“Our faith is over 2000 years old. Our thinking is not.”
The city of Great Falls was founded in 1884. Soon thereafter the First Congregational Church was established in 1890, being among the first half dozen churches in the community. For many years (1910-70) the church was located at the corner of 3rd Ave. N. and 9th St., an impressive stone structure providing a spiritual home for generations of residence near the heart of downtown Great Falls. This structure was vacated in the early 1970s and a new facility was built at our current location at 2900 9th Ave. S., adding onto the existing facility of Christ United Methodist Church, itself built in 1959. Since 1976 we have shared our facility with the Methodist, providing opportunities for mutual ministries as well as good stewardship while maintaining two separate congregations.
The church has a long history of community involvement, as well as a tradition of fine music and worship. Today we are a vibrant congregation of over four hundred adult members, with a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. We are an open and inviting community of faith, practicing a progressive Christian theology. We have a strong emphasis on ministries to youth and children, as well as Christian service.
We are actively involved with the FISH food pantry, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Opportunities Inc. Emergency Services, Rescue Mission, Mercy Home, the Children’s Receiving Home, the Intermountain Children’s Home, St. Ann’s lunch program, the Pre-Release Center, Family Promise, and other caring agencies, making a difference in our community.
History of the United Church of Christ
It was during the Age of Enlightenment. With the Gutenberg press (1450) making the Bible available in print and English translations in the mid 1500s making it readable for the common people of England, some Brits began to object to the interpretations and practices of the Church of England. They wished to freely gather and worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. In order to exercise their religious freedom these “Separatists” moved across the English Channel to Holland. Later as the Americas were being discovered, some of the group set sail on the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620. These Pilgrims were joined later by the Puritans, other Separatists from England and Scotland. The Pilgrims and Puritans formed the Congregational Church. With no mother church to tell them what to do or father theologian to tell them what to believe, this was an early experiment in democracy where each local church is self-governing. Later generations of Congregationalists would guarantee this right of religious liberty to all Americans as they gave leadership to the establishment of our nation.
A century later a similar story can be told from continental Europe. German immigrants began to come to this country also for religious freedom. Having separated from the state church of Germany, they formed a free church known as the German Reformed Church, with a similar self-governing polity and freedom of interpretation. As later German immigrants arrived, some having separated from the Lutheran Church and forming yet another denomination called the Evangelical Synod in North America, these religious groups of German background united together to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church (E & R).
During the second Great Awakening in the early 1800’s a group of church leaders were inspired to return to the simplicity of the early church. Declaring that the Bible was their only guide, they formed the first Free Christian Church. Others from various regions soon joined the movement and referred to themselves simply as “Christians.” In 1934, the Christian Churches merged with the Congregational Church to become the Congregational Christian Churches.
In 1957 The Congregational Christian Churches and the E & R Church merged, selecting the appropriate name, the United Church of Christ. Along with these four distinct areas of our history, there are many other traditions that became part of this uniting movement. We remain today a uniting church blending together many traditions, some old, others new. We are a church blessed with a rich legacy and openness to the future. As John Robinson, pastor and teacher of the Separatist community in Holland said to the departing Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, “there is yet more truth and light to break forth from God’s holy Word.”
For further information about us as a denomination please visit our denominational website at UCC.org to learn more.