New Congregationalist hymnal

I had been following the development of the new hymnal of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches — that is, most of the Congregationalists that didn’t go in with the United Church of Christ — but let the actual release of the title slip up on me.

This is of especial interest to Unitarian Universalists, as the NACCC is the only Christian body that has “fraternal relations” with the Council of Christian Churches within the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Thanks to colleague N.T.D. — who mentioned it was out and and that it includes works by another colleague L.L. — I looked it up and saw that it was co-produced by GIA Music, a Catholic music press that has made small steps into the Protestant music publishing world.

I think I’ll be ordering a copy.

Hymns for a Pilgrim People

Categorized as Hymns

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. The reasons for not joining the UCC are as varied as the individual congregations that make up the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. But I think I could generalize by saying that there were 3 major themes.

    #1> Congregational churches that were concerned that the merger which created the UCC would result in the eventual destruction of Congregationalism as a religious identity.

    #2> Congregational churches which felt that UCC polity represented a betrayal of traditional Congregational polity and local autonomy. For example, in the UCC ordinations are a function of the regional conference. In the NACCC ordinations are a function of the local congregation in consultation with a “vincinage council”.

    #3> Congregational churches which felt that the UCC would be too liberal.

    I’ve lived in areas where NACCC churches are fairly common. In general I find the NACCC to be more conservative than the UCC, but the NA’s strictly congregational polity has allowed for a significant liberal minority. In fact the NA has a history of having a few churches with joint UUA membership. Examples of liberal NA churches are 4th Congregational Church of Chicago; First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa, WI; the First Congregational Church of Evanston, IL; and the Grace North Church of Berkely, CA.

  2. When the UCC merger was being planned, there was no unanimity about it: the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference had already been formed (1950) and some of the more conservative churches were joining it; as for the NACCC, its promoters viewed the quasi-congregational, quasi-presbyterial polity of the UCC as significantly compromising historic Congregational principles. At the end, 72 percent of the Congregational churches voted in favor of the merger. Since that time — and especially within the past three years — hundreds of churches have left the UCC, some to join the CCCC, some the NACCC, some to join other denominations, and some to become independent. The issue, as Derek alluded, has not always been theology.

    The NACCC has often been compared to the American Baptist Churches (Convention): it has a small number of very liberal churches, a small number that are very conservative, and the majority lie somewhat amorphously in the middle, leaning toward one direction or the other. Two other significant liberal NACCC churches are First Congregational in Los Angeles, the oldest Protestant church in the city, which boasts a rich liturgical life and the world’s largest pipe organ in a parish church; and Plymouth Congregational in Minneapolis, a 2,500-member bustling church that has a curious tradition of actively and deliberately straddling the fence between the NACCC and the UCC, supporting both and drawing upon the resources of both while resolutely remaining outside the latter (except for a continued membership in the Minnesota Conference). Both the Minneapolis and LA churches are Open and Affirming, the Minneapolis church formally so. It has had a long history of liberal social activism.

    The NACCC currently encompasses about 500 churches with an aggregate membership of around 65,000. The majority are in New England (no surprise there!), the Great Lakes Region (especially Michigan), and California.

  3. Thanks for the heads-up about the hymnal. I’ve ordered one too. From the songlist, it appears to be a nice mix of traditional and contemporary hymns.

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