Our Faith is Old; Our Thinking is NOT!
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The Connecticut General Assembly, meeting in New Haven, passed an
act “directing the Sale and Settlement of all the Townships on the western
Lands.” In 1738 fifty rights or shares in Cornwall were sold. Three other
shares had been previously reserved: one for the first minister, one as a
fund for the support of ministry and one for the support of schools. In 1740
an act of the General Assembly granted Cornwall the right to establish town
government and to call a minister and establish a land tax for his support
and the construction of a meeting house. While the local congregation has
evolved over the centuries, the history of the UCC in Cornwall has been a
part of the Town’s history from its beginning.
1741 The Reverend Solomon Palmer was installed as the first minister of the
Congregational Church; during his tenure, he was also town clerk. After 12
˝ years, he preached a sermon on Joshua 24:15 and announced that his ordination
was not valid, that he was an Episcopalian, and that he was resigning his
And if it seem evil unto you to serve
the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your
fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the
Amorites,, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve
1755 The Rev. Hezekiah Gold was installed as the congregation’s second minister.
The last years of his 25-year tenure were marked by controversy over the apparent
wealth of the minister during a time of war and sacrifice, over matters on
Congregational theology, and over personality. It is reported that one Sunday,
he was locked out of the sanctuary and that a deacon sat on the Bible so he
could not preach. The opposition were taken to court and fined. The Rev. Gold
remained in his position until he “was disconnected from his people by his
resignation of office as pastor, and also by death.” (Gold, Theodore S., History
of Cornwall. Hartford: Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company,
1877. Page 67.)
1782 A minority of the congregation, who called themselves "Strict Congregationalists," seceded and formed what eventually became known as the Second Congregational Church. They erected their own meeting house, first in Cornwall, in 1785. In 1826 they erected what is now called the North Cornwall Meeting House, located at the corner of Town Street and Coggswell Road. Tradition claims that each pillar in the sanctuary was contributed from the land of members (Clark, Gold, Hart, Pratt, Scoville, Rogers, and others). Some descendants of those contributing families are still active in the life of the church.
1817 The Foreign Mission School was established in Cornwall through the efforts of Litchfield County's Congregational Ministers, who sought to educate and convert Native Americans and overseas natives. Its most well known student was Henry Obookiah, a native Hawaiian who converted to Christianity. He died at the school in 1818 of typhus and was buried in the Cornwall cemetery until a delegation from Hawaii disinterred his body for reburial in Hawaii in the 1980's. The church has received visits throughout the years from Hawaiian Congregationalists interested in the life of their native son. The school closed in 1826, shortly after two Cornwall girls fell in love with and married two Cherokee students - and tested the sympathies of those who sought to help the "heathens."
1842 The current Cornwall Village Meeting House was constructed. In 1873
a chapel was added across the street; that building was sold in 1955 and is
now St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
1878 The West Cornwall chapel was completed by the Second Church congregation.
Sunday School and then worship had been offered in West Cornwall village hall
since 1858 so that residents who did not own horses could enjoy church worship
and education without having to walk so far. Morning worship was held at North
Cornwall and an evening service at West Cornwall; Sunday School was offered
at both locations. In 1973 the chapel was sold and is now a private home.
1924 The Woman's Society was formed. The group meets regularly for fellowship and service. Its most recent and ambitious project is the yearly Rummage Sale in July. The sale attracts customers from all over the area and uses three different buildings, including the Mohawk Ski Area lodge. Proceeds support a scholarship fund for Cornwall students.
1939 The Associates of North Cornwall Church is an outgrowth of The Samuel
Scoville Associates; the latter organization was formed in 1902 to honor native
son The Reverend Samuel Scoville. The Associates for many years organized
Old Home Week Sunday, held in August. Year-round and part-time residents heard
a guest preacher, then celebrated with a picnic and reminiscences. In 1939,
on Old Home Week Sunday when the sanctuary and balcony were full, during the
prayer, a loud crack signaled a split in the wall and the balcony came down.
No one was injured; the service continued outside with an inspiring sermon;
and the Associates repaired the foundation – one of many projects undertaken
by the group over the years to help maintain the North Cornwall Meeting House
and to enhance the life of the town.
1988 On Palm Sunday, March 27, 1988, the division created in 1782 was ended.
The congregations of The First Church of Christ and the Second Congregational
Church each voted unanimously to dissolve and form a new church, to be known
as The United Church of Christ in Cornwall, Congregational. There had already
been several efforts made at reunion. The congregations shared ministers for
many years, but finances and membership were maintained separately. At least
twice, a vote to merge the congregations was defeated, once by only two votes.
Today there is again just one United Church of Christ, Congregational in Cornwall
though there are still two meeting houses. Worship and Sunday School during
the school year are held in the Cornwall Village Meeting House; in the summer,
the congregation moves to North Cornwall for worship.
2001 The United Church of Christ in Cornwall, Congregational declared itself
an Open and Affirming Congregation, pledging to “recognize and welcome….men
and women of all ages, races, abilities, and sexual orientations who wish
to join with us in worship, membership, leadership, fellowship and service.”
The Board of Deacons has approved our minister’s performing same-sex unions;
and our sanctuaries are open to such celebrations of commitment.
2003 A major capital improvement project was dedicated. Cornwall Village
Meeting House improvements included three new roofs, new offices, major painting
jobs, four new handicapped accessible restrooms, a chair lift, plus other
long needed maintenance items. North Cornwall Meeting House boasts new paint
and structural repairs to the foundation and steeple.