Fairport’s First Congregational Church of Christ
by Seth Weidman - 2015 Scholarship Winner
This is the oldest congregation in the Town of Perinton. The congregation met primarily in member’s homes or school houses until the first church building was erected in 1833 at 26 E. Church Street in Fairport–its present site. A second, larger building was added at the same location in 1844, when the original building was moved to West Church Street. This building was used until 1868, when it was also moved, this time, to West Avenue. The main part of the building, in which I worship today, was built in 1869 for less than $18,000! A few years later, Sunday School rooms were added, and in 1917, “toilet rooms” were built.
A postcard view from the early 1900s.
The sanctuary was changed to the way it is today in 1946. The beautiful sanctuary windows that I admire each week were restored in 1960. In 1971, another addition was added, creating the building we see today. This addition has also been used for years as home to the Bertha Agor Memorial Nursery School.
An interior view of the church from 1924 - 100 years after it was founded.
I’d always wondered about the history of my church; when it was formed, how it had changed over the years, and since my church is currently in transition (searching for a new pastor after our long-time pastor retired), I was curious about previous ministers.
This scholarship application gave me the opportunity and incentive to satisfy my curiosity. Here’s what I learned.
The church was founded in 1824 in the home of Jesse Perrin, with the original congregation consisting of only nine members. Perrin, originally from Massachusetts, is one of Perinton’s pioneer settlers, and he fought as a sergeant in the Revolutionary War. The original nine included six women, which I found surprising. I would have guessed that at this period in history, more men would have been involved in a church’s creation.
I was pleased to learn that my congregation has been fairly progressive, noting the 1831 resolution that gave female members “if they wish, “...a vote in all matters that come before the church.” This was nearly 75 years before females gained the right to vote in political elections! I also found it interesting that in 1835, Daniel Willson was almost removed from the church for “Sabbath breaking” because he harvested his grain on a Sunday. This is ironic because, this past fall, my part-time job required me to work Sunday mornings, making it necessary for me to skip church activities!
I discovered that, since the church’s inception, there have been 32 pastors, with some serving less than a year, and the longest serving almost 30 years. My church has always been self-governing, having been established following congregational church principles. The opportunity was presented in the 1830s to join with the Presbyterian Church in Bushnell’s Basin, but the congregation declined this offer. Apparently, the proposition was laid before them, and “the New England eye of the church began to see through the plot, and the New England blood began to boil, and the scheme failed.”
Entryway to the Village of Fairport’s First Congregational Church of Christ.
In 1961, the First Congregational Church joined the United Church of Christ (UCC), which is a union of Evangelical, Reformed, and Congregational churches. Learning about my church’s rich history has made me appreciate those who sat in these pews before me and all they did to establish, grow and maintain the church in which I worship today.