The First Congregational United Church of Christ was founded on a cold Saturday evening in December 1847 in an old schoolhouse in Baraboo.

Jonathan Shipley

Orie Eilertson’s favorite parts of a First Congregational United Church of Christ Sunday service are at the beginning and end. The church, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this Sunday, Nov. 13, with a special service and community potluck afterwards, welcomes worshipers to Sunday service with gathering music and a statement of affirmation.

The statement reads: “No matter who you are or where you are in life’s journey, to new visitors and old friends, to people of all colors, cultures, classes, ages, abilities, gender, family type and sexual orientation,” she continues. , the first part that Eilertson likes very much, “to all those who do not have a church at home, need strength, want to follow Christ, have doubts or do not believe, to believers and questioners, and to questioning believers, welcome to this just peace, open and assertive congregation of the United Church of Christ.

UCC Altar

The First Congregational United Church of Christ has been progressive since its founding, fighting against slavery, joining the women’s suffrage movement, protesting the Vietnam War, and much more.

Jonathan Shipley

There is no doubt that the journey of the church and with it the journey of Baraboo himself and with it the spiritual journey of Eilertson and the thousands of people who have worshiped in the church since it began on a cold Saturday evening in December 1847 in a log cabin on 7th Avenue, is and continues to be important and inspiring.

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“Being part of this community,” Eilertson said, “is a special thing.”

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The local community of the United Church of Christ, progressive from the beginning, has existed for a long time. Their first communion took place the day after it was organized in 1847. One of their first resolutions was that women members of the church be allowed to vote, a rather bold move at the time.

UCC windows

The First Congregational United Church of Christ building is over 100 years old and opened in 1895.

Jonathan Shipley

“We offer a different view of Christianity,” said Susan Eldred-Kujawa, a church member for nearly 40 years. “We are progressive and liberal in spirit. We don’t all agree, she confided, but you are accepted here.

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The church has a long history of progressive thinking. In 1849, the congregation declared: “We believe that slavery is inhumane, unjust, contrary to the Scriptures and therefore sinful; we promise to regard slavery as a sin of the greatest magnitude.

In 1918, they supported women’s suffrage. Wisconsin became one of the first states in the Union to vote in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment. In the 1960s, the local church protested the Vietnam War. In 1967, William Lewis was called to be pastor, the first black UCC pastor in Wisconsin. In 1986, First Congregational UCC called the first female pastor, Diane Shaw, to Baraboo. In 2002, the church became an “open and assertive” congregation, after extensive study of sexual orientations and gender identities.

The current pastor of the church is Doug Fouth. He has held the chair since 2003.

“The church provides the openness to change,” Eilertson said. “Never mind the issues: LGBTQ, social justice, race, equality. It gives the community a place to come, be heard, become more connected.

With women’s rights at the forefront of today’s political events, the church eagerly tackles tough issues like abortion and physical and mental violence. Additionally, Eldred-Kujawa said, “We are learning more about mental health issues and how we can better support those in need.” She continued, “We want to learn to be present; be there for everyone.

The physical church here is the third in the history of the congregation in Baraboo. The building itself is over 100 years old. The first place of worship was affectionately called “the little red brick church”. The church’s first pastor, Warren Cochran, helped make the brick, deliver the brick, and build the church with the brick.

Then, after the Civil War, came a white-framed church that stood on Third Avenue. The congregation remained there until it moved again to its current location. The white church has been recycled. Much of the foundation of this church is part of the foundation of the church standing today, the one that was dedicated in early 1895.

A grand banquet was held during the construction of the new church. They ate scalloped oysters, roast turkey, ham, cakes, ice cream.

“I came to a chili meal,” said Eldred-Kujawa, her first showing at the local church. “People were friendly. People came to us as if we were a family. My children were baptized here.

Eilertson’s grandson was too. “Good people here,” he said.

UCC pews

The First Congregational United Church of Christ celebrates its 175th anniversary on Sunday, November 13.

Jonathan Shipley

The blessing and choral response is another of Eilertson’s favorite aspects of a church service. Devotees face each other in the central aisle and sing blessings to each other. “God be with you until we meet again. God be within you – go in peace.

Perhaps for the next 175 years the community will come together for chili suppers and baptisms; choir practices and religious services; forward, the past always close.


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