A Brief History of Our Church

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The following are excerpts from The Last Quarter Century: 1965-1990, written and illustrated by Helen Sickles Hull Allen, to commemorate the 325th anniversary of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich:

The First Congregational Church of Greenwich was created by an act of the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut passed at the May 1665 session. This action of legislature authorized the establishment of “the First Church of Christ in Greenwich” or “First Society of Christ” or “The East Society”. The name “Congregational” was not applied generally in New England until after the Revolutionary War. The growth of Greenwich was so slow that it was not until about 1669 that the inhabitants numbered enough to support a minister of their own.

The first recorded religious services in the town of Greenwich were held in 1656 in the houses of settlers. In 1667 a newly built schoolhouse became the place of worship as well as a central meeting place for the inhabitants. It is probable that the religious services were conducted by the clergy of the First Society of Stamford from 1645 on in “private houses or in the open air.”

1694

1735

1835

 

During the years since then the church has slowly grown, meeting all the community problems of war, poverty, sorrow, anxiety, peace and prosperity which have marked these three and a quarter centuries. In 1960 our church became affiliated with the United Church of Christ and is now known as The First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

The stone “Meetinghouse”, dedicated in 1895, was the fourth one built to house the congregation and was an adaptation of a Norman-Gothic structure built in England in 1100. The building was expanded in 1930 with the construction of the June Binney Memorial Parish House. The education wing was added later, and dedicated in 1952. The Meetinghouse itself was enlarged and partially reconstructed during the years 1960-1962.

896

Today (click to enlarge)


Timeline of Events in our Church

 

