First Congregational Church

The folks at the First Congregational Church boast that "our faith is 2000 years old but our thinking is not." They've so far paved the way for spiritual and individual acceptance in the city of Tempe.

Their beginnings were humble. At the age of 61, Reverend Daniel Kloss from Kansas moved to Tempe in 1891. Following him were more Kansans, responding to a push for immigration to the Salt River Valley. They created a "Kansas Colony" in the city of Tempe. Many of these residents were interested in creating a Congregational Church. The church was officially founded in 1892, but did not have a permanent space until the construction of the building in 1899. The congregation has held services at the same site since its construction.

The church members, whose numbers remained rather small through much of its history, were fiercely loyal to the church and its leaders. In 1935, Reverend Truman O. Douglass, a prominent and popular pastor of the church, became ill and was in the hospital and unable to lead the church for some time. In his absence, the entire congregation (then including 137 members) came together to raise money and donate time in order to continue the church's services. In 1939, the Congregational members were praised by the General Council of the Congregational and Christian Churches for their increased missionary work throughout that year. Executive Order 9066, signed in 1942, called for the internment of Japanese-Americans across the United States. The members of the First Congregational Church immediately stepped up to provide blankets, clothing, and education to those citizens being held in the Gila River internment camp. These are just a few examples of the tight-knight, loyal, and accepting community that is the legacy of the First Congregational Church.

The building is reminiscent of architecture primarily found in Ohio and built according to the "Akron Plan". The church has undergone many renovations since its original construction. A room for Sunday school services, that were previously held in the church's auditorium, was added in 1910. The original steeple was removed between 1928 and 1929. A new social hall, replacing the 1910 addition and dedicated as Prior Hall, was added in the early 1950s. The most notable renovation was the addition of a sanctuary and of a new steeple in 1953. The sanctuary was designed and constructed by local architect Kemper Goodwin, who also created the designs for the Tempe Municipal Building. All additions and renovations have been sensitive to the original design. Even old brick used in the original building was combined with new brick to create the new sanctuary.

The property was the first to be designated for the local Tempe Historic Property Register in 2000. The congregation itself welcomes people of all backgrounds and regularly schedules meals for the poor and other philanthropic activities. The church now sits alongside an Islamic Center, and both are renowned for their good neighbor policy. Both organizations received the MLK Diversity award in 2002.

"An example of the Colonial Revival Style of architecture, the First Congregational Church has undergone several renovations and additions. It now has classroom and administrative space. It was designated as a Tempe Historic Property in 2001." (Tempe Preservation, Mill Ave Tour)

Images

First Congregational Choir Formal Picture, ca. 1956
First Congregational Choir Formal Picture, ca. 1956 Music is a very large part of many religious ceremonies, as shown here by the size of the First Congregational Church's choir. Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum. Source: Bill Wood. Tempe First Congregational Church - Choir Formal Picture. Photograph, 1956. 2004.45.147. Tempe History Museum. Creator: Bill Wood
First Congregational Church, 6th and Myrtle, ca. 1950
First Congregational Church, 6th and Myrtle, ca. 1950 This photograph depicts much of the structure still seen today. Most additions have been in the rear of the building, however there was a large rectangular structure that was replaced by the steeple pictured here. Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum. Source: First Congregational Church, 6th and Myrtle, Tempe, Arizona. Photograph, c 1950. 1987.1.1574. Tempe History Museum.
Thanksgiving at First Congregational Church
Thanksgiving at First Congregational Church The First Congregational Church was a gathering place of many community members, as seen an this Thanksgiving celebration in 1977. Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum. Source: Jan Young. They Said Thanks - Tempe Daily News - Saturday, November 26, 1977. Photograph, November 26, 1977. 2001.19.2059. Tempe History Museum. Creator: Jan Young
MLK Diversity Award, 2002
MLK Diversity Award, 2002 Both the Tempe Islamic Center and the United Church of Christ recieved the MLK Diversity award in 2002. These two organizations exemplify the good neighbor policy, welcoming and working alongside each other to make the world a more understanding place. Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum. Source: Craig Smith, City of Tempe 2002 Diversity Award Winner First Congregational Church/Islamic Cultural Center. Photograph, 2002. 2002.13.7. Tempe History Museum. Creator: Craig Smith
Postcard of Churches in Tempe, ca. 1909
Postcard of Churches in Tempe, ca. 1909 The presence of churches and religious institutions in the city of Tempe made it a very desirable place to live for many people. Reverse-side text: "This should give you some idea of what a good place I'm living in." Photo courtesy of Joe Nucci. Source: Postcard Depicting Churches in Tempe, 1909. Postcard, n.d. Joe Nucci Personal Collection.
First Congregational Church, prior to 1956
First Congregational Church, prior to 1956 This postcard depicts the rectangular, block structure located where the spire is today. Photo courtesy of Joe Nucci. Source: First Congregational Church, Prior to 1956. Postcard, n.d. Joe Nucci Personal Collection.

Location

Metadata

Holly Solis, “First Congregational Church,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/53.