First Congregational Church Covenant
As followers of Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to share in the worship and service of God, to grow in the knowledge and expression of our faith, to reach out with compassion to those in need, to treat each other with love and understanding, and to return to God a portion of God’s gifts.
Congregationalism: America’s Pilgrim faith
First organized in England in the Sixteenth Century, the Congregational Church developed in response to what was seen as an abuse of power by the Church of England.
These early Separatists formed a church according to the New Testament model of simplicity and democracy:
- selecting their own ministers rather than assigned a minister by the bishop,
- choosing simplicity over pageantry and ritual,
- preferring the earnest prayers of the people as inspired by Christ to the set prayers of the priest.
When the Separatists founded Plymouth Colony in the New World, they brought with them the idea that each person should be able to worship God free from outside regulation. Today we know them as the Pilgrims.
We continue to believe that intellectual freedom, Christian education, a passion for sharing God’s word, fellowship, and an unselfish devotion to God build the path to spiritual development as an individual, as well as a congregation. Congregationalists share the idea that the local congregation of believers, bound together by their covenant, is the most authentic way to approach the task of being Christ’s body in the world.
We are members of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches and actively participate with this national association.
Faith, Freedom and Fellowship
First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa is an active community of intergenerational members gathered to support each other on our Christian spiritual journeys. The purpose of First Church is to bind together followers of Jesus Christ for the object of sharing in the worship of God and in making God’s will dominant in the lives of people, especially as set forth in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
We, the members of First Congregational Church, recognize the Bible as the source and guide for our faith and Christianity, as practiced in our lives, our homes and in relationship with one another. Theologically, Congregationalism stands in the English Reformed tradition: centered on Christ, accepting the Bible and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion as the foundation for our faith and practice. We are classical Christians.
Freedom of conscience, the ability to read, to hear, to think and to respond is an important part of our life together and our Way of being Church. As a Congregational Church, we are autonomous, self-governing and able to select our own minister. The members of the congregation elect lay leaders. Each member of the congregation, including the minister, has a voice and a vote.
First Congregational Church was formed when a group of individuals, called of God to follow Christ, gathered together to write a Covenant or promise to be faithful to God, to each other, and to the community they serve. Members join by “owning” or agreeing to the Covenant, rather than assenting to a prescribed set of doctrines.
Interesting Facts about First Congregational Church
Adapted from Sesquicentennial History by Julius Ruff, Ph.D.
- First Congregational Church was formed in 1842 by settlers from New England and New York, making it Wauwatosa’s first church
- Anti-slavery members and Rev. Luther Clapp, who joined the church in 1845, were active in the underground railroad that ran through Wauwatosa and northward to Canada.
- The first church structure was built in 1853 on a plot of land purchased for $50 from Charles Hart.
- The bell that was added to the church in 1855 still rings from the present steeple.
- In 1919, to accommodate a growing congregation, the church built a temporary “tabernacle” at the corner of Church Street and Milwaukee Avenue while they constructed the new church on the current site.
- Three years later the new structure was turned 90 degrees and moved back on the church grounds to form a wing for Sunday School classrooms and recreational facilities. The sanctuary, still in use today, was added.
- In 1959, the church building was further expanded with the addition of the education/office/chapel wing.
- For several years, Wauwatosa High School (now Wauwatosa East) used the church’s recreation area as its gym, even holding their basketball games at the church. Lockers were located on First Church’s third floor.
- In 1974, the congregation founded the Congregational Home for the Aging in Brookfield, which continues to provide senior living apartments, high quality assisted care and nursing home care.