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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Congregational Christians in Northeast Missouri

In 1994, around the time I graduated from High School, I joined Baring Community Church in Missouri. It was located less that 12 miles from where I grew up in Knox County. To join I was asked a few questions by the board members and minister shortly after a church service, and they welcomed me in. During that conversation I mentioned that I was pursuing individual lay membership in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, and one of the board members mentioned that 'Congregational Christian' was actually part of the legal name of the church, on documents. I filed that away in the back of my mind, and recently I've dug a little more into the history there. 

Here's a bit of Knox County, Missouri history. The Baring Community Church, which I believe has closed after being under 'new management' for a period, was originally organized as a Christian Church. This was not independent Christian nor Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It was part of a different denomination commonly known as the Christian Connection.

The Baring church, before its property was acquired in the early 2000s by a local church planting initiative, was actually listed as Baring Community Congregational Christian Church on legal documents. That's because early in the 20th century this Christian Church denomination merged with the Congregational denomination, forming the Congregational Christian Church. Around mid-20th century this denomination merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which resulted in the United Church of Christ (UCC) that exists today. 

Not all the churches went along with this merger that formed the United Church of Christ. Some had become alarmed in years prior at a trend among the Congregational Christian Churches toward utilizing contemporary biblical scholarship and embracing a broader vision of Christianity. These formed the strongly evangelical Conservative Congregational Christian Conference with which I was affiliated for a time. Others departed at the time of the merger that created the UCC and formed the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, which holds space for a range of views and approaches to biblical interpretation that fall within the realm of historic Christianity.

Evidently the Baring church opted not to remain with the new denomination, and seems not to have affiliated with either of the two alternative denominations. Instead, it continued as non-denominational until it was closed and a replacement was incorporated around 2003, as mentioned above. During the time of my membership in the mid-1990s it was quite small with an active youth ministry and a strong evangelical streak. Ministry was supplied by Village Missions.

The page below is from an October 1910 edition of The Herald of Gospel Liberty, the periodical of the Christian Connection in that era.