Journey of Faith: History of NGCC
By Jerry Brady
In 1827, North Greenwich Congregational Church was founded by farmers. Greenwich had become a thriving town by then, population about 3800. All of the town north of Glenville was woods, swamps, rocks and isolated farms. King Street, Quaker Ridge Road and Round Hill Road were dirt roads, impassable in heavy snow and flood.
Silas Mead, Deacon and one of the founding members wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the church, “It now seems evident that it was God’s purpose that a meeting house for His worship should be built on this hill, where it now stands.” So, on “one certain tract of land, lying and being in said Greenwich, containing 13 acres and three roads, be the same, more or less. Bounded north and east by the highway, south by the land of Darius Mead and west by the land of Silas Mead.” Mr. Mead sold his property to the North Greenwich Society for $500.00!
Really, this “Fourth” Congregational Church might have been called the Mead Church for of the original 18 members, 13 were Meads, either direct relatives, or by marriage.
In the first fifty years of the church, there was plenty of diversity in the pulpit. There were six permanent pastor during this period and 281 different ministers preaching – including 5 Episcopalians, 5 Baptists, 18 Methodists, 1 Quakeress (presumably a woman) and one Jew. The rest were Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian.
And, speaking of change, the church has been illuminated by candles, whale oil, kerosene, electricity from a generator and, as late as 1933, by electricity from Connecticut Power and Light.
Transportation to the church had been by foot, horseback, farm wagon, ox cart, sleigh, carriage, Model T, Cadillac, and for our Pan Am pilots, coming home for the weekend, the 747.
But, some things remain the same. From the 150th anniversary history: “The basic theology and religious practice of the Congregational Church are essentially the same since 1827. We are much less formal and certainly require less preaching from the pulpit.”
The last excommunication was in 1840. Ah, cast your mind back! In December 1835, a "temperance" committee was formed to visit those members who had absented themselves from public worship. Mrs. Harriet Cummings had missed church services during the winter. Poor Harriet was also questioned in reference to visiting places of amusement and of being guilty of “unchristian” conduct. She admitted that she had been to such places, but did not attempt to dance. After requesting prayers, she was restored to “good and regular standing.”
A complaint was made against Benjamin Knapp for living in "habits of intemperance." He refused to refrain from “all that would intoxicate” and was excommunicated, but later given only a one-year probation. Even a Mead, Silas Mead, was censured for not attending services for three years.
Money, of course, was always an issue. Chauncey Wilcox, the first pastor, was dismissed after 18 years over a pay dispute. His annual salary was $400.00. The middle front pews of the old church were rented for income. Pew rent was discontinued in 1918.
So, here were are, many years later!! The "temperance" committee, needless to say, was disbanded long ago. Having refurbished and rededicated our historic sanctuary, the North Greenwich Society’s mission moves forward, for WE are now the living extension of a grand "backcountry" tradition.
History of NGCC – Photo Gallery
The images below can be found in the book Congregationalists on Quaker Ridge 1827-1977: The History of North Greenwich Congregational Church Edited by Linton and Martha Simerl