The Congregational Tradition of the United Church of Christ
For more than three centuries, the Kingston Congregational Church has practiced Christian faith and community in southern and central Rhode Island. Through all our life together, generation after generation, our faith has been rooted in the teachings of Jesus, who proclaimed the Kingdom of God in our midst. Our Congregational faith heritage stretches back to the Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation, and to the other English dissenters who founded the colonies of early New England.
Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, was trained and ordained as a Congregational minister and served as Pastor of the Congregational Church in Salem, Massachusetts when he arrived from England. In many ways, we take inspiration from him, as one who thought outside the confines of his time, who challenged rigid dogmas, and helped create a safe place for the free practice of religion and the separation of church and state.
Our faith, then, is ancient, but our thinking is not.
We are a member congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a mainstream, non-fundamentalist denomination that is the largest Protestant denomination in New England. Almost every town in the region has a Congregational/UCC church, often one with a white steeple visible at some distance.
The motto of our faith tradition is Jesus’ great prayer, “That they may all be one.” (John 17:21) In keeping with his hope, we strive for unity in our fellowship, that we may live in harmony and mutual regard, that we may bear witness to the love of God and share the peace of Christ in our hearts.
Though we seek unity, we value the most ranging diversity. We invite and welcome those with widely divergent religious backgrounds, perspectives, and ways of life. We respect the freedom of conscience of all people, practice open and honest dialogue about our lives and our faith, and learn from our disagreements as much as from our agreements. We are deeply committed to the Christian faith, but we have no set creed to which members must consent.
We practice what is called Open Communion, welcoming everyone present to partake in the sacrament of Communion, whether they are believers, doubters, seekers, or questioning travelers in the Spirit. Our church’s motto is:
No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
We believe that God’s Word is a Living Word. We look to the Scriptures to understand the Good News that Jesus preached, to understand the great Kingdom of God he constantly taught throughout his ministry. We do not seek to interpret the Bible literally, since Jesus himself taught almost exclusively in parables, metaphors and other figures of speech.
We understand it as the responsibility of each generation of the faithful to interpret, in prayer and mutual discernment, the meanings of Jesus’ teachings for our time and place. We believe our God is still speaking and acting in the world. We affirm the famous words of one of our Congregational ancestors, the Rev. John Robinson, that, “There is yet more light to break forth from God’s Holy Word.” We pray with Jesus that God’s kingdom will come, here “on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6.10)
We encourage the full participation of every person in the whole life of the church —no matter their age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social location, physical, or cognitive ability. We are an Open and Affirming Church. We honor the clear teaching of the Scriptures that we “are all God’s children,” created and beloved by God. (Galatians 3.26) We believe that each member of our church family has talents, insights, skills, and gifts that can and should be shared in the ministries of the church to all persons.
We are part of what is called the Free Church Tradition, meaning that we have no hierarchy, no structure of authority that dictates to us what to believe or do, or how to worship. We have no bishops or others who in any way preside over us. Our democratic organizational structure means that all church members participate directly in our church’s decision-making, as well as in all our ministries.
Seeking to put our faith into action, we try in every way we can to enact Jesus’ call to care for the most vulnerable among us, reaching beyond our congregation to minister to those who need to experience the love of God in tangible ways. We are committed to seeking and doing justice, remembering the words of the prophet Micah, that we are to “do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6.8) And remembering the words of Isaiah, read by Jesus himself, in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4.18-19)
The Mission Statement of the Kingston Congregational Church is very simple:
We are a Christian Church that supports each person’s spiritual journey through the communal pursuit of worship, learning, and service.
We live with constant awareness that the timeless God of our faith calls us into a new and challenging future of devotion and service, so we seek to open ourselves to discerning God’s word for our present time and for the future God would have for us. And we warmly welcome all who would be with us, traveling companions in the Spirit, as we share the future of God’s kingdom among us.