A Brief History of University Congregational Church 1891-2018

April 1891  The beginning of a Congregational Church presence in Missoula, Montana.  Established as First Congregational Church with Rev. Clark as pastor.  On September 13 a new chapel is dedicated free from debt.  The congregation was composed of 14 members.

1900  Rev. Clark resigns and Rev. J.A. Barnes becomes the pastor.  At one point in his tenure the Sunday School has 75 members. 

1904  Rev. Sullivan S. Healey becomes the Minister of the church.  The church is really struggling.  The members has dropped to 33 members.   He strongly urges that the church disband.

1907  Rev. Clark and the church acquire the necessary funds to build a new church.  The Missoulian reports that “The Congregational Church of Fifth and Chestnut Streets on the South side is ready for Occupants at ta cost of $8,983.75.  On June 18 dedication services are held.

1908  Rev. Dwight S. Bayley becomes pastor.  A great flood washes our the Higgins Avenue bridge.

1910  Rev. Elmer E. Burtner becomes pastor.  During his tenure the congregation revises its constitution to allow women to be a trustee of the church.

1913  Rev. E. D. Gallaher becomes the pastor.  He is a strong advocate for church unity.  First Congregational Church federates with First Presbyterian Church.  You can still see a cornerstone at the current First Presbyterian church building that says First Congregational Church.

1921  The Congregationalists decide to leave the union with the Presbyterian church and move to the corner of Hilda and University Avenues to create a liberal church to serve the religious and social needs of University Students.  De. Hiram Harrison leads this charge.  This is the beginning of University Congregational Church.

October 1922  The first service is held in the new building (the building we now call the Fireside Room).

November 1922  Rev. John Hahn is the first pastor.  Rev. Hahn’s salary is $2500 plus $600 for rent.  Only $600 of his total salary comes from the congregation; the remainder comes from the national church, the Congregational Christian Church.

1931  Rev. O. R. Warford becomes the pastor.  He serves the church as the pastor and also teaches religion and philosophy at the University of Montana.

1938  Rev. Gordon Bennett becomes the pastor.  By 1941 as the US enters World War II 60% of its members leave to work in war industries or serve in the military forces.  There are serious doubts about whether or not the church will survive.  The church is unable to pay its pastor.  Rev. Bennett leaves in June of 1943.

1943  Rev. Guy L. Barnes becomes the pastor.  Total membership is 100 people.

1952  The church is able to be self-supporting without help from the Mission funds of the national church.

1954  A new sanctuary is built.

1957  On a national level the Evangelical and Reformed churches of American and the Congregationalist Christian Churches merge to form the United Church of Christ.

1959  Rev. Lawrence Gruman becomes the pastor of the church.  A Parsonage on Connell Avenue is purchased.

1961  University Congregational Church votes to affiliate with the United Church of Christ.

1965  Plans are underway to buy two lots east of the church for $520,000 to construct an education building.  The next year the construction of that education wing begins.

1966  Rev. Robert Anderson become the Minister.  Membership is at 354.

1967  The United Campus Christian Fellowship meets in the education wing and uses it as a coffee house.

1971  Rev. Lobell Bennett serves as interim minister before Rev. Carl Schroer begins his ministry.

1976  The colored glass bricks in the sanctuary wall are made by church members under the direction of Walter Hook, a UM art professor.

1980  Rev. Peter Hayn arrives as a Minister of Christian Education and after ~2 years.

1983  Rev. Tom Dicken becomes the minister.  In 1984 Rev. Jeff Suddendorf become Associate Minister of Christian Education.

1986  Rev. Dicken resigns and Rev. Suddendorf becomes the Acting Senior minister.  Rev.  Barrying Morrison serves as the Interim Associate Minister.

September 1986  Rev. Suddendorf becomes senior minister.  The search for an associate minister is instituted. 

May 1987  The Search Committee sends a letter of introduction to the Congregation regarding Rev. Wendy Taylor.  Rev. Taylor was scheduled to come to Missoula to candidate on May 14.  Upon receiving the letter of introduction, which spoke of Rev. Taylor’s homosexuality, many members of the congregation called or wrote t the Search Committee to express their opposition to her candidacy. 

While there were also some who affirmed her candidacy, the Search Committee, after careful and painful reconsideration, withdrew Rev. Taylor’s name from consideration. 

1987  The Jeannette Rankin Peace Resource Center is started in the Church and Rev. Rosemary Iha is called as Co-Minister.

1989 Revs. Iha and Suddendorf both resign after a poor stewardship campaign.  Rev. Barbara Archer serves as interim minister.

1991  Rev. Peter Shober begins his pastorate.

1993  The Congregation votes to becomes open and affirming.

1995  the first capital campaign under Rev. Shober’s leadership bringing three separate buildings together and reorganizing the ministry of the church into 4 area coordinating teams. 

1998  Joyce Watson begins as Coordinator of Shared Ministry.

1999  Church membership grows to 500 for the first time.

2001 Rev. Amy Carter is called as the Associate Minister.

2013  A Capital Vision Campaign is launched under the title of Deep Root, New Branches, Building Connections, Transforming Lives.

December 2016  Rev. Shober retires.

2017  The Capital Vision campaign is closed, raising $550,000.  Within this campaign is a remodel of the church kitchen, WiFi accessibility throughout the church, the hiring of both a coordinator of small groups and a director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. 

January 2017  Rev. Amy Carter begins as the Interim Minister.

June 2018  Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum begins as Senior Pastor.