On August 22, 1639, The First Church of Christ in Milford, now the First United Church of Christ (Congregational) was organized in New Haven by The Reverend Peter Prudden and a company of fifteen families.
They arrived in Boston on July 31, 1637, from England. A year later they sailed to what is now New Haven and held their first religious service under an oak tree on Sunday, April 25, 1638, with the founding settlers of that community.
Desiring a church and a colony of their own, they purchased land for this purpose on February 12, 1639, but they made no attempt to settle the land that winter. Their church was organized before moving to Wepawaug, which is now Milford.
Originally, the government of the town was a Theocracy - a small republic independent of all outside authority. God was their only King and the Bible their only law book. Only Church members were permitted the right to vote and hold office.
When Milford, as part of the New Haven Colony, merged with Connecticut Colony in 1665, the law was changed and ownership of property became the basis of citizenship in place of church membership.
Second Meetinghouse (circa 1727)
The early pastors of the Milford Church were well educated, numbering among them graduates of Cambridge, England; Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Amherst, Dartmouth, and Oberlin.
In 1741, following the great revival of Edwards and Whitefield, and a religious and political controversy of the "Old Lights" and the "New Lights," a division in the membership of the Milford Church arose, as a result of which the Second Church, or Plymouth Church, was founded. The first pastor of the new church was Job Prudden, great grandson of Peter Prudden, founder and first pastor of the First Church.
Left: Third (Present) Meetinghouse - Right: Plymouth Church (circa 1823)
They built Second Church (Plymouth Church) across the river on the location of our present Plymouth Building. This church continued for a period of 185 years of active religious service to the community.
By the early 20th century, the causes of the original division had been forgotten. In 1926, under the leadership of the Reverend Charles Atkins of The Plymouth Church, and due to spiritual and financial concerns, the two churches became one again. The name of the one new church became The Church of Christ, Congregational. After over twenty years of using the Plymouth Church for plays and other social and community events, the costs of maintaining it become too much and it didn't function as the church needed, so it was torn down and the current Plymouth Building, with its Woodruff Chapel, two wings (for Sunday school classes), basement room and second floor office were built.
In 1943, First Church hired its first Assistant Pastor, and later changed the title to Associate Pastor. In the 1950s the church expanded its music ministry and purchased the then new Holtkamp organ that is still used today in our Sanctuary. The location of the organ was shifted from the chancel to the back balcony in part to accommodate the larger organ chamber and the growing choir in the loft. Ground under the Sanctuary was dug out to build more Sunday School rooms. In the 1960s the church began its Emma Davis Medical Equipment Ministry in memory of Ms. Davis' community ministry.
On January 25, 1961, the church membership ratified the constitution and accepted membership in the newly-formed denomination, The United Church of Christ. At that time our name was changed to its present name: The First United Church of Christ (Congregational).
In the 1970s and 1980s the church helped found Milford's homeless shelter--Beth El Center--and began our own transitional apartment ministry, Sojourners Haven. The Christian Education ministry remained strong, helped in large part to involved laypeople and a tradition of active Directors and Ministers of Christian Education (the phrase "Christian Education" is now transitioning into "Faith Formation"). In 2000, the high school youth group went on its first mission trip (to Virginia) and has served in disaster zones and regions in need for a week almost every summer since. Also in 2000, major repairs were made to our historic Meetinghouse steeple. In 2002 the church sold its historic communion and baptism silver, which paid for the building of a 70-space parking lot across the street from the main church.
Between 1945 and 2013, the church had only three settled Senior Pastors: Irv Thursby (1945-1977), Bill Soper (1977-1996), and Jim Tudesco (1999-2013). During our most recent interim period, Rev. Doug Clark led us through a visioning process and we celebrated the 375th anniversary of our church's and the town's founding. At the end of 2014, our long-time Associate Pastor, the Rev. Adam E. Eckhart, was called to be our new Senior Pastor. All our staff have been hired or called since then, including Rev. Ashley Grant (Associate Pastor), Kelsey Gamble (Minister of Christian Education), Daniel Brownell (Music Minister), Mark Byers (Sexton) and Ashley Medina (Office Administrator).
First Church's commitment to God's love for all people has given birth to new ministries in recent years, including Milford Food 2 Kids, an outreach ministry that feeds over 160 food insecure Milford schoolchildren every weekend during the school year.
Volunteers, however, remain the driving force of our church's mission, with over 125 people volunteering each week at church during the school year, in addition to the committee members and chairs, officers and other representatives who are formed in faith and support each other in mutual ministry here.
Today: 375 Years and Beyond
Our music, outreach, Christian formation and youth ministries keep us engaged with God's call, praising and serving God every week and every day. We are proud of our sacred, engaging and joyful worship, which brings our generations together to worship God with praise and love.
We continue to actively invite people to join us in our faith and community. We pray that God has more light and truth to reveal to us and more opportunities to serve and build each other up in faith community into the future.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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