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What is the Congregational Federation for?

In 1972 the Congregational Federation (CF) came into being.

After the result of the vote on whether churches should join the URC was announced in January 1972, some who had led the campaign to continue as Congregationalists met in Church House, Westminster. We had to decide on a name for this ongoing Congregational body. Various ideas were put forward; someone suggested ‘Congregational Federation’. This was widely welcomed, and so the ‘Congregational Federation’ was born.

Our first President, Margaret Stansgate, spoke at the June Eastern Area Assembly and confessed that initially she had not liked the word Federation. However, she found it to be a ‘theological word’, telling of the bond that holds people together in a common faith. In a Christian context this meant fidelity to God: a ‘Coming together in Faith’.

Those Congregationalists meeting in 1972 had a vision for the CF, for moving forward, an excitement - and above all a ‘Coming together in Faith’.

We need to remember that we are a people that ‘Come together in Faith.’ However, our Assembly in June seemed to have lost vision. What I said then – and still believe - is that we need to rediscover the vision for CF to enable us to move forward.

I said there are still churches that are closing - but Pioneer Ministers are being trained; there is still an operating deficit - but it’s been dramatically reduced. There is a new Church Support Committee seeking ways to … support our churches.

But there is now a need to seek a vision for the Congregational Federation to enable us to move forward together, hearing the voices of all.

The key question is: ‘Where do the churches want CF to be in 5/10/even 20 years’ time?’ What is the Congregational Federation for? This is the beginning of reviewing ‘how we do things’, otherwise known as Governance. But in June some members of Assembly focussed on what divides. I firmly believe that now is the time to consider what unites us.

The answer to the question ‘What is the Congregational Federation for?’ must come from ALL our 248 churches and our 6,282 church members, not just those 110 people gathered at Union Chapel in June. What I was hoping would happen between then and 2019 Assembly is a consultation with ALL the churches: 248 Church Meetings; 6,282 voices.

I still believe that this is the question we should be addressing. ALL our churches and members should be Coming together in Faith to seek this vision. And our question: ‘What is the Congregational Federation for?’

Margaret Morris
Past President of CF, Immediate Past Chair of Council