What is a Congregational Church?

First and foremost, a Congregationalist church is a Christian church.  All that we are, past, present, and future, resides in the grace of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Members of Pilgrim Congregational Church are bound to one another by a covenant that expresses our faith in Christ and our commitment to the Church

Congregationalists, as a Christian denomination, trace their origins to the late 1500’s and early 1600’s when Separatists in England refused to submit to the authority of the Church of England.  These English Christians believed, just as we do, today, that each gathered congregation of Christians is independent and free to determine its own direction.  They suffered widespread persecution, including loss of property and social standing.  Many of them fled to Holland and a small number of them began planning their escape to the New World. 


In 1620, about 40 members of Separatist churches boarded the Mayflower that delivered them to Cape Cod Bay after a very difficult 3-month journey.  In the decades that followed, Congregational churches in the colonies of the New World grew and developed, especially in New England.  They were responsible for the establishment of the first colleges in America, Harvard in 1636 and Yale in 1701.  Pilgrim Congregational Church continued this tradition, providing support for the establishment of Pomona College in 1887. 

In addition to the autonomy of the local church and the importance of education, Congregationalists emphasize the priesthood of the believer.  This is the belief that every member of the Church is a priest, bearing the responsibility of priests to serve both God and their fellow human beings.


At Pilgrim Congregational Church we have committed ourselves to living these Congregational values and principles.  We believe that we are all responsible for the church and its ministries.  The senior minister and other professional staff are hired to lead the spiritual development of the church, but the responsibility for the ministries of the church lie, ultimately, with the members.  In annual and called meetings, members approve all major decisions in the church, including hiring of ministers, the annual budget, and approval of nominated lay leadership on the Church Council and the Church Boards.


Pilgrim Congregational Church contributes to and affiliates with the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) and the Cal West Conference of Congregational Churches, NACCC.  These affiliations are completely voluntary and do not entail any doctrinal or institutional encumbrances.