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The will celebrate its 275th year as a community of faith with a variety of events planned for throughout 2012.
The anniversary will kick off during the weekly morning worship service on Sunday, January 22, 2012. After worship, there will be a potluck luncheon followed by a brief multi-media presentation on church history and then interactive, intergenerational activities.
Other events during the year include sessions on preserving family records and history in February and March, a concert featuring the premiere of a specially commissioned anthem in April, a summer exhibit at the Mansfield Historical Society, a picnic and campfire for church members and their families in June, Carillon concerts during the summer, and a closing celebration event in October.
The Storrs Congregational Church began in 1737 following the division of Mansfield into a north and south parish, splitting off from its parent church in Mansfield Center. It wasn’t until 1744 that the church called its first minister, the Rev. Mr. William Throop, whose first duties were to deal with local problems relating to the Separatist movement that was affecting the Congregational church in New England at that time.
The present church building, at the intersection of Route 195 and North Eagleville Road, adjacent to the University of Connecticut campus, is the fourth meeting house to stand on that location. The first was built in 1748, the second in 1793, and the third, built in 1848, was razed in 1926 to make way for the current meeting house. Other church facilities include the Parish House, which opened in 1926, and the Education Building, which opened in 1960. The J. Garland Waggoner Chapel, named for Rev. Waggoner who served the church for over 40 years, also opened in 1960.
Music has been a part of the church at least as early as the 1790s, according to church records, when a singing master was engaged. Choir music began in the 19th century, and organs have been providing the instrumental music of the church since the latter half of that century. The Fisk tracker organ was installed in the sanctuary in September 1981, and in addition to regular worship services, recitals, and weddings, it is used for the annual L. Cameron Johnson Organ Competition each year.
Outreach and missions are an integral part of the Storrs Congregational Church, with mission work having started in the 1820s. The church is a founding member of the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry, members regularly volunteer at the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, and among other outreach programs, members deliver food for holiday meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to Mansfield families in need.
A capital campaign launched in January 2009, which funded the installation of an elevator and other accessibility improvements to church facilities, also has provided funding to a number of community and service organizations in recent months. Recipients have included the Covenant Soup Kitchen, WAIM, the Heifer Project, and the scholarship fund of the local chapter of Church Women United.
For many years during its history, the church has had close ties to the University of Connecticut, starting with the University’s founding as the Storrs Agricultural School in 1881. Earlier, from 1866 to 1876, residents of the State’s Civil War Orphans Home attended church services, with their pew subscriptions paid by the State of Connecticut. The orphans’ home became the first building of the new agricultural school, and the same pew arrangement was extended to students of the school, which in 1899 became Connecticut Agricultural College.
When the Parish House, then known as the Community House, was opened in 1926, it served as the location of meetings, lectures, and other activities of students, faculty, and campus organizations. Even after the Student Union Building opened in 1953, the church facility continued to provide a warm, welcoming setting for some campus events.
In 1931, students raised money to install a clock in the church steeple, and Connecticut Agricultural College purchased a carillon and had it installed in the steeple. The University had the bells and apparatus of the carillon refurbished and more bells added to the array in 2011.
Throughout 2012, the church will be celebrating its history with an eye toward its future. Storrs Congregational Church is a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and is an Open and Affirming congregation.
For more information about Storrs Congregational, see our Web site at: http://storrscongchurch.org; join us on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/storrscongregationalchurch or call us at 860-429-9382.