Transcribed from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Congregational Church.—This name is applied to a religious denomination in the United States and the English colonies which assumes to follow the New Testament with regard to church administration, and the idea of the primitive and apostolic church. The doctrine of the early Congregationalists was a kind of general Puritan or Presbyterian Calvinism, while that of the modern church may he classed under the general head of Evangelical, but holding broadly to the general characteristics of the older Protestantism. Although no creed statement is binding on a local church, except that which it voluntarily adopts, the Congregationalist gatherings have adopted confessions of faith.

The Congregational church is based on local organization, each congregation being competent to elect its officers, admit members, make rules for church discipline, state its faith and order its worship in a manner best adapted to the local needs, and its affairs are decided by the vote of the congregation, under the moderatorship of a minister, if there be one in office. In the United States the Congregational churches are united by three permanent representative bodies: the local association or conference, the state association, and the national council, while the mutual fellowship that exists between the churches was strengthened by the formation of the International Congregational Council, with appointed delegates from the churches of all lands, which met first in London in 1891.

The rise of this religious organization began with the dissensions during the English Reformation, and though Luther saw a system similar to Congregationalism in the New Testament, the time did not come during his life, when the reformed church could lay aside civil authority in its struggle against Rome. In 1567 a body of men and women met in London and formed a rudimentary type of Congregational church, and though it did not last, the Congregational system was set forth so as to come to the attention of Robert Browne, a student at Cambridge, who established a Congregational church at Norwich in 1580, but meeting with opposition, the church members emigrated from England and located in Holland. Other Congregational churches were established in England, but the real founder of the church was John Smith, who gathered a congregation in 1602 at Gainsborough. Other churches soon formed on this model, the most important at Scrooby under John Robinson. Both these churches sought refuge in Holland and from there in 1620, came to New England and formed the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts bay. From the arrival of the first in 1620 to the last of the Leyden associates nearly ten years later, the colony in all numbered only about 300 souls. The Puritans came to America in 1629 to avoid persecutions in England, and located at Salem, Mass., where the first Puritan church was erected as a Congregational church, the second in New England. The Puritan immigration continued until 1640, and in 1643 the four Congregational colonies united in a confederacy. With settling up of New England, educational institutions were established by the church—notably Harvard and Yale Colleges—and missionary work was begun among the Indians.

The first Congregational synod was held at Boston in 1837. It was a representative body and had lay delegates, which distinguished it from the ministerial convention and marked its democratic character. The Westminster Confession, previously approved at Cambridge, was superseded or modified in Massachusetts and Connecticut and subsequently in the other colonies.

A great revival took place about the middle of the eighteenth century and at the same time emigration from New England began to take settlers beyond the mountains and these people carried their faith with them, which ultimately led to the planting of Congregational churches in the great valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi and from there spread across the continent to the western states on the coast. When migration first began from New England churches were first established in western New York, then followed down the Ohio and the multiplication of organizations kept pace with opening up of the new territory in the northwest and northern states. In 1871, the national council of Congregational churches in the United States was formed, which usually meets every third year, though special sessions may be called.

Missionaries were sent to Minnesota and Missouri and Congregationalism introduced there early in the nineteenth century. From there it moved on westward and when the territories of Kansas and Nebraska were organized in 1854, the Congregationalists were among the first to become established in the newly organized territories. The first Congregational church organization in Kansas was perfected at Lawrence in Sept., 1854, by S. Y. Lum, a missionary from New York. The first sermon was preached on Oct. 1, 1854, a few months after the first free-state settlers had located in the town. Two years later Plymouth church was organized in the spring and a church building started which was completed in 1862, this being the first church edifice of this organization in the state. Most of the early Congregational societies were established by immigrants who had belonged to the church in the east. In 1871, Richard Cordley, for years pastor of the Congregational church at Lawrence, wrote: "All denominations are represented in Kansas. The Congregationalists have some strong societies, especially in the southern part of the state."

The first sermon in Shawnee county was preached in Topeka by Samuel Lum in 1854. The members of the congregation met in a log cabin of James Cowles on Oct. 14, 1855, to consult with regard to the formation of an anti-slavery Congregational church, and an organization was perfected on July 14, 1856. The town company of Topeka donated lots and a building was soon erected. Lewis Bodwell was the first pastor. The Congregational church at Manhattan was established on April 22, 1855, being the second of the denomination between the Mississippi river and the Rocky mountains, Lawrence being the first. The first services at Manhattan were held in a tent, which was succeeded by a log cabin, and it in turn was followed by a frame building, the material for which was brought up the river by boat. On Jan. 6, 1856, the church was formally opened at the home of Dr. Amory Hunting. Forty town lots were contributed to the church which gave it a good start and the building was dedicated on July 24, 1859, when Charles E. Blood became the first regular minister. A. L. Adair organized a church at Osawatomie in April, 1856, and services were held in a school house until 1861, when a church was erected. As early as June, 1857, services were held at Atchison by J. H. Byrd, a Congregational minister, and on March 20, 1859, a church organization was perfected there. In Jefferson county, the first Congregational church was organized in 1857 with eight members, the first pastor being O. L. Woodford, and the following year a church building was erected. In 1858 churches were organized at Leavenworth, with 27 members; Wyandotte, where S. D. Storrs, a missionary from Quindaro, had preached for some time; at Emporia, Lyon county, where in 1859 a building was erected.

By 1875 there were 157 Congregational church organizations in the state, with 59 church edifices and a membership of 5,620. In 1886 there were 132 organizations, 122 church buildings and an aggregate membership of 9,361. The increase in the next four years was rapid, as in 1890 there were 202 organizations, with a membership of 12,053 members. In 1906 the Congregational church ranked eighth in Kansas in number of members, having 15,247 communicants.

Pages 397-399 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.