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Church History

The First Congregational United Church of Christ of Corning, New York, founded in 1890, has an interesting history, characterized by devotion to God and service and outreach to the community by its loyal members and the 18 pastors who have been called to serve this church. Women have played a vital role in the leadership of the congregation beginning with a sewing circle on Saturday evening, September 27, 1872 when a group of women met to organize a sewing Society to work for the benefit of the Union Sunday School in Knoxville (as the north side of Corning was then called.) This group became known as the Ladies Aid Society. They purchased an all-purpose community building near Pulteney Street for Sunday School and named it the "Chapel."

The church was organized on September 24, 1890 with 34 members, and later that year the Reverend Nathan Fuller began his work in Corning.

In 1890, Walter Blair was appointed as the first choir director; he served 53 years, resigning in 1943. A new church building was constructed on the corner of Bridge and Ontario Streets, following a successful building fund drive. The building was dedicated on May 13, 1897, had a seating capacity of 1,000 and a cost of $21,000 to build and furnish. It was a truly a community church with High School commencements and civic meetings being held here for many years.

In 1905, a significant fire ruined the organ, damaged a piano, and the interior of the church. Andrew Carnegie gave $1250 toward a new organ. The Ladies Aid Society donated $`1000 toward debt reduction. Church services were held in the Northside Fire Stateion until the church was safe to use again.

The Ladies Aid Society raised substantial amounts of money through church suppers, fairs, plays, and by catering to groups who wanted their meetings with a meal at the church's facilities. Their Harvest Suppers were known throughout the City of Corning. In the 1940's, the Society became the Women's Association and the membership divided into circles of fellowship.

The years of 1946-1961 were years of discussion. The original church building was too costly to maintain in good repair. Land was purchased in 1946 at the corner of Pulteney and Pritchard Streets, and a building committee was formed. However, many members disagreed with the plans for a much smaller building and felt that $100,000 was too much to raise. A "no decision" policy was adopted in June 1951 and reaffirmed in January 1954. In January 1960, the congregation finally voted to build a new church. Ground breaking was held March 19, 1961 and the new church was dedicated on October 22, 1961.

On June 23, 1972, tropical storm Agnes caused massive flooding in our area. Many parishioners' homes were devastated and the church building had eight feet of water throughout. During the summer of 1972, church services were abbreviated with those attending wearing scrubbing clothes and sitting on folding chairs in Fellowship Hall. After services (as well as during the week), all who could, helped with cleaning and repairing in the church.

The church celebrated its Centennial year in 1990 with a year long celebration. There was a display of historical pictures, various parties, a tree-planting, and an all church dinner to celebrate our birthday. A special anthem by Hal Hopson was commissioned for the Church.

The First Congregational United Church of Christ continues today, like its ancestors of bygone years, to open its church building to many community groups for meetings.

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