Ryde Congregational Church has a rich and noble heritage with it’s roots firmly planted in the foundation, function and faith of the New Testament church. 

A brief history of Congregationalism

Historically modern Congregationalism began in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Just after Easter 1559 the English queen introduced a bill known as “The Act of Uniformity,” which was designed to unify the church in what had become a very troubled period of compromise in areas of doctrine and practice. The Church of England in the Middle Ages was almost wholly Roman in its theology and worship. The land was overrun with monks and friars, while churches were full of relics of martyrs and saints. Transubstantiation; adoration of Mary and the Saints were now all part of the English church scene. Parishes of the Church of England were to be found all over the land, but the truth of the gospel was virtually unknown. Parliament had previously adopted another Act known as the Act of Supremacy in which the Monarch was made Head of the Church, giving Queen Elizabeth the authority to govern the disciplines and direction of the Church.

The Act of Uniformity majored on three areas:

  1. Orderly Worship – Only the Prayer Book was to be used, including prayers.
  2. Proper location – Services could only be held in the Parish Church.
  3. Full Attendance – A fine was imposed upon absentees.

This Act was designed to secure the future and ensure the stability of the Church under the complete control of the supervising authorities. The term “Puritan” was first used during the 1560′s as a term of abuse, and represented the purists who refused to submit to the Act and refused it’s every demand. The Puritan age lasted from about 1560 to the end of the seventeenth century, and was characterized by an intense struggle as Puritans and Crown disagreed, often vehemently, over issues of doctrine and administration.

As many within the church capitulated to the demands of the Act of Uniformity the Puritan movement saw preaching centers established outside the perimeters of the Act, and these though increasing in popularity provoked the ire of the authorities charged with the responsibility of policing the Act’s demands, and soon under direction from the Queen these gatherings were declared illegal. Those who refused to conform were ejected from their pulpits and parishes with many thrown into prison; and here they continued to affirm Biblical principles and disciplines. John Bunyon wrote his classical work “Pilgrim’s Progress” while in prison.

The following years brought a series of Acts of Parliament designed to curtail the growth of the Puritan Movement and if possible stamp it out all together. For example, the Conventicle Acts 1664, 1670, made it a punishable offence for anyone over sixteen years of age, except for members of the same family, to meet for any religious service without full and proper use of the Book of Common Prayer. Goods and chattels could be sold to pay the fine and one third of the fine would go to the informer. Houses could be broken into on suspicion and any magistrate, or officer, who did not apply the law would themselves be fined.

In 1665 the Five Mile Act was passed in Parliament confirming it was unlawful for anyone who had been a Parson, Vicar, Curate, or who had been in holy orders; and who did not subscribe to everything in the Prayer Book, to approach within five miles of any city, town, or borough, or within five miles of any parish in which he had ministered. All who broke the law were liable to a fine of forty pounds. This Act seems to have been designed to cut off all support and starve these dissenters into submission. The nonconformists however were determined to keep their witness alive, and their churches intact. It was around this period two great statements were drawn up to clearly identify the doctrinal position of these separatists.

In 1658 one hundred and twenty Congregational churches sent a total of two hundred delegates to the Savoy Palace for the purpose of agreeing upon a Confession that would embody the theological position and ecclesiastical order of Congregational churches. They took as their model the Westminster Confession of Faith recently completed by an Assembly of that name. After two weeks of intense and sustained prayer and dialogue the “Savoy Declaration” was drawn up, and became the subordinate standard for those who adopted the Congregational position. The Savoy Declaration is Reformed in theology.

Congregationalism is built on four principles:

  1. Christ alone is the head of the church.
  2. The visible church must properly represent the true church therefore it can be comprised only of Christians.
  3. The real presence of Christ is present in His church His people, and not ornaments or ritual.
  4. Each member is accountable and responsible to Christ.

So in essence it is the honour of Christ which is predominant in a Congregational church.

For more than four centuries godly men have pursued the Congregational way, a way which is Reformed, Puritan, and Evangelical. Ryde church is part of that way. As such she is a mainstream church with a sense of history, she is also an evangelical church with a vision for the future. Ryde church continues to embrace the Doctrines of Grace and the Five Solas of Reformation theology.

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone.
  2. Sola Christo – Christ alone.
  3. Sola Gratia – Grace alone.
  4. Sola Fide – Faith alone.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone be all the glory.