The New England Congregational Church is part of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a denomination organized in 1957 when the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical Reformed Church joined together.
Congregationalists are the direct ecclesiastical descendants of British nonconformist Protestants who sought reform within the Church of England in the 16th century. These Pilgrims, as they called themselves, fled to the new world in 1620 aboard the Mayflower to found the colony of Plymouth. In 1628, they were joined by Puritans to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Salem and later the city of Boston. Their houses of worship were ‘meetinghouses’ to distinguish them from elaborate cathedrals and were used for a variety of purposes, both secular and sacred. The congregation is in control of the church, and thus the name.
When the Pilgrims set sail, their pastor, John Robinson, told them: “God has more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy word.” Our forebears took this to heart and, even though our history has had some misdirected efforts, we can look back at a number of significant “firsts.”
- Forebears of the United Church of Christ were the first mainline church to take a public stand against slavery, in the year 1700.
- We were the first predominantly Euro-American church to ordain an African American as a minister—Lemuel Haynes in 1785.
- We were the church that initiated the defense of the Amistad captives in 1839, and support their case to the Supreme Court, which eventually led to their freedom.
- We ordained the first woman to ministry—Antoinette Brown in 1853.
- We were among the first to establish homes for orphaned children.
- We founded some of America’s premier colleges, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Elon, UC Berkely and Elmhurst.
- We founded hundreds of schools to educate freed slaves after the Civil War and founded several African-American colleges, including Fisk, Taledega, and Huston-Tillotson.
- Noted theologian and pastor Reinhold Niebuhr composed the Serenity Prayer:
“God give me the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things that should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
- As a denomination, we were on the front lines of racial desegregation and, in 1959, we challenged the Federal Communications Commission to allow people of color to have access to and be seen on the televised airwaves.
- We ordained the first openly gay person to ministry—William Johnson in 1972.
- We were among the first denomination to solemnize holy unions between same-sex couples and where legal, marriage between same-sex couples.
On May 15, 1858, thirty members of the First Congregational Church of Aurora announced their intent to form a new church on the west side of the Fox River in Aurora, where they lived. On June 10, 1858 the first organizational meeting was held and the name of the church established: The New England Congregational Church of Aurora.
The lot on which the present building now stands was purchased in March, 1889, and the building erected in 1890. The dedication service for the new building was held on May 4, 1890. The cost of the building was approximately $25,000.
In 1910, Boy Scout Troop #3 was organized. A special room for the scouts was completed in 1923; it is still used today by the scouts for their weekly meetings. This is one of the oldest, continuously-chartered scout troops in the country.
In 1948, the current building which houses the offices on the first floor, Sunday school classes on the second floor, and the Friendship Hall on the third floor, was built.
The New England Preschool was organized in 1948. It continues to be a successful and vital program where “learning through play” is the foundation of the program.
With a new long-range plan in place, New England Church looks forward to a vital and exciting future as we seek to be “a caring church for thinking people” in the 21st century.
If you wish a detailed history of the church click here.