About All Souls Congregational Church


Table of Contents:
  Click on the links below to scroll to the subsections of this document.

A Little Backround
Beginnings:  A Brief History
Church Structure and Polity:  How Things Work
Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior
Covenant and Confession
Christian Missions and Missionaries
Ordained Ministry
Attitudes Toward Other Faith Traditions
Christian Unity in the Puritan Tradition
United Church of Christ
Confessing Christ

 

A Little Background

To the right of the front doors of the church meetinghouse this plaque is mounted: 

Meetinghouse Plaque

All Souls was created in 1912 by the union of the First and Central Churches of Bangor.  It is a church of the “congregational” tradition.  Congregational tells how the church is governed.  It is self-governed—that’s what “congregational” means; it is autonomous. In other words, this local church is not subject to outside control of its property or ministries.

The congregation holds all property and is responsible for everything—ministries, missions, electricity, dishwashers and floor wax and, of course, for each other.  Things get done because of our members and friends—but only by God’s grace and by the  guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

The ministers of the church are its pastors and teachers.  They are responsible for teaching the Christian faith, preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, evangelizing and confirming people, and offering counsel, prayer, and guidance for those who are seeking.  In other words, they do what those called ‘priests’ or ‘bishops’ in some other Christian churches do.

Congregational churches are part of the “free church” tradition.  Christ is understood as the Living Word, the Head of the Church.  The church assembles around Him according to the will of the Father and by the work of the Holy Spirit.  So, we are a Trinitarian church.

On the lawn is another, newer, sign.  It reads All Souls Congregational Church and beneath that, United Church of Christ.  It gives the time for Sunday worship.All Souls Sign

On this sign, Congregational reminds us that the church is rooted in the New England Puritan tradition.  Puritan churches became generally known as “Congregational churches”.  We are descended from the Pilgrims (some members of the Congregation actually are!), though you will find a very diverse congregation with people from all over and from many different Christian communions.

All Souls is a local church of the United Church of Christ (UCC), and shares in some of the aims and work of the denomination through the Maine Conference of the UCC.

The Covenant of All Souls Church was adopted in 1984 by the Board of Deacons and approved by the church in a revision of the By-Laws.  All members must “own” or agree to this Covenant.   Each member affirms Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Congregationalists understand the church as essentially local in nature.  The congregation has a covenant (statement of belief).  The Bible is the sufficient guide for faith and practice.  Everything is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ who is sole head of the church. (This is stated in the Bylaws of All Souls church and in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United Church of Christ.)  As with other Protestant churches, All Souls recognizes and celebrates two Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

 

Beginnings:  A Brief History

The First Church of Christ in Bangor

All Souls is a Reformed church of the Free Church tradition.  It is rooted in the Calvinist strand of the Protestant Reformation –that’s what makes it “Reformed”.

  We are a Trinitarian church, affirming God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as the One God who made heaven and earth and all that is in them.

Since 1961 it has been a local church of the United Church of Christ.

First Church of Bangor

All Souls had its beginnings in the First Church of Christ in Bangor organized on November 2, 1811 as a mission church.  First Church was organized under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Harvey Loomis (shown at right in anRev. Harvey LoomisFirst Church of Christimage courtesy of the Torrington (Connecticut) Historical Society,) who was one of the Haystack men credited with the founding of the American foreign mission movement at Williams College.

First Church originally met in a hall above a store on Exchange Street.  Later it met in the city Court House. 

In 1821, First Church of Christ (Congregational) moved to its new meetinghouse built on the sloping lot at the corner of State Street and Broadway, the current site of All Souls Church.  (First Church is the white, clapboard structure—no steeple, just a tower—at upper right in photo at the left.)

First Church was rooted in English (and more particularly New England) Puritanism and Separatism—the Puritans and Pilgrims.  These Christians called their churches “congregational”.  This was never intended as a denominational label, though it did come to be understood—or misunderstood—in that way.  Congregational told how the churches were governed—by the congregation (with Christ as the head of the church).

The basic document for the Congregational form of church life in the New World was the Cambridge Platform of 1648 (published in 1649).  The full title was “A Platform of Church Discipline Gathered Out of the Word of God: and Agreed upon by the Elders And Messengers of the Churches Assembled in the Synod at Cambridge, In New England.”  This is why we just call it the “Cambridge Platform”. 