1600′s
1656 The first recorded religious services in town were held in the houses of settlers.
1664 The 7 Proprietors: Jeffre Ferris, Senre; Joshua Knapp, Senre; Joseph Ferris, Jonathan Reynolds, Angell Heusted, John Mead and John Hobbe wanted their own church & town separate from Stamford. Church and government were inseparable. They had Congregational values of free choice.
1665 May 11 Charter: The church was incorporated by the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut as the First Church of Christ in Greenwich.
1667 A newly built schoolhouse became the place of worship as well as a central meeting place.
1669 The first pastor was Eliphalet Jones who was shared by other churches.
1670 William Grimes willed his land, about 32 acres in Shorelands, for town/church improvements.
1678 Jeremiah Peck became the first settled minister.
1694 A new church was built at Tomac and Lockwood Avenue. It was 32 feet long by 26 feet wide.
1700′s
1705 The General Court in Hartford split the Horseneck Society from the “East Society” (our old name), becoming what is now the Second Congregational Church in Greenwich. The dividing line between the two Ecclesiastical Societies was the Mianus River. Before this, both groups shared pastors, causing many years of disputes. Several pastors left due to this.
1735 A second two-story wooden building for the church was built on the same spot as the first.
1785 Members of the church had to buy a pew space and build their own pew. The Revolutionary War left our town in very bad shape financially.
1800′s
1816 Sunday School began here.
1835 A third wooden building for the church was built on Sound Beach Avenue, in our current cemetery. This white pillared building burned down in 1895.
1835-36 Regular church attendance or you were fined. Attendance was more than a duty – it was a social obligation. Sabbath breaking, intoxication and profanity were causes for excommunication. Due to those rules, for these years only women were members of the church.
1843 A new parsonage house was built at 106 Sound Beach Ave. The old parsonage on Arch Street was condemned.
1847 Our church sold some of its land to the new railroad being built.
1869 Mr. Boulton was hired as Chorister for six months.
1872 Our part of town changed its name to “Sound Beach” as the railroad brought summer residents.
1874 Miss Minnie Brush was hired as our first Director of Music for $50 a year.
1877 Our first organ cost $182.24. It was a small parlor-type reed organ. It was saved from the 1895 fire by throwing it out the window.
1890 The church was renamed to “First Congregational Church of Greenwich”. 85 members, 102 in church school.
1895-96 The stone Meetinghouse was built for $21,453.
1895 Wooden church in cemetery destroyed by fire; including church school records and library. Silver, pewter, the organ and piano were saved.  People worshiped in the school house until the stone Meetinghouse was finished.
1900′s
1900 The church bought the McAfee property for enlarging the cemetery.
1927 Allan Lorimer became pastor. He helped organize the Lions Club, was Grand Chaplain of Masonic Lodge, CT, and a founding member of the Greenwich Historical Society.
1928 Edwin Binney, Sr. gave Binney Park to the town. It was a swampy mire then.
1930 The June Binney Memorial Parish House (church offices and auditorium) was added.
1930 The Robert Stewarts gave the 12-bell chimes in the bell tower where there had been only one bell.
1931 Our part of town changed its name from “Sound Beach” to “Old Greenwich”
1935 Rev. Alden Mosshammer followed Rev. Lorimer, working with the youth group, Boy Scouts, YMCA, Community Chest, Lions Club, Men’s Club and putting the church back on a sound financial basis.
1938 The restoration of Tomac Cemetery was guided by Helen Binney Kitchel and the Old Greenwich Garden Club.
1941 Rev. Vincent Daniels became pastor, making the church even more community minded. The church membership grew very large.
1950-1962 Pastor Herman Reissig added new dimensions to the church’s social consciousness and outreach.
1950s The Easter sunrise service tradition began. The youth group leads it.
1952 The Education wing was added and dedicated. (The current lounge/kitchen/3rd floor/offices) The meetinghouse was also enlarged to hold 250 people.
1955 Peg Roberts began the Nursery School for 3 and 4 year olds on weekdays. (Later renamed the Preschool.)
1960 Our church became affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
1960-62 The meetinghouse was doubled in size and the pews were rotated 180 degrees. The big chancel window was added, as well as the windows along the chapel and narthex. The undercroft and educational facilities were expanded.
1960s Outreach projects were underway to help many others outside our church.
1963 Dr. Vincent Daniels died suddenly.
1964 The Rummage Room opened, replacing the annual church rummage sale.
1965 The church’s summer day camp began.
1965 There was a year long celebration of FCCOG’s 300 years.
1966 The annual Handel’s Messiah concert began, directed by Richard Vogt.
1966 The Meetinghouse News (later called the Meetinghouse Monthly) began as a bimonthly.
1967 Our church services began being broadcast on WGCH radio.
1968 The once-every-four-years “Noye’s Fludde” production began, directed by Richard Vogt.
1970 The youth group began work projects in the local area and in other states and, now, countries.
1973 The 9:15 am and 11 am services were combined into one 10 am service and a coffee hour.
1973 Recognition Sunday began as an annual event to thank the church school volunteers and staff and give Bibles to the third graders.
1973 We sold the Watchtower and Deepwoods parsonages, then bought the Shady Brook Lane parsonage.
1975 Stephen Ministry originated in Saint Louis. It began at our church in 1990.
1975 The first woman became a senior deacon. By 1990 there were still only 2 women who had been senior deacons.
1976 Rev. Tom Stiers was promoted to Senior Pastor when Rev. Paul Yinger left.
1978 A new Austin organ was installed.
1978 Mary Babbidge began as Cemetery Administrator and Records Clerk.
1979 8 am beach services were started in June, July and August.
1979 The Columbarium, at the far side of the cemetery, was built to add 1,200 spaces.
1980 Rev. Dale M. Greene became the first female minister.
1981 The first Music Sunday in May was held with strawberries & cream and maypole dancing.
1988 The Helen B. Kitchel Memory Garden was created – paved and landscaped.
1989 The Daniels Center was named and remodeled from the old gym downstairs.
1989 The Board of Deacons merged from the separate deacon groups: Deacons and Deaconesses.
1989 Long range planning began (Twelve keys to an Effective Church).
1990 This was the 325 anniversary year of FCCOG and the town celebration.
1991 50 FCCOG families were dealing with unemployment. Housed homeless men in the Daniels Center at our church for two weeks.
1991 Stephen Ministry first class began at our church.
1991 First Person Singular began at our church.
1994 The United Church of Christ Musicians Association (UCCMA) began here with Jayson Engquist as president.
1995 Richard Vogt suddenly passed away.
1996 George Handley began as Business Administrator.
1997 The fccog.org website was launched. By 2007 it has audio sermons and by 2009 audio Bible study classes.
1998 Mary Ann McDevitt, R.N., B.S.N., began as our first Parish Nurse.
2000′s
2000 70 FCCOG travelers went to the Holy Land.
2000 Kirk Young began as Financial Administrator and Dee Coover, RN, MPH, MSN, took over as Parish Nurse.
2001 Donna White began as Senior Administrative Assistant.
2002 Rosemary Lamie began as Church School Coordinator with Jenny Lepoutre for two years. Rosemary is now Director of Church School.
2003 Open and Affirming policy adopted.
2003 Rev. Tom Stiers retired after 30 years with our church.
2003 Rev. Sally Colegrove called as Senior Pastor at Windham Hill, ME.
2004 Susan Asselin, RN, took over from Dee Coover as our Parish Nurse.
2005 Rev. Dr. David Young called as Senior Pastor.
2006 Ginny Breismeister began as Director of Membership.
2007 Rev. Susie Craig called to UCC Conference in ME.
2007 Rev. Daniel B. England began as Minister of Communication and Adult Education.
2008 Rev. Mark D. Montgomery called as Associate Pastor.
2008 Maureen Bruno began as Preschool Administrative Assistant.
2008 The first FCCOG same sex marriage performed (John Stansell & Michael Pellegrino).
2009 Rev. Avery C. Manchester began as Minister of Pastoral Care.
2009 New Mission Teams were formed to help in the areas of environmental, hunger, international, literacy, national, shelter and visitation.
2010 John Stansell, Minister of Music, retired.
2010 Barb Wilkov began as Director of Publications.
2010 Dr. Craig Scott Symons began as Director of Music/Organist.
2011 The 5 pm Sunday linc services began, led by Rev. Mark Montgomery.
2012 Darla Kohler began as Preschool Director.
2012 Rev. Dr. David Young resigned.
2012 Rev. John W. Collins began as Interim Senior Pastor in May.
 —  —
2015 This will be the 350th anniversary year of our church.

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