The First United Church of Christ in Shelby was organized in 1851, as the German Reformed Church. The first members of our congregation met in the Methodist Church, which was located at the corner of North Gamble Street and West Smiley. On January 19, 1852, the congregation met in the Exchange Hotel at West Main Street and North Gamble and started Plans to construct its own church building. The first council elected were Moses Crum and Samuel Nazor, Elders; Jacob Kuhn, Deacon; and Moses Crum, William Hawk, and John Strock, Trustees. A building committee composed of J.H. Hershiser and John Bauchman was also formed. A deed recorded in the Richland County Recorder’s Office on April 5, 1852, shows that Henry and Sarah Whitney sold to the Trustees for $200.00 “lot No. Thirty-Nine in Whitney’s Addition to the town of Shelby, it being sixty feet front and one hundred sixty feet back.” As a result of the hard work of the building committee, the cornerstone was laid in May of 1852.
What is supposed to have been the first reed organ in Shelby was purchased in 1858. The present church bell was purchased in 1862. On September 8, 1867, the members adopted a constitution and the same morning started a church school with, “teachers- 7 males, 5 females; scholars- 28 males, 24 females, and a collection of $1.00.” The house on the lot south of the church was bought for $2,000.00 on September 1, 1911 for a parsonage. In May, 1912 the church celebrated its sixtieth anniversary and organized a missionary society.
In February 1924, under the leadership of Pastor Hassler, whose picture can be seen hanging in the present sanctuary, the congregation decided to remodel and enlarge the existing building. Within thirteen days the chosen committee had received pledges of $14,000.00. The congregation accepted a bid for $21,410.00, excluding heat, seating, interior decoration and stained glass windows. The cornerstone service was held August 17, 1924. Although some use of the new church was made in February 1924, the dedication service was scheduled for Palm Sunday, April 5, 1925. The total cost of the project came to $28,000.00. We all should realize that the original church is inside the walls of the church that we worship in today.
In 1934 the Reformed Church Merged with the Evangelical Church, and became known as the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The Shelby congregation continued to grow and in 1941, it was able to burn the mortgage. After an initial suggestion by Miss Edna Burrer, A Wicks Pipe Organ was purchased for $4,177.00. The Ladies Aid and Missionary society was discontinued, and the Women’s Guild came into being in 1945.
In the mid- 1950’s two important events occurred. A fund was started to build a new Christian Education Annex to the Church. The second was that the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian Churches to form the United Church of Christ. The formal Merger was on June 25, 1957. This merger brought into being the “youngest denomination” on the American scene; however, its roots and history started in the Reformation period. The Reformed Church came into being through the Reformation in Switzerland, while the Evangelical Church was an outgrowth of the German Reformation. The Congregational Church was born out of the Reformation efforts in England and dates back to the Sixteenth century. The Christian churches, the forth denomination in forming the UCC, was distintly an American denomination resembling the Disciples of Christ in origin and development. Therefore, the Shelby Church, which began as the Reformed Church, and in 1934 became the Evangelical and Reformed Church is now The First United Church of Christ.
Dedication of the new educational wing was on September 10, 1961. A parking lot across Church Street was acquired. The new Education Annex was paid in full, a cost of $100,244.00, in January 1967, and a mortgage burning service was held a month later. In June of 1971, the church parsonage on Windemere Drive was purchased for slightly over $28,000.00. The old parsonage that had served so long and well was razed shortly after. During the 1970’s the first women were elected to the Church Council. Mary Keil served of the Board of Trustees. Dorothy Trout and Rosella Wood began their Service as deacons.
In December 1975 a large bequest was made to the Church from the estate of Mrs. Clara Adams, a longtime member. Thanks to her generosity, Air- conditioning was installed, a scholarship fund was initiated. Many members who are deceased have left bequests, , which have greatly benefited First Church and the Wider Church.
In 1977, First Church brought a Vietnamese refugee family to Shelby, purchased a home and provided nurturing to the family of Thai and Lieu Nquyen from the time of their arrival in 1979, until they moved to Florida in 1990. In the 1980’s an elevette was built which provides accessibility to all floors of the church and education wing.
Timeline of Ministers
Rev. Joseph Thomas 1850- 1852
Rev. J.C. Klar (Supply) 1852
Rev. Adam Stump (Supply) 1854
Rev. Henry Willard 1854-1857
Rev. Henry Hess 1857-1859
Rev. F.A. Edmonds 1859
Rev. D.W. Kelly 1861-1863
Rev. Nathaniel Loose 1863-1877
Rev. C.W.Good 1877-1879
Rev. Orange E. Lake 1879-1886
Rev. W.C.B Shulenberger 1887-1893
Rev. Nathaniel H. Loose 1894-1901
Rev. Freeman Ware 1901-1902
Rev. D.A. Parks 1903-1904
Rev. H.C. Blosser 1905-1907
Rev. J.S. Freeman 1908-1910
Rev. Frank A. Shults 1910-1914
Rev. C.F. Brouse 1914-1919
Rev. Edgar S. Hassler 1919-1929
Rev. David J.W. Noll 1930-1938
Rev. Carl A. Grimm 1939-1944
Rev. Harlan J. Miller 1944-1950
Rev. Marion C. Harrison 1950-1953
Rev. M.L. Seybold 1954-1957
Rev. Maynard G. Oesterle 1957-1959
Rev. Daniel Schlinkmann 1959-1962
Rev. Robert Z. Lahr 1962-1968
Rev. Robert F. Peeples 1968-1983
Rev. John J. Bradley 1983-1999
Rev. Marcus Buehrer (supply) 1999-2001
Rev. Dr. David Aune (supply) 1999-2001
Rev. Marjorie Mair- Hansen 2001-2002
Rev. Dr. Richard Rader 2002-2010
Rev. George Johnson (Interm) 2010 -2012
Rev. Robert E. Flint 2012-2015
Rev. James R. Robinson 2015-present