Tapton Hill Congregational Church
An independent church founded in 1853 - A member of the Congregational Federation  
  
 
 
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The Congregational Understanding of  ‘The Church’
 
To understand Congregationalism it’s important to be clear about what is meant by the word ‘church’, which has different meanings and interpretations. To many people a church is a building, but most Christians would say that a church consists of a set of people who have joined together in worship; they may or may not worship in a particular building.

All churches believe in the Universal Church which is sometimes called the Catholic Church (not the same as the Roman Catholic Church). This consists of all Christian worshippers everywhere. Congregationalists, along with many other Christians, think of the Universal Church as a spiritual reality that we pray with, and for; but it cannot be made into an earthly reality. For many Christians, the Universal Church also includes people who have died and are in Heaven.

Congregationalists believe that the most authentic form of earthly church is the local church, the place in which people meet together for worship, fellowship and good works. The idea of a national, or international church made up of people who have never even met troubles Congregationalists who don’t think it corresponds fully with the example of the early church. The early church was made up various churches that were independent of each other and which did not automatically accept outside authority, relying instead on the Holy Spirit to guide them through communal prayer and discussion.
 
Of course important figures such as Paul had great influence among these separate churches, even to the point where he expected his teaching and example to be followed in them - but he was an apostle, in one sense the founder of Christianity (or rather the person through whom Jesus founded Christianity). Paul's authority came from his experience of the Risen Christ, and he did not hold any formal title like a bishop or archbishop. Over the years many figures have had great influence throughout the churches (e.g. Billy Graham, CS Lewis, William Barclay, Martin Luther King, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer etc.) but they have never been officially authorative figures - the highest, and only authority in a Congregational church is the Church Meeting made up of all its members.
 
The church is also a place where Christians show the world something of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus and his early followers talked about so much. The Kingdom is a place of love, forgiveness and justice; in which the first become last and the last become first, the spiritually humble see God and the meek inherit the earth. Jesus demonstrated an important feature of the Kingdom when he washed his disciples’ feet. Given this example, how can it be right to make our churches into places where some people have more power, importance or authority than others?

Christians also believe that human nature is fallen, and that we can all be prey to temptations, including the temptations associated with having power and authority. This is another reason why power should be shared as widely as possible in the church.

We also believe that God gave the Holy Spirit to the Church (this is the meaning of Pentecost, or Whit Sunday) and this empowers us to come together spiritually to make decisions. The Holy Spirit is God’s (and Jesus’) gift to the Church, it doesn’t just reside in priests, bishops, or synods, but in all God’s people.
 
Another, more radical definition of the church is as a ‘Spirit gathered community’. According to this definition, a church only exists where the Holy Spirit is present among a group of people. This could mean that a gathering of worshippers sometimes is and sometimes isn’t a church. It could also mean that very large church buildings full of worshippers aren’t really churches!  By this definition of church no one denomination (including Congregationalists) could ever be said to pass or fail the test of being a true church – only God knows who are truly his.  By this understanding the church needs to pray always that it might become in its worship a true church, and we might in our worship have the impression or feeling that we are, or we are not a true church. But this more spiritual definition of church, like the idea of the Universal Church, is not something that can ever be translated into a legally constituted entity. 
 
Congregational Churches, then, are local churches that are independent of all outside authority, and so aim to conform to the truest and oldest form of earthly church.
Soup and Roll Club meets every first Thursday in the month.
 
Everyone welcome  -  From 11.30am to 1.30pm
 
Bible Study alternate Wednesdays at 7.30pm

Table tennis social and natter on the other Wednesdays.
 
 
RASCALS Breakfast Club Monday - Friday 7am to 8.30am
 
RASCALS After School Club - Weekdays in termtime
 
 
see diary for more information