The First Church of Christ in Saybrook (Congregational) was organized in 1646, some 370 years ago. The first meetinghouse was located outside the fort on Saybrook Point, on the mouth of the Connecticut River.
Sunday services required eight guards to protect church members from any Pequot Indian attacks. Over the next century, First Church expanded its membership, built two additional churches, and benefited from having only 6 ministers, three of which served a total of 152 years. Thomas Buckingham (1665-1709); William Hart (1736-1783); and Frederick William Hotchkiss for 61 years (1783-1844).
During this period, the most notable events in our church history took place during Thomas Buckingham’s ministry. These included Buckingham’s leading role as a founder and teacher of the Collegiate School, stated in 1701, later to become Yale University when it moved from Old Saybrook to New Haven in 1716. Also, Buckingham served as moderator of a group of minister in 1708 that formulated the “Saybrook Platform”, a doctrine that set forth new standards for congregational church governance. Finally, Buckingham played a critical role as patriot for successfully rallying fellow citizens against threatened takeover in 1675 of fort Saybrook (included in the Connecticut Colony) by an emissary of King James, who as Duke of York, controlled New York. The repulse of this armed fleet known as “Andross Incident”, prevented the possible acquisition of Connecticut by New York interests. William Hart and Frederick Hotchkiss later played critical roles in First Church’s rich history.
1646: The first meetinghouse, built about 1647, was probably a frame building with riven clapboards, located on the north side of Middle Lane, with the parsonage just west of it. The second meetinghouse, a frame building, stood “near about the place of the old one”.
Its construction was authorized at a town meeting held January 17, 1679, and it was ready for occupancy in 1681. One of its windows, a casement leaded sash with imported English glass, is on exhibit in the treasure cabinets in our present building. The third meetinghouse was erected in 1726, on the Church Green. The Green is directly opposite our present buildings. Our present and fourth meetinghouse was dedicated January 5, 1840 and was extensively renovated in 1977.
At First Church of Christ (Congregational) we are proud of our rich history. We are excited about our current ministries. We are invested in our future. We are a Christ centered church that understands that Christ is In and a part of all of humanity. At First Church of Christ in Saybrook (Congregational) we hold many core values. Here are three values we hold close to our heart.
First, is a continuing testament, we value the sacred text, here at First Church of Christ, scripture is central to us. For us Scripture is alive and is celebrated each Sunday.
Second, we believe in an extravagant welcome. Each Sunday service is begun by claiming that whoever you are or wherever you are on your faith journey you are welcome here. As our community is accepting to all, we find God’s grace in hearing and celebrating each other’s sacred stories. Therefore, we insist that God’s communion table is open, not closed, and God’s gifts and claims in baptism is a proclamation that the gifts and blessing of God are for all of God’s people.
Third, we believe in changing lives. We are rooted in our faith and community oriented. In our many outreach ministries, and activities we believe we can change lives. This is about who we are and how we do ministry here in Saybrook. Each of us are a part of the body of Christ. Confessing this liberates us to form a solid foundation for the building up of the Church.
We are a faith community of a continuing Testament. Our faith is 2,000 years old. Our thinking is not. We are a “forward thinking” church. We continue to be invested in new ways to do God’s work in the kingdom. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here. Join us!