In every other way (except church government outlined in the Cambridge Platform) congregational churches were like Presbyterian churches.  The Presbyterians stuck to the Westminster Confession and never accepted the Cambridge Platform.  Still, for many years, Presbyterian and Congregational churches in New England met together and recognized each other’s ministers.

First Church in Bangor continued in various meetinghouses on the site now occupied by All Souls until the great Bangor fire of April 30, 1911.  In that fire, the First Church meetinghouse burned.  The way was prepared for a new church to be gathered from the ashes.

First Church and Parsonage

Bangor Fire of 1911

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Church, Congregational, in Bangor—Central Church

Just up Bangor’s French Street, less than a block from First Church, Central Congregational Churchthere was 3rd Congregational Church, more popularly called “Central Church”.

It began as a preaching mission to unchurched workers brought to Bangor to help repair damage to the waterfront by a great ice jam in 1846.  Its appeal proved to be much broader.  The Rev. Dr. George Shepard of Bangor Theological Seminary conducted the first preaching services and was truly the founding spirit of this new congregation.

All the founders of this church (nine from First Church and two from Second or Hammond Street Congregational Church) wanted their new congregation to occupy a place that would be “central” between First and Second churches.  They couldn’t find any suitable property centrally located between the two older churches, so they finally built their meetinghouse (1853, shown at right) on French Street where Congregation Beth El now has its synagogue.

The first meetinghouse of Central Church was razed in 1902 and a new parish house and a cruciform (“cross-shaped”) neo-Gothic meetinghouse were erected on the site.  This parish house and meetinghouse [below] burned in the Bangor fire of April 1911.

Parish House and Meetinghouse before 1911 FireParish and Meetinghouse After 1911 Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice the front door of Central Church.  This is the same stone work that you see today as All Souls’ front entrance.  As much of Central Church as could be was salvaged to be used for the All Souls meetinghouse which was built on the site of First Church.

 

All Souls Church

After the 1911 Bangor fire, representatives of First Church Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Moore and Central Church
met to see if they might usefully combine into a new church.  The new church was formed on March 12, 1912.  The name of the new church would not be based on location or on chronology, but on a turn-of-the-century ideal.  “All Souls,” so the founding committee agreed, “stands for the ideal of democracy in religion.”  The Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Moore [right], last minister of Central Church became the first settled minister of the new All Souls Church.

All Souls Church has changed over the years.  Its organization and Bylaws have been altered to meet new historical moments.  Its practices have known flux and change as well.  However, the object of the church, and the foundations of the congregation in Holy Scripture and Covenant theology have remained constant.

For a more complete history of All Souls, written by L. Felix Ranlett is also on this site, click here.

 

Church Structure and Polity: How Things Work

“Polity” is related to “politics”.  The church’s polity is how the church is put together: how things work, how it is governed. 

All Souls has very simple statements about doctrine and polity.  You can find those statements in the church Bylaws (Click here to read the Bylaws).

The church has officers: Moderator, Ministers, Treasurer, Clerk, and Collector.  The Annual Meeting is where members gather to hear reports from all the church officers and boards, to conduct church business, and to adopt a budget.

The ministers and Board of Deacons are given particular responsibility for the spiritual life of the congregation, but this responsibility is really shared by all the members.

A Board of Trustees looks after the property and has fiduciary duties.

There is a Board of Christian Education which is responsible for Church School, Tuesday Nights Together (a family meal time and adult education opportunities), church-sponsored Souting programs, Youth groups and other educational opportunities.

There are other Committees and Boards.

 

Jesus Christ Is Lord and Savior

Members by baptism, confirmation, and affirmation of baptism affirm their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, give assent to the covenant of the church, and “promise and covenant with God and the church to walk together with Christian believers and seekers in the fellowship of the church, to cooperate with it in good enterprises, and to promote its increase, purity, and peace”.  They must accept the teachings of Jesus as the way for their own lives and, with the help of God and the church, “endeavor to follow those teachings as best they are able.”  [The order for reception of members dates at least to the ministry of the Rev. Arlan A. Baillie and encompasses all these understandings of the obligations of membership at All Souls.]

