Local clergy write article long enough to educate and short enough to grab attention – Monterey Herald


It began, not as a sermon, but rather as a speech, an explanation that Reverend Robert Hellam was asked to prepare, to help parishioners understand the premises of a Congregational church. He spoke about the history and politics of the Congregational movement, who started it, where it went and what it means today.

People listened. But they wanted more. They wanted class notes, something to reference later. As Hellam took up pen to paper, he began to realize he had the makings of a book.

He called it “The Minute of the Congregation”. His parishioners said it was more like five. This may be because his book, whose 161 pages promise a quick read, begins in 1580, with the introduction of Robert Browne, a seemingly eccentric character with an unstable personality, who had the intellectual and spiritual capacity to establish the Congregational Church.


Browne began his religious affiliation as a “Presbyterian-leaning Puritan,” a dynamic that is difficult to define. Ultimately, he shifted his tenets to the doctrine of the Protestant Church, in which parishioners are self-reliant, emphasizing the value of preaching the word of God, while recognizing the importance of the spiritual self-reliance of each congregation. This led to the development of the Congregational Church.

Browne was often chastised for gathering his congregation and leading worship in private homes. “Anyone who professes his faith is welcome here.”

Along with an introduction by Robert Browne, Reverend Hallam focuses on these very early Congregationalists, including John Roberts, an early leader of the English Separatists, who brought his congregation to the United States and, with Browne, is considered a founder of the Congregational Church.

“Even though the Pilgrims are highly regarded,” Reverend Hallam said, “the Massachusetts Bay Puritans have had much more influence on American history and culture. I think most people have l It seemed like the Puritans were too rigid, yet they weren’t as rigid as we think.

Puritans tended to be intolerant of people with other opinions, he says, but they didn’t all wear black, they knew how to have fun and they had no problem with sex and love and having children within marriage.

“They forbade playing games on the Sabbath,” he said, “and everyone had to go to church and conform to Congregational doctrine. And there were those unfortunate Puritans in Salem, who had the famous witch trials, a dark stain on our ecclesiastical history. So some of the negative impressions of the Puritans are based on reality, but it’s never the whole truth.

Published in the fall of 2018, Reverend Hellam’s ‘Congregational Minute’, which takes readers from 1580 to present-day momentum, is one of more than a dozen books he has pondered, written and published. , hoping to inspire readers to think, feel, wonder, and seek to know more.

“I believe that Christians need to be educated about the Bible and the fundamental doctrines of the faith,” he said, “but within the context of their own particular denomination and its distinctions. It is important. We are no more Christian than other groups, but understanding our own history helps make us who we are.

This, Reverend Hellam says, is why he writes. Most of his books contain poetry, which he started writing as a teenager. Later he challenged himself to write one poem a month, a practice that continued.

“I wrote a poem based on Psalm 23,” he said, “and decided to write from the others. I had no formal training in creative writing or poetry, but I had excellent teachers, who instilled in me a love of literature.I believe that if you study poetry, at some point you will be inspired to write it.

Family values

Hellam, a fifth-generation resident of the Monterey Peninsula, lives in Seaside with his wife, Connie, whom he met when they were 3, and with whom he has shared nearly 54 years of marriage. A graduate of San Jose State, with a bachelor’s degree in English and a teaching degree, he went to Western Seminary, where he earned his master’s degree in theology, before earning a doctorate in theology from Trinity Theological. Seminary in Indiana.

After teaching at Monterey Bay Christian School for 15 years, since 2013 he has served as senior pastor at Oak Church in Del Rey Oaks.

“When people join our church,” he says, “we give them a copy of ‘The Minute of the Congregation.’ It anchors them with the knowledge that, although our current association is small, we are direct descendants of Puritans and Pilgrims, dating back to the 1500s.”

If you ask Hellam about his life’s work, what he enjoys, and what matters most, he’ll likely introduce you to his family, his wife Connie, his two sons, their wives, and his three grandchildren.

“I hope others will take an interest in my book and its message,” Hallam said. “The blurb on the back of the book: ‘Are you interested in the history and organization of the church and. . .humanity’s struggle for freedom? I think the text says it all. It’s not meant to preach as much as to give information.

Although, since the book is about the church, he says, and his particular corner of the church, well yes, there is some indirect preaching.

The book is available on Amazon and through Church of the Oaks in Del Rey Oaks.

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