The History of The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor
The early beginnings of The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor can be traced to a log school built by John Allen on the northwest corner of Third Street (now Main Street) and Ann. Worshipping together at this location were Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Unitarians, and Presbyterians. In cold weather, services were held in private homes. First Presbyterians and then Methodists began taking seats apart and finally holding services at a different time from the others.
On February 9, 1847, forty-eight members of the Presbyterian Church who had roots in Congregationalism were dissatisfied with the Presbyterian form of government and disagreed with the Presbyterian minister who would not renounce Negro slavery. This group met to begin formal steps toward severance and to select a site for a new church. Two weeks later the lot selected was purchased for $600.
During the building of the new church, the new Congregational Society held services in the courthouse. The church actually consisted at the time of two organizations: “Church” for spiritual matters and ”Society” for business affairs. It would be the year 1913 when the “Church” and “Society” merged. After a number of “supply ministers” (ministers who would take a temporary one-year assignment with the church) and several attempts to procure a permanent minister, the Reverend L. S. Hobart of Union City, Michigan was hired November 18, 1848.
The newly built Congregational Church building on the corner of Fifth and Washington Streets in Ann Arbor was dedicated on June 21, 1849. By 1851, the church had 113 members. Two years later the church adopted a resolution against slavery, excluding from membership and as ministers any slaveholder or advocate of or apologist for slavery.
As membership grew, a resolution was passed to build a new church building at the present location at the corner of State Street and William Street in Ann Arbor. The cornerstone was laid on June 23, 1872. On May 10, 1876, the present building was dedicated.
The Congregational-Disciples Student Guild was formed in November 1942 as the church grew. This vital organization continues today as the Guild House Ministry to University students.
The church continued to grow physically also. In 1953, the Douglas Memorial Chapel, Pilgrim Hall, the Mayflower Room, offices, and classrooms were added. A fifth renovation of the chancel area in 1985 saw the installation of the Wilhelm organ, the third in the Church’s history.