 

Covenant and Confession

The church, with the whole United Church of Christ, claims “as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant Reformers.” [from the Preamble of the Constitution of the UCC, Article 2.] 

The Deacons and ordained pastoral staff of All Souls have adopted the First Catechism and the Study Catechism approved by the 210th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for teaching purposes.  These catechisms are used for instruction in the Church School, in new member classes, in baptismal classes and other settings that require a careful declaration of foundational Christian belief and confession.

Historic Christian creeds are used in full communion services at All Souls.

The Covenant of All Souls is taken from the Kansas City Creed (also called the Statement of Faith) adopted by the Congregational-Christian churches in 1913 (Read More.  Connects to Kansas City Statement).  That Statement gives a larger view of faith and practice embraced by our members. 

We also affirm the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ (adopted by the UCC in 1959) and sometimes use it in doxological form.  Other creeds and covenants include the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Salem Church Covenant of 1629. (Click to read Shared Creeds)

All Souls supports the theological conversation represented within the United Church of Christ in the “Confessing Christ” movement.  It has supported cooperative ventures among all kinds of Congregational churches through groups like the Congregational Christian Historical Society and the Congregational Library at 14 Beacon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. 

 

Christian Missions and Missionaries

All Souls has always been devoted to Christian mission locally, domestically, and internationally.  After all, we were established (as First Church) as a missionary effort.

Our predecessor congregations supported missions in Turkey and among Armenians.  They were abolitionist churches and supported education, educational institutions and material relief for African Americans in the American south.  We currently support missionaries in various places.  (Click here to read about our Outreach Programs.) 

Predecessor congregations were also in the forefront in temperance and abstinence movements.  It is still against our Bylaws to serve or consume alcoholic beverages on church property.

 

Ordained Ministry

Rev. Richard RyderThe church chooses its own ministers.  There is no hierarch to send or remove the ministers of the church.

While the local church is not obligated to select ministers from the denomination with which it is in free fellowship, all her settled ministers since the Rev. Richard Ryder [1965-77, at right] have been ordained in the United Church of Christ.

 

 

All Souls Ministers

 Ministers prior to that were ordained to Congregational ministry (Rev. Dr. Charles Moore and Rev. Dr. Frederick Meek), to Congregational-Christian ministry (Rev. Arlan A. Baillie, seated center, left among All Souls Deacons) or, in the case of the Rev. Stanley Stevens only, to Methodist ministry, though he received standing in the Chicago Congregational Association in 1948, eight years before he became the settled minister of All Souls. He went on to serve on the UCC Council for Church and Ministry. 

  The current ministers, Rev. Renee Garett and Rev. James Haddix, were both ordained in the United Church of Christ, although James Haddix  received Deacon’s Orders in the United Methodist Church prior to his ordination in the UCC.  The ministerial standing of the current ministers is held in the Penobscot-Piscataquis Association of the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ.  Both ministers have served the Association and the Conference and Dr. Haddix has served the denomination in regional and national bodies. 

 

Attitudes Toward Other Faith Traditions

A relationship of mutual friendship and cooperation has existed for decades between All Souls Church and Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor.  While individual Jews and Christians recall early gestures of cordiality between these two congregations, a more sober assessment of relationships in the 1940’s and 50’s is set out in Judith S. Goldstein’s book, Crossing Lines: Histories of Jews and Gentiles in Three Communities, New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1992.

“Two years into his ministry at All Souls,” writes Goldstein, “Rev. Arlan Andrew Baillie was one of those who called upon his congregation to intensify its quest for brotherly harmony . . . ‘Our task right now,’ Baillie told his congregation in February 1946, is ‘to consider the sore problems of the social prejudices that we display against Negroes, for instance, or against our Jewish neighbors, for another instance.’ . . . After the arrival of Rabbi Avraham Freedman at Beth Israel in 1949, Baillie proposed an exchange of pulpits.  Baillie was encouraged by the friendships that had already developed between a few of his members and Jewish families who were well educated and eager for contacts with Gentiles.”  [Goldstein, pp. 121-126]

Norman Minsky, Esq. of Beth Israel remembers how, on the day of the Opening Convocation for his congregation’s 100th Anniversary celebration, a scroll was found tucked into the door handles of the synagogue.  It was a scroll of good wishes to the congregation from the children of All Souls Church.

