This it the church building as it looked in 1898. The platform at the front left was used for mounting and dismounting of horses. The tree nearest this platform was removed in 1999 after succumbing to disease. The trunk was 5 feet in diameter.
In January of 1740, eleven men gathered together to sign a covenant joining them to each other and binding them to the will of God. This was the inception of the First Congregational Church of Kent, which was formally organized on April 29,1741.
The first Meeting House as built in 1742, and at a town meeting on April 19, 1742, it was voted to buy six gallons of rum to raise it. It was replaced less than thirty years later, during the ministry of Joel Boardwell. The second building was more elaborate and all the townspeople were taxed “4 pennies on a pound on the list of 1771.” The tax could be paid in wheat, rye, Indian corn, bar iron or cash. The building of the church was also financed by the selling of pews, which were assigned according to social position. Both these churches were in what is now the Flanders Historic District.
Despite the disruptions of the Revolutionary War, there appear to have been many serene years, with Mr. Boardwell continuing as Pastor until his death in 1811, “in the 80th year of his age and the 54th year of his ministry.” Unhappily, several less serene pastorates followed, including that of the Rev. Laurens Hickok, who, in the 1820’s was charged by a disgruntled church member with “unministerial conduct” – whistling, vaulting fences, running on the streets, and driving a fast horse! He was found free of wrongdoing, but he soon thereafter accepted a Call to succeed Dr. Lyman Beecher in Litchfield.
In the 1840’s, with the church in need of extensive repairs, it was decided to build a new church – the one we now occupy. The site was chosen because people foresaw that the heart of town would move closer to the new railroad tracks. The new sanctuary was completed in 1849.
The Lecture Room was added in 1853 and the kitchen and library in the 1880’s. Other, smaller changes were a new pulpit in 1872, the tracker pipe organ in 1894, the removal of the horse blocks in 1898, and electric lights in 1916. In 1935, the old pulpit was found in someone’s barn, refinished, and rededicated.
In 1925, the need for more room for church activities was felt and it was proposed that a parish house be built. During the planning stages, this evolved into what is now the Community House. The same need was felt again in the 1960’s, and the present Parish House was built and dedicated in 1970.
Like the church buildings, church life has changed over the years. Church school classes were begun in 1861, and Christian Endeavor (later Pilgrim Fellowship) started soon afterwards. In 1941, the Prudential Committee was formed to take over the financial management of the church from the original Ecclesiastical Society. In 1961, the First Congregational Church of Kent voted to join the United Church of Christ.
With a current membership of about 120, the church has continued to change in recent years. From 1977 to 2015 our Parish House was home to the Kent Children’s Center. In 1989, we opened the Quality Thrift Shop, which has earned over a million dollars toward outreach ministries. Our annual Harvest Fair, although downsized from previous years, is both a fellowship event and a fund raising event for Capital Improvements. The Church School program enriches the lives of our children, youth and adults.
The church building, designed by architect Henry Austin, celebrated its 150th anniversary year in May of 2000. It is one of two churches, designed by Austin, still in its original state.
A new handicap ramp was installed at the rear of the church in the summer of 2006. In the fall of 2007 we paved the parking area, a long overdue project, but well worth the wait. We now have ample parking for Sunday worship and other church gatherings. Also a new Allen Renaissance organ was installed and dedicated that December. It replaced our pipe organ which served us well for over 100 years. The old organ was donated to Smithfield Presbyterian Church in Amenia, NY.
In 2014 we installed a handicapped ramp and a much needed handicap bathroom on the top floor of our Parish House.
We celebrated our 275th anniversary in 2016.