UCC Symbol South Congregational Church, UCC
1301 Forbes Street, East Hartford, CT 06118

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.

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 a church school wing and fellowship hall were dedicated 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.

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 not our first foray into a stained glass window project, but was certainly the most ambitious. When the Seaparks Department Store, housed in the original church building, was slated for demolition members of the congregation retrieved some of the stained glass panels from that location. Glass from these windows was fashioned into two panels that were installed in the Narthex. The congregation decided to follow the inspiration of East Hartford’s Faith Lutheran Church and pursue a hands on approach with the design, construction and installation. Designs were solicited from the congregation and wider community, and church members cast ballots to select the winning design. A group was formed, dubbed “The Glasscutters,” who volunteered their time and talents to work on what was now known as the “Window on the World.”

Stained Glass Window The window contains three themes: The Rainbow, The Circle and the Building Blocks of Faith. The rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant with his people and represents the promise made to Noah, not to flood the earth again. There are seven circles - six yellow-bronze colored concentric ones representing the Gifts of the Spirit, which begin at the center with Christ. The seventh circle is blue water and contains twelve fish symbols representing the apostles and their journeys spreading God’s Word into the world. The Building Blocks of Faith are various Christian symbols related to the Old and New Testaments, the Sacrament of Communion and the history of South Church.

The first panel to be installed was the one containing the Old Testament symbols, and it was dedicated on June 30, 1996. The Glasscutters continued to work on the window and took a phased approach to completing the work. The final panels were installed on July 19, 1997 eight weeks ahead of the projected completion date when the project was undertaken. A dedication service was held on September 21, 1997. Little did they know when they started the “Window on the World” it would lead to other decorative window projects.

South Congregational Church continues its active role of outreach to the East Hartford community with the same dedication exhibited during its long history.