The Flagler First Congregational Church is the oldest church in Flagler.
It was organized December 13, 1888 by Reverend D.H. Minnich, a circuit rider
from Arickaree, who also served as pastor to five other churches in the area.
The year 1888 was the same year that the Rock Island Railroad reached the
community on its westward march. The charter members of the new church
were Reverend Minnich, H. W. Brown, William Hunt, E. M. Lyon, Florence Lyon,
Mr. Hatch and Hannah Strode.
The first church building was erected at the northeast corner of 5th and Loveland.
The church was one of the first buildings in the pioneer settlement of Flagler.
Funding for constructing the new church building was finalized with a loan of
$300.00 from the Congregational State Committee. The pastor's annual salary
was set at $350.00. That building later served as a school, when the school
moved from the soddy to the church building, and then a residence in 1915
when the late C. M. Smith purchased and renovated the building into a home
for he and his wife.
The first wedding in the church was preformed on Christmas day 1892 under Reverend Tuttle, uniting Edley T. Epperson and Nina M. Miller. The church membership grew to 54 in 1903. In 1912, membership grew to 90 members, and the pastor's salary increased to $500.00. In 1912, plans were being made for a new church building, and in 1913, a site was selected at the southeast corner of 5th and Navajo. On October 4, 1914, construction of the new church building was a majestic structure with a full basement, a large sanctuary (for the times), and a bell tower reaching skyward above the entrance.
The constitution was adopted sometime during 1925-1928, and in 1928-1929, the house serving as our present church parsonage located at the southwest corner of 7th and Navajo was purchased by the church. The Ladies' Aid Society assumed the indebtedness of $1800 for the parsonage and paid off the principal and interest over a period of years.
In 1948, a new church organ was dedicated and Florence M. Cronise memorial chimes were installed.
In 1954, the Christian education building was constructed just south of the church. This building would house Sunday school rooms for all ages and would also have a study office for the pastor. This building still fulfills those same needs of the current church. In October 1955, the First Congregational Church of Flagler voted to be affiliated with the National Associate of Congregational Christian Churches.
In 1960, the church saw the need for a new church building. The present building was in need of some serious repair, and the congregation had about reached the capacity of the sanctuary. With the help of a significant amount of donated labor, a new brick church building was erected just south of the education building. The new church building was dedicated in 1961 and that is where the current congregation gathers for worship. In February 1961, the church voted in favor of the union of the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ.
Revered Harvey Griffith was involved in many community programs and projects during his ministry, and in 1976, in cooperation with Revered McCall of the Arriba Congregational Church, a Parish Planning Committee was formed. The Committee was composed of officers from both churches for the purpose of establishing a yoked ministry between the communities.
The yoked parish was voted into being in June 1976, when Revered Griffith was also called by the Arriba congregation to serve as their pastor. The yoked ministry has operated smoothly under the guidance of the Parish Executive Council into this present time.
In 1985, an enclosed breezeway was constructed by Paul Murphy
and Bill Grimes connecting the education building to the church
building. In 1988, the church celebrated their centennial by
renovating the sanctuary chancel.
Memorial windows from the 1914 church buidling were saved
by Blanche Carper, Ruth Shulda and Marie Smith when the
building was bought by Albert Huntzinger. The 1914 building was
dismantled and the lumber was used to erect a farm building.
The stained glass windows were installed in the breezeway to
once again be a part of the church. The windows were memorials
to Geo. L. Cornwell, an early-day member and businessman of
the community, and to Nellie White, a teenage daughter of
Mr. & Mrs. John A. White.
At the annual meeting in February 1992, the members voted to withdraw from the United Church of Christ and was independent for two years. New hymnals were purchased and new NIV pew Bibles were donated that are still in use today. In 1994 the church joined the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC).
The pastor holding the longest tenure with the First Congregational Church is Bob Strauch, serving as the churches' pastor for twenty-one years from 1993-2014. Pastor Bob was a well-respected and well-known man in all of Eastern Colorado and will always be remembered as a very caring, concerned and encouraging pastor.
The Ladies Aid Society was organized in 1907 and has continued as the active "mission arm" of the church. Money raising projects of the group have included the 5-cent offerings in the early days, 10-cent teas in the 1930's, election day lunches, quilting, serving farm sales, Christmas bazaars and dinners, serving banquets to school and community organizations, and the Bargain Shop (resale of used closing and household items). The Bargain Shop was started in the 1960's and is still functioning today. Ladies of the church still run the shop that is open on Fridays. Proceeds of the shop go to various projects of the church, parsonage, funeral luncheons, and to support community needs. In 2009, the church kitchen was remodeled with all new appliances purchased by the Bargain Shop.
The First Congregational Church has always served as the community church, making its facilities available for community and group gatherings and programs of all kinds. Three times in our history, school classes were held for short periods. Once when the new brick school wasn't ready in September, overflow high school classes met in the church for a brief time. Again during 1951-1952, after the 1916 building burned, the church was used by the school's music department. In 1993 the preschool class used the church due to a school remodel.
Thirty-two pastors, along with nine interim pastors, have served the church throughout its one hundred and thirty years of existence. The strength of the ministry of the church has been a committed group of pastors and lay people striving to do the work of the Lord.