The older I get, the more grateful I am for our chapel’s independence. We aren’t isolated from other Christians; we meet with other churches and we are in a loose federation with other congregational chapels. To no other authority, other than the state and the scriptures, are we bound (in reverse order). Denominations have a habit of becoming narrow and querulous, or liberal and world-reflecting. There are Anglican parishes whose annual payments to the dioceses go to pay for the their liberal bishop’s latest gimmick, or to prop up the neighbouring parishes whose incumbents deny the faith’s basic premises. Had we been part of some larger organisation, they would have directed when we open and close. I know churches in denoinations which have been forbidden to open during the panedemic even when the state allowed it.  

I once attended a congregational ministers’ meeting during which we were put into the inevitable small groups and asked what ‘being congregational’ meant to us. I extolled the virtues of the local church, rejoicing in our movement’s older name- Independency. A few of the others blanched, expressing fear of sectarianism and isolation. I had none of it; we may seek guidance, support and fellowship- without formally depending on any. There are some greater challenges to being independent: we must fund ourselves, manage ourselves and be held accountable both to the state in matters of law and to God in matters of faith and conduct. An independent church rises or falls on the strength of its membership and its commitment to being faithful. I am confident we will enter this new decade strong and sound- yet against faithlessness and compromise we must forever be on our guard.