The Chambers Dictionary defines Congregationalism as "a form of Church government where each Church is independent in the management of its own affairs." Whilst this is correct it does not display the motivation or spirit of Congregationalism.
Taking their lead from the Acts of the Apostles, Congregationalists believe that everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is able to speak with Jesus through prayer. Each Church member has as much right to express his or her understanding of the Divine will as does his neighbour. There is no select Priesthood. The Minister and Deacons are just the leaders in a community of equals. The Church Meeting at which each member has the right to speak and vote is Sovereign in the affairs of the Church. Each member has both the privilege and the duty to represent Christ to other people.
This doctrine, known as the Priesthood of all Believers, is the cornerstone of Congregationalism. It leads to great freedom but also great responsibility. The individual has to think for him or herself, and cannot place responsibility on a Priest who acts as an interpreter of God's will. The Church Meeting seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since each Church Meeting may be so guided, the denomination cannot overrule its wishes. The Federation is exactly what its name says; a Federation of independent Churches. They cooperate and help each other but cannot be ruled or directed from the centre.