FIRST CONGREGATIONAL

United Church of Christ

431 Columbus Ave.

Sandusky ,  Ohio    44870

Worship at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays 


Shoreline Services

8:00 a.m. on Sundays

Memorial Day through Labor Day

Shoreline Park, Sandusky

411 E. Shoreline Drive

(next to the Yacht Club)

HISTORY



               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.



GENERAL INFORMATION


The Building

             This building is the third “home” for our congregation, formed in 1819. The two previous buildings were on the Town Square where the sunken garden is now located. When the City decided to clear the square of all buildings in 1894, our property was purchased. After renting temporary facilities for 18 months, this building was dedicated in May of 1896.

Situated just south of the old commercial district among many grand stone residences and houses of worship, the building was designed by architect Sidney R. Badgley. Like many of the neighborhood buildings, the church was constructed of Sandusky blue limestone. The Akron-plan interior features a stained-glass dome, well crafted woodwork, and an almost seamlessly integrated two-manual 1875 Johnson & Son organ (Opus 462).

            It was designed to be an “institutional church” to serve the needs of the community. In addition to worship services, the sanctuary was used for community events. The downstairs originally had a public library, employment agency, and a gym and showers. (The Sandusky High School basketball team first practiced here!)

            We’ve had two major capital campaigns in the almost 17 years that Rev. Lenore Kure has been our pastor.  The first ($250,000) was for our elevator and handicap accessible restroom, dedicated in 2000.  The second, in 2004 ($200,000) was for redecoration and restoration projects.



Dome

            The dome was originally a natural sky light. In 1975 the decision was made to enclose it in order to prevent leaks. Over 200 “sunlight’ light bulbs now provide its natural look.



Organ and Piano

            Our organ, a tracker action pipe organ, was 105 years old when we purchased it in 1980. It was dismantled and completely restored before arriving here 18 months later. Then piece by piece, pipe by pipe, it was carefully rebuilt in our sanctuary and enclosed behind a facade of organ pipes.Originally built for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette, Michigan, the organ was later moved, circa 1908, to St. Ignatius Church in Houghton, Michigan, and in 1976 to the home of James Kvale in Long Prairie, Minnesota. Organbuilder J.C. Taylor of Appleton, Wisconsin, installed the organ in Sandusky following refurbishment in 1982.

            Last year we replaced our old piano with a beautiful 7' Baldwin satin ebony concert grand. Our worship services are often enhanced by our organist, Charles Scroggy, and pianist, Robin Pratt, playing duets.




Boardman Room

            Originally the large room adjacent to the sanctuary was unnamed. It was used for the overflow crowd for community events and Sunday mornings when there was an especially large attendance. When the moveable wall between it and the sanctuary was opened, as well as the Sunday school classroom doors above the room, it is said that 2,000 people could be accommodated! Today we use it for our time of fellowship after worship.

            The room is now called the Boardman Room, named after Rev. Robert Boardman who served the congregation from 1959 - 1968.

            The moveable wall was non-functioning for almost 50 years.  It was restored and dedicated at the time we celebrated our 190th anniversary.


Congregation

            We began in 1819 with a membership of both Congregationalists and Presbyterians. The pro-slavery Presbyterians broke off in 1852 and formed the First Presbyterian Church on Jackson Street.

            When the Congregational-Christian denomination merged with the Evangelical & Reformed denomination in 1957 to become the United Church of Christ, we soon voted to become part of that body and our name was changed to First Congregational United Church of Christ.

            As with many churches, we reached our membership peak in the 1950's with almost 500 members. Today we have about 120 members and consider ourselves to be a “small but mighty’ force in the community. We continue our strong tradition of outreach by using our building to house the following:

            The 11th Step group, sponsored by the Sandusky Library, focusing on the 11th step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, meets here weekly on Thursdays for meditation and prayer;

            The Boys & Girls Club began meeting here in 1998. Usually, 40 children are downstairs every weekday afternoon from 2:30 - 7:00 p.m. under the guidance of Unit Director David Icsman and his staff;

            The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship began meeting downstairs several years ago.