In 2006, when All Souls dedicated the new building addition, Congregation Beth Israel sent good wishes and a gift—a palm plant—to grace the new Great Hall.

In recent years, Beth Israel and All Souls have met together for services of remembrance, of thanksgiving, and for musical concerts.  In 2007, Beth Israel, All Souls, and the Bangor Public Library cosponsored a community forum, Faiths of Our Neighbors, which fostered understanding of various religious traditions of our region.

James Haddix continued the tradition of pulpit exchange with Rabbi Shashona Perry of Congregation Beth El during her tenure in Bangor.  He has been invited speaker at Beth Israel, too, on many occasions.  He and Rabbi Joseph Schonberger of Beth Israel founded the Klezmer band Tzena! Tzena!

All Souls Name in Hebrew

Above is “All Souls Church” or “Congregation All Souls” as it appears in Hebrew.

After Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998, All Souls sent money to help in relief and rebuilding through channels of Christian relief.  The church tithed what it sent, giving 10% to the synagogue in Tegucigalpa (which had been totally destroyed) to go toward the replacement of the synagogue and their Torah scroll.

On the Sunday following September 11, 2001, Mahmoud el–Begearmi was invited by Dr. Haddix to come and address the congregation of All Souls.  Dr. el-Begearmi, a foods specialist at the University of Maine and a leader in the establishment of the Islamic mosque at Orono, Maine, graciously consented to come into a Christian service of worship and to speak to the congregation.  The invitation and Dr. el-Begearmi’s appearance were intended to remind the Christians of the many Muslim friends in our midst and to signal to Muslims here an intention of continuing care and friendship. 

Adil Özdemir made several visits to All Souls during the early years of this century.  Dr. Özdemir was a visiting scholar at Bangor Theological Seminary.  Dr. Haddix invited him to join in teaching Haddix’s seminary class on Biblical Wisdom Literature.  Özdemir also made presentations to members of the congregation at All Souls.  Professor Özdemir was a member of the faculty at the Theological School, Dokuz Eylul, in Izmir, Turkey.  He was an Imam for four years, prior to his appointment to the Theological School.  He studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt and in1986-7 he was a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions.   He is author, with Kenneth Frank, a missionary of the Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ/Christian Church, of Visible Islam in Modern Turkey, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

 

Christian Unity in the Puritan Tradition

In relationships with other Christian churches, the ministers of All Souls have encouraged the church to stand in the tradition of the early Puritan divine Cotton Mather.  Here’s a little history. 

The Puritan churches in New England were strongly committed to religious uniformity.  They believed that everything would work better and that society would benefit from just one kind of church.  They were not big on tolerance. 

In 1684, the King of England annulled the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay colony.  This meant that a half a century of Puritan order (including the toleration of only Puritan churches) was finished in a stroke of the pen.  Direct royal rule was imposed.  This new order, hostile to the Puritan way in New England, persisted and planted seeds for the American Revolution.

The Puritans didn’t just sit on their hands.  They sent people to England to try to renegotiate a Charter that would allow self-rule (not direct Royal Rule) for the colony.  The Rev. Increase Mather, a prominent Boston minister, was one of the negotiators. Mary Ranlett Mossman’s 6th great-grandfather, Thomas Oakes, speaker of the House in Massachusetts Bay, was sent to England with Elisha Cooke on February 10, 1690, as agents to assist Mather in his negotiations.  (Mary Mossman is the daughter of All Soul’s historian Felix Ranlett and a life-long member and a Deacon of All Souls.)

In 1692, Mather and his colleagues returned to Boston with the new Charter.  The charter united Plymouth colony, Nova Scotia and the Massachusetts Bay colony.  The New Englanders won concessions, but one thing they didn’t get was privilege for their Congregational churches.  The King (well, the English Government) insisted on religious toleration.  Any Protestant faith would be tolerated and Protestants could freely exercise their religion.  This had an effect on taxation and governance (Congregational churches has been supported by general taxation, now any church could receive tax support if a town wanted to be Baptist, for instance).  It effected all political and civil institutions. 

Many Congregational clergy continued to argue for—and act as if—the religious uniformity of the first Charter still held.  Even civil magistrates resisted the changes. 

