First Congregational Church

Camden, Maine

An open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ

About the Church

A Short History of The First Congregational Church of Camden

In the beginning there was the plantation of Cambden, (sic) in the county of Hancock, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The 72nd town in what later became Maine was incorporated in 1791. Religion was taken seriously by the Commonwealth, and by 1794 citizens were required to pay a fine if they neglected to support a religious order.

In response to a fine for not having a minister for three years, in 1796 the townsmen voted $100 for the support of the gospel. Some Camden residents erected a meeting house on the northeast corner of Park and Elm streets in 1799, and this became the earliest home of the First Congregational Church.

The meetinghouse built, it took until 1804 for a minister to begin preaching there on a regular basis. An Ecclesiastical Council assembled on September 11, 1805, to form a Congregational Church and at the same time ordain its first minister, the Reverend Thomas Cochran. His salary was $500 a year, paid for by taxes.

The present Congregational Church was built in 1834 for approximately $5,000. In 1870 it was remodeled.

The next 50 years witnessed the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Industrial Age. Six ministers served the church, including the Rev. Lewis Darenyd Evans, who served 25 years, longer than any other minister in the history of the church.

At the end of the church's first 100 years, a three-day celebration was held. The front page of the September 15, 1905, Camden Herald was devoted exclusively to the event. The celebration began with Sunday worship, both morning and evening. Monday evening was given over to an historical address, and on Tuesday a social reception was held for about 200 people at the Masonic Hall, with a banquet and after dinner speeches. An 80-page historical booklet was published by the church in honor of the event.

In 1918 the Spanish flu epidemic struck Camden, as it did the rest of the world. The Chapel became a makeshift hospital. Camden lost 25 young people in a year.

The church was extensively remodeled in 1925 and ended the practice of privately owned pews in its sanctuary. By 1955, the need for a new parish house was apparent and plans were made to add on to the existing church structure. The result was the church much as we know it today, at a cost of about $100,000, built with "builder's shares" by the parishioners.

The 150th anniversary of the church was held in August 1955, from Sunday to Sunday, with past ministers in attendance at special services and celebratory suppers.

The congregation voted to become part of the United Church of Christ in 1961.

Each Easter season felt banners designed by the late Abbott Pattison are placed along the sanctuary’s walls. Pattison, a well-recognized American sculptor, was a dedicated member of our church. His sculptural banners are made of 100 percent wool felt, sometimes three layers deep.

The church, the oldest in Camden, celebrated its 200th birthday in 2005 with a weekend of events and with the burial of a time capsule in the front lawn. The capsule will be opened in 2055 to reveal its many messages and memorabilia.

In 2013 the congregation voted to become an Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ.

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