First Congregational Church of Albany
First Congregational Church of Albany

"Congregational 101"

Included below are some of the important people, places, terminology and theology that have become part of our heritage and tradition at First Congregational Church.

Abolitionism: One of the social reform movements advanced by the Congregational denomination. Abolitionism was the term given to the movement to end slavery.

Annual Meeting: The Annual Meeting of the church is held on the third Sunday of May. At this meeting, annual reports are be made, election of officers to boards and committees is held, and other business takes place as needed.

Browne, Robert:  - Many Congregational churches claim their descent from a family of Protestant denominations formed on a theory of union published by the theologian Robert Browne in 1592. These arose from the Nonconformist religious movement during the Puritan reformation of the Church of England. In Great Britain, the early congregationalists were called separatists or independents to distinguish them from the similarly Calvinistic Presbyterians. Some congregationalists in Britain still call themselves Independent. There had been early advocates of a congregational form of organization for the Church of England, in the time of Henry VIII. When it became clear that the English government had other plans, these advocates looked towards setting up a separate church. By 1580 Browne attempted to set up a separate Congregational Church in Norwich, Norfolk, England. He was arrested but released on the advice of William Cecil, his kinsman. Browne and his companions were obliged to leave England and moved to Middelburg in the Netherlands in 1581. They are briefly mentioned in Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night (a play written with performance before Queen Elizabeth in mind), when Sir Andrew tells us "I would as lief be a Brownist as a politician". The family seat, Tolethope Hall is now home to the Stamford Shakespeare Company.

Church Council: The Church Council meets bimonthly to receive reports from the church boards, committees and other elected officers. This helps to co-ordinate the meetings and activities of the church. Church Council meetings are open. 

Communion: Also known as "Eucharist" or "The Lord's Supper" is celebrated in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the Last Supper as recorded in several books of the New Testament. This instruction states that Jesus' followers partake the bread and wine in remembrance of Him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, "This is my body", and gave them the cup, saying, "This is my blood."

Congregation: A gathering of the faithful in a Christian church, Jewish synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. 

Congregationalist Polity: A system of church governance in which every local church congregation is independent, ecclesiastically sovereign, or "autonomous." The church is self-supporting and governed by its own members. Some churches band into loose voluntary associations with other congregations that share similar beliefs, however, these churches are still independently governed. What makes congregationalism unique is its system of checks and balances, which constrains the authority of the minister, the lay officers, and the members. Most importantly, the boundaries of the powers of the ministers and church officers are set by clear and constant reminders of the freedoms guaranteed by the Gospel to the laity, collectively and individually. With that freedom comes the responsibility upon each member to govern himself or herself under Christ. This requires lay people to exercise great charity and patience in debating issues with one another and to seek the glory and service of God as the foremost consideration in all of their decisions. The authority of all of the people, including the officers, is limited in the local congregation by a definition of union, or a covenant, by which the terms of their cooperation together are spelled out and agreed to. Finally, the congregational theory strictly forbids ministers from ruling their local churches by themselves. Not only does the minister serve by the approval of the congregation, but committees further constrain the pastor from exercising power without consent by either the particular committee, or the entire congregation. It is a contradiction of the congregational principle if a minister makes decisions concerning the congregation without the vote of these other officers. 

Consubstantiation: The theological doctrine that, during communion, the body and blood of Christ are represented alongside the physical bread and wine which remain present. In England in the late 14th century, there was a political and religious movement that supported consubstantiation (that the Eucharist remained physically bread and wine, while becoming spiritually the body and blood of Christ). This movement survived until the time of the English Reformation. In literature the conflict between consubstantiation and transubstantiation (where the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ) was satirically described in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels as war between Lilliput and Blefuscu.

Diaconate: The ecclesiastical officers of the church. The Diaconate assists the pastor in the spiritual care of the church, aids in the administration of the Lord's Supper, provides for the pulpit in the absence or at the request of the pastor, receives applications for church membership, and cares for the sick and needy.  The Diaconate also oversees the quality and conduct of Christian education and retains general supervision of the ecclesiastical affairs of the church not otherwise provided for. The Diaconate elects its own officers and determines its own procedure.

First Congregational Church and Society of the City of Albany, New York: The official name of the First Congregational Church of Albany

Harvard University: Founded by Congregationalists and later became a center of Unitarian training.

National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC): An association of churches providing fellowship for and services to churches from the Congregational tradition. The Association maintains its national office in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee and was founded in 1955 by former clergy and laypeople of the Congregational Christian Churches in response to that denomination's pending merger with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ in 1957.

Pilgrims: Early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their leadership came from the religious congregations of English Dissenters who had fled the volatile political environment in the East Midlands of England for the relative calm and tolerance of Holland in the Netherlands. The Pilgrims' story of seeking religious freedom has become a central theme of the history and culture of the United States.The Pilgrims sought to establish at Plymouth Colony a Christian fellowship like that which gathered around Jesus himself. Pilgrims contributed to the development of Congregationalist theology and ideas of church government. Jonathan Edwards, considered by some to be the most important theologian produced in the United States, was also a Congregationalist.

Presbyterianism: Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition. Theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of gracethrough faith in Christ. The history of Congregational churches in the United States is intertwined with that of American Presbyterianism, especially in New England where Congregationalist influence spilled over into Presbyterian churches farther west. Some of the first colleges and universities in America, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth,Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst, all were founded by the Congregationalists, as were later Carleton, Grinnell, Oberlin, and Pomona. 

Sacraments: The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper shall be observed at least on the first Sunday of each month from October through June. Invitation to this Sacrament shall be extended to "all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth and are earnestly seeking to follow Him".  Children may receive the Sacrament at the discretion of their parents. The Sacrament of Baptism either of child or adult shall be administered at such time and in such manner as the pastor and the Diaconate may appoint. 

Trustees: The corporate officers of the church. The Trustees shall have the care and custody of the property of the church and have charge of its financial affairs, but shall have no power to buy, sell, mortgage, lease or transfer real property without specific authority by vote of the church.  The Trustees elect their own officers and determine their own mode of procedure.

United Church of Christ (UCC): A mainline Protestant Christian denomination primarily in the Reformed tradition but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC. These two denominations had their roots in Congregational, Evangelical, and Reformed denominations. The UCC places emphasis on participation in worldwide interfaith and ecumenical efforts. United Church of Christ congregations are independent in matters of doctrine and ministry and may not necessarily support the national body's theological or moral stances.

Wood, Bradford R. (1800 - 1889): Practiced law in Albany before becoming counselor in the New York Supreme Court and later the United States Supreme Court. Elected Democrat to the 29th Congress and served as trustee of Albany Law School as well as vice president of Albany Medical College. Wood was one of the founders of the Republican Party and served as United States Minister to Denmark. Wood is credited with founding the First Congregational Church of Albany.  

Women's Suffrage: One of the social reform movements advanced by the Congregational denomination. Women's suffrage referrs to the right of women to vote on the same terms as men. In 1756, Lydia Chapin Taft became the first legal woman voter in colonial America. This occurred under British rule in the Massachusetts Colony.

Worship Service is held at 10:30am every Sunday and is followed by our Coffee Fellowship


405 Quail Street

Albany, New York 12208

(518) 482-4580

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