Our church was founded under the Plan of Union on May 28, 1819, making us the second oldest congregation in Sandusky (the Methodists were established a few months earlier). The Plan of Union was a cooperative effort between the Congregationalists and Presbyterians out East to establish churches in the advancing frontier. For that reason we began as a “mixed” congregation of Congregationalists and Presbyterians, named the First Church of Christ.
Previous Names: First Church of Christ, First Congregational Society of Sandusky, First Congregational Church, First Congregational Christian Church.
Previous Locations: Members homes, the school house, The Academy (this was located on the east side of Columbus Ave., just north of where Emmanuel United Church of Christ is today. It was built by the City in 1828 for educational purposes.), the 1835 church built on the corner of Columbus Ave. & Washington, the 1855 building constructed at the same location, the Mahala Block (temporary location while our present building was being constructed in 1895 - 1896.).
Significant past history: Because the Presbyterians in the congregation were pro-slavery and the Congregationalists were abolitionists, and many participated in the Underground Railroad, the slavery issue eventually split the church. First (in 1846) the most radical of the abolitionists left to form the Free Congregational Anti-Slavery Church, also known as Second Congregational Church. They met in a small building on the west side of Wayne St., just south of Grace Episcopal Church. In 1852 the Presbyterians left the congregation and established First Presbyterian Church. At that time the radical abolitionists rejoined the congregation and sold their building to Zion Lutheran Church.
Our present building was dedicated in 1896 as an “institutional church” to serve the needs of the community from sunup to sundown, seven days a week. In addition to worship services, the sanctuary was used for community events. The downstairs originally had lecture rooms, a public library, employment agency, and a gym and showers. (The Sandusky High School basketball team first practiced here!)
Significant recent history: We continue to serve the needs of the community by housing the Boys & Girls Club of Erie County and the 11th Step Program. We also reach out to our summer community by hosting an 8:00 a.m. Sunday worship service at Shoreline Park during the summer. Seven years ago the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Erie County began holding their services in the lower level of our building on Sunday morning. They would love for you to come down and visit them today!
After an 18-month process, on April 3, 2011 our congregation voted to become an Opening and Affirming congregation. This is an official designation given by our denomination to churches who have written and adopted inclusive statements of welcome. While the central affirmation on an ONA congregation is that people of all sexual orientations are welcome into the full life and ministry of the church, most congregations, like ours, expand on that statement. Ours reads: As a community of faith, we, the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sandusky, Ohio declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming church. We extend the hand of fellowship to all people regardless of age, race, ethnicity, physical/mental ability, socioeconomic level, gender identity, and all sexual orientations. We invite all to share in the life, worship, membership, sacrament, responsibility and blessing of participation in our congregation. We declare this in the name of the Still Speaking God, Whose Son, Jesus Christ, welcomed all people into God's circle of grace.
With monthy meetings of The Gathering for Peace and Understanding, and the ongoing development of our Peace Room, we are moving toward establishing a Center for Peace and Understanding in Sandusky. This may one day become an independent non-profit dedicated to fostering peace in our community and in ourselves.