O U R C H U R C H ' S H I S T O R Y
“We whose names are hereunto inscribed, think it our duty and for the honor of Christ’s kingdom to embody. We do now take the Lord Jehovah Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be our God, and relying alone on him for strength, do in a public manner give up ourselves to the Lord, in an everlasting covenant to be for him, and for none other, to love, obey and serve him forever.”
Preamble to the Church Covenant
June 18, 1789
In Colonial Dunbarton, public worship was held in a variety of settings. Townspeople met in the open, in homes and in the one story, thirty-foot square meeting house erected on the town common in 1766. Itinerant preachers were hired when money was voted for preaching at town meeting.
The town called The Rev. Walter Harris to be its first settled minister in January, 1789, and in May it voted to build a bigger meeting house. Our church was gathered on June 18, 1789 when ten men signed the Covenant. The minister’s salary was paid by a tax on residents, but in 1796 some protested. Eventually, residents holding certificates of membership in other denominations were exempted. In 1819 the Toleration Act separated church and state.
The Rev. Harris preached at DCC for forty years. His respected presence had a remarkable influence on the whole town. The Congregational Society was formed in 1830, as his forty-year pastorate came to a close. The Rev., John Putnam began a thirty-year pastorate in that year.
Our "Vestry" building was constructed in 1832 on the east side of the Town Common, and moved in 1873 to its present location. In addition to providing a place for weekday meetings, Church School and Youth Fellowship, it has housed a singing school, high school, Treasure House, dance school and pre-school.
The control of the Meeting House became a subject of disagreement among several denominations in the 1830s. The Congregational Society’s solution was to erect our present church building in 1836 with money raised from the sale of sixty-four pews. Their owners were assessed for repairs and upkeep, and pew deeds were a valuable inheritance.
Music was provided in our church with the formation of a choir in 1842. Later music was furnished by an orchestra and then an organ. The pipe organ we now enjoy was purchased from the Baptist Church in Poultney, Vermont; it was installed and dedicated in 1987. In 2008, a bequest of a grand piano began a tradition of holiday concerts. Spireside coffeehouse opened in the Vestry to rave reviews in 2011.
Our present bell, cast by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York, was installed in 1898.
Two parsonages have been built by the church, in 1883 and in 1947-48. The second parsonage was sold in 2001. Two additional homes in town have been used as parsonages. Our church has been redecorated a number of times, in 1884, 1940, 1964, 1995, 1998, and in 2010, the church floor was repainted, new carpeting was laid, pews painted and the altar chairs were recovered.
In 1903 the Congregational Society was incorporated into the First Congregational Church of Dunbarton. By-laws were adopted and were most recently revised in 2003.
In 1961 our church joined the United Church of Christ, a 1957 union of the Congregational and Evangelical and Reformed Churches.
School planted the flowering crab tree in 1983, dedicating it “The
Giving Tree.” In 1989, the gift of a maple honored a church member who
gave much of herself. And in 1996 the flowering Dogwood was planted in
honor of church school superintendent. These trees symbolize the spirit
of growth and vitality our church strives to achieve.
In 2004, our handicapped accessible ramp was rebuilt and dedicated to former trustee chairman, L. Robert Tucker. That same year, the brick Arabell Caudill Memorial Walkway was built to connect the church to the vestry including a beautiful granite bench that graces the church lawn.
A number of initiatives followed the installation of Pastor Cindy Bagley in 2003. Stewardship at the Edges helps us better manage our finances and empower everyone's creative involvement in church life. Our "Living the Promise," church school program, introduced in 2005, involves the participation of over thirty teachers each year in the education of our children. Started in 2006, a seasonal farm stand now draws many passersby each summer.
In 2013, a
new roof was installed, the north wall of the church was painted, and we marked Pastor Cindy Bagley's 10th anniversary as our pastor with a big celebration. In 2014, we celebrated our 225th anniversary as a congregation and refurbished the entire front of the church.
We look forward to "making more history" as the days unfold in service to Christ at our sensational church!