We are descended from the Pilgrims, though you will find a very diverse congregation with people from all over and from many different Christian backgrounds.
Who We Are & What We Believe
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.
Congregational also 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, though you will find a very diverse congregation with people from all over and from many different Christian backgrounds.
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.
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, and how it is governed. All Souls has very simple statements about doctrine and polity. You can find those statements in the church Bylaws. The church has officers: Moderator, Ministers, Treasurer, Clerk, and Collector. 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 members.
A Board of Trustees looks after the property and has fiduciary duties. here is a Board of Christian Education which is responsible for Church School, Tuesday Nights Together and other adult educational options, youth groups and other educational opportunities along with some church-wide fellowship programing.
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.”
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. 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 here 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 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.
Our 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.
The church chooses its own ministers. There is no hierarchy 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 have been ordained in the United Church of Christ. Ministers prior to that were ordained to Congregational ministry or Congregational-Christian ministry.
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.
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, and again in 2015, 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. In fact, All Souls Pastors have participated in pulpit exchanges with Rabbis from Congregation Beth El.
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, is a foods specialist at the University of Maine and a leader in the establishment of the Islamic mosque in Orono, Maine. Dr. el-Begearmi’s appearance 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. 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 he was a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions.
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.
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.
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. 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.