This article was found in the November 1952 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church
Being the tenth imaginary letter from an imaginary uncle to imaginary twins.
Dear Jack and Betty,
As you know I came to South Street Church last Sunday to hear you make your promise and to see you receive the right hand of fellowship, and during that short ceremony I saw something else. I glanced at your mother and father and saw them thrilled with joy as they watched their children joining the same family Church where they themselves had worshipped for so long. I saw the light of thankfulness in their eyes that the great decisions had been made and heard in the prayer in their hearts that our Heavenly Father would give those children help and strength to fight the good fight in the years ahead. You will need those prayers, for the Christian way of life is not easy. Never forget that Christ needs you young people, too. He needs the passion and enthusiasm of youth for it is to you we shall have to look now for the Great Revival of the 20th century.
Now I am almost to the last of my letters and I must hurry on for my self imposed task is nearly finished.
We now come to the history of the last 100 years or so. Some of it is within the memory of those older members of the Churches still with us today. To cover adequately the activities of the Congregational Union of England and Wales would take a long time and I can only give you the barest outline. To start with it covers a period of over 100 years. During these years the tendency of Congregational Churches has been towards the centre. I do not think it could be challenged if I say that in recent years the tide has been running stronger than ever in this direction.
Here is a list of some of the outstanding achievements of the Union:-
"The growth of these funds and the increased activities of the National and County Unions provide one of the supreme tests for Congregationalism. It is not easy for a Union to allow a Church to be independent when it is being furnished with financial aid and when perhaps it persists in doing things which appear foolish to the Union's officers. With every increase in the central funds and in the power of organised Congregationalism there must be a corresponding increase in the vigour of the independent churches, a renewed sense of the presence of Christ in the midst of His people, if true Congregationalism is to survive. With more provision made for the support and superannuation of ministers there must be a parallel increase in the spirit of adventure in the Ministry if the work of the Church of Christ is to be adequately performed. If the churches come to rely on Unions for support rather than on their own efforts allies to the leading of the Divine Spirit, the time of decay is at hand. If Congregationalism ever becomes a safe and static things it is doomed. With every improvement in organisation for increase of efficiency in denominational machinery, there must be in the churches a more alert understanding of the Will of God, a speedier grasping of opportunities of service and a more ready adaptation to changing circumstances."
And here are two further extracts from the same source:-
"In forms of worship, too, there have been developments, though here perhaps the greatest conservatism of all is manifest. There is, however, an increasing willingness to make use of both silence and of some liturgical elements in the worship of the churches, and the old uniformity with its two lessons and a 'long prayer' is breaking down. It is recognised that here again Congregationalism must be willing to experiment. Forms of worship are not sacrosanct, whether they have come down unchanged for a couple of centuries or whether they arrive steaming hot from a Country Secretary's office or a Moderators' meeting. Once again the churches have to be prepared to be led by the Spirit into new ways."
And the second extract:-
"We have seen that Congregationalism has no formal creed. It does not believe that men said in the first, the fourth, or the sixteenth century the final word about the things of God. It holds that the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth and is still making His ways known to men."
Next month I shall conclude these letters with a brief summary of Congregationalism and what it stands for.