But Increase Mather accepted religious toleration.  He said it was a good thing.  His influence was significant.

His son, Cotton Mather, not only accepted toleration, he took a position that actually looked something like genuine, modern ecumenism.  As historian John von Rohr wrote, Cotton Mather led a third generation in Massachusetts Bay toward a new goal of “Christian unity”.  He was influenced by the example of Congregational and Presbyterian clergy in England who had declared themselves “United Ministers”. 

Mather believed “that a personal experience of redemption” was basic to Christian identity.  To be a Christian, you had to have an experience of redemption—of being saved by Jesus’ sacrifice.  He called this “heart religion” – an experience that is available to anyone who has come to know Jesus Christ. 

Knowing Christ and having and experiencing His redemption is not enough.  Mather “equally stressed the commitment to ‘do good’ as the public form” of the Christian’s personal experience.  “He encouraged the founding of numerous societies devoted to programs of human welfare.”  This combination of personal faith and conviction and outward moral action “was the supreme work of the Holy Spirit, touching the heart and empowering the will with divine love.” 

Von Rohr continues:

“Within this work of the Holy Spirit also resided the hope for Christian union.  If doctrine and church organization sometimes divide, the experience of the Spirit can unite.  Piety and good works are not  . . . limited by the denominational divisions such restrictions often create . . . ‘Godliness’ of life is the key.  [Mather believed] there could even be intercommunion among the churches: ‘To see a godly Presbyterian, a godly Independent, a godly Antipaedobaptist [that is, a person opposed to infant baptism], a godly Episcopalian, and a godly Lutheran, all sitting down together in communion at the same Table of the Lord, would be to wise men a very grateful spectacle’.” 

[From John von Rohr, The Shaping of American Congregationalism, 1620-1957, Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 1992.  This book was reviewed in the Bulletin of the Congregational Library, Volume44, Fall 1992, Winter 1993, Nos. 1 and 2 by James Haddix.  This book won the President’s Award of the Congregational-Christian Historical Society.]

All Souls stands in the tradition of the Mathers of Massachusetts Bay.  The ministers of the church are committed to a vision of Christian unity grounded in personal faith and godliness of life combined with the requisite moral action—the commitment to “do good” through various cooperative efforts that contribute to human welfare and the healing of the world.  The Pastor-Theologian program in Bangor is only one manifestation of this ecumenical spirit. The pastors do not urge indifference to doctrine or theology, but encourage disciplined thought in such matters as well as a proper attention to the received faith of the universal church.  The All Souls Deacons’ policy on Benevolences [Read More] offers another example of this union of personal faith and public action.

Flowers outside of All Souls Church

 

United Church of Christ

The Statement of Polity in the By-Laws of the church includes this:  “While this Church is amenable to no ecclesiastical judicatory, it accepts the obligations of mutual council, amity and cooperation involved in the free fellowship of the United Church of Christ.” 

In this way, we acknowledge our free association with a Protestant denomination which was the union (in 1957) of the Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and most, but not all, churches of the Congregational-Christian tradition. 

Where the aims and work of the denomination coincide with the aims and work of the local church there exists a pledge on the part of the church to share in those aims and that work.  The local church continues, in its legal, founding documents, to speak of this association with the United Church of Christ as a “free fellowship”, explicitly retaining for the local church its complete autonomy from that or any other “ecclesiastical judicatory”. 

[For more on our relationship with the UCC click here.]

 

Confessing Christ

Adults being baptized in our church are asked, "Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" Confirmands who were baptized as youths or infants are asked the same question. Jesus commissioned his Church to, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Simple obedience always has been and always is required of us by God. Through Jesus we have the power to obey and forgiveness whenever we fail.

Jesus taught his disciples a prayer, which included "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In God's kingdom, God's will is done. Jesus taught, "Unless you are born of water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God." Romans 8:14 tells us that, "Those that are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God." God's Spirit leads us to do God's will. When we turn from our own will to God's will, we are following the Spirit of God.

In the United Church of Christ (UCC), there is a movement among pastors, theologians, and lay persons to challenge the wider church to remember Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who is head of the church (as the preamble to the UCC Constitution affirms). Our minister is a member of the steering committee for the
"Confessing Christ" movement which offers the church a joyful encounter with God in Christ with some real theological substance.