilgrims were known as separatists. Each year on the third Thursday of November citizens of the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday commemorates the celebration held jointly by the Pilgrims and native Americans rejoicing they had survived their first year in America.
In the 1800s Congregationalists turned to missionary work. In 1810 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions began its work; in 1826 the American Home Missionary Society was formed. These were followed in 1846 by the American Missionary Association. In the early part of the 19th century over 100 churches left the main Congregational body becoming Unitarian in doctrine. Then in 1931 the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States and the General Convention of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) merged to form the Congregational and Christian Churches of the United States.
In 1957 there was another merger between Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church. This resulted in what until this day is known as the United Church of Christ (UCC). The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in 1955 by churches that chose not to join in the merger. They often call themselves the "continuing" Congregational Churches.Eagle Rock Church is among this final group upholding the principles of faith, freedom, and fellowship known as the Congregational Way.