THE BIRTH OF SOUTH CHURCH
South Congregational Church was officially organized on September 12, 1877, at an Ecclesiastical Council that was attended by clergy and deacons from Congregational Churches in the Greater Hartford area. The council was held in the original church, constructed near the intersection of Main and High Streets. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on November 14, 1876, with the building being completed in the late summer of 1877. In balloting for a name for the new church, South Congregational was chosen but, Hockanum Congregational and Second Congregational were also considered.
Actually, the informal beginnings of our church started several years
before the Ecclesiastical Council was held. The Hockanum Union
Sewing Society was organized on April 1, 1875, with the express
purpose of working toward the formation of a new church in the
district of Hockanum. Most of the original 22 charter members
were formally enrolled at the then Congregational Church of East
Hartford - now the First Congregational Church located in
downtown East Hartford at Church Corners. On September 4,
1877, this group submitted a letter of resignation to the mother
church asking for "credentials and a dismissal for the purpose of
transferring their relations to a church of our order to be formed
in the district of Hockanum." The request for dismissal was granted "in the kindest spirit and with the same Christian confidence and love with which we first welcomed them to our sacred fellowship." During the 1880s, as the church continued to grow, prayer meetings held in the homes of various members were the main activities outside of the Sunday worship service. In 1896 South Church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Connecticut.
The church opened its doors to the community and served as a haven during two natural disasters, the flood of 1936 and the hurricane and subsequent flooding that occurred in 1938. In April 1940, the church suffered damage due to a fire of unknown origins. During the reconstruction, services continued at various locations: Hockanum Methodist Church, the Hillstown Grange and First Congregational of East Hartford. A rededication service was held on June 23 of that year.
A NEW BUILDING
In 1952, the congregation made the decision to move, to better serve the needs of the growing community in the decades after World War II. Many factors lead to the decision to relocate: increasing industrialization and traffic in the area surrounding the church, the lack of parking and inadequate. space for expansion. Since the southeastern part of town was being residentially developed, a site was chosen on Forbes Street. Invaluable help was given to the church by the Missionary Society of Connecticut and the Board of Home Missions, agencies of the denomination now known as the United Church of Christ. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in May 1956, and the first service in the new sanctuary was on Easter Sunday, 1957. The dedication of the sanctuary was held later that year on October 13. Nearly ten years later construction began on a church school wing and fellowship hall. A dedication ceremony was held on June 11, 1967. The hall was named after Frederick E. Charrier, in honor of the pastor who guided the church through the early stages of the relocation process.
In 1969 the church hosted its first pastoral exchange with the Dore and Totley United Reformed Church in Sheffield, England. The Rev. Frank Duckworth and his wife Marion came to South Church and Roger Nicholson, Senior Pastor of South Church, along with his wife Rosemarie traveled to England. A second pastor exchange occurred in 1988 when Senior Pastor John Adams and his wife Jane spent time in Sheffield and husband and wife Duncan Wilson and Elizabeth Nash came to East Hartford.
A 100th Anniversary celebration in 1977 included 3 days of festivities. A dinner dance was held on the first night. A worship service the following morning featured the premier performance of James Eversole’s "New England Canticle", a piece commissioned especially for the occasion and sung by the Chancel Choir. The weekend-long celebration concluded with a Centennial Banquet.
At an annual meeting on January 22, 1995, a proposal was approved to replace the front window in the Sanctuary with stained
glass. This was approved, and after two years of labor by a group of
South Church members and friends, the window was completed.
The new window became known as the "Window on the World’, and was dedicated in 1997. In the spring of 1996 work began on a Memorial Garden on the south side of the church. The project was completed and dedicated on November 3, 1996.
SOUTH CHURCH TODAY
The 21st century brought both interior and exterior changes to South Church. All interior doors were painted and new exterior doors were purchased. The kitchen was remodeled and a new floor extended from the kitchen through the hallway. In 2002 the Sanctuary organ was refurbished, and in 2006 the Sanctuary itself was repainted and redecorated with new carpeting and window treatments. The sound system was also upgraded. A brick walkway, commemorating and honoring loved ones in the church family was designed and set in place in 2006. In May of 2012 the church was chosen as a location for the "Field of Flags", a traveling tribute that honored American lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
South Congregational Church continues its active role of outreach to the East Hartford community with the same dedication exhibited during its long history.