A Brief 190 Year History
The story of First Christian Church began in 1826, with the purchase of Lot 167 for $61.00. Twenty men from the congregation built the original church (a crude log structure) on this piece of land where the Campbell House now stands. By 1884, church trustees purchased the corner Lot 165 and immediately started to build a new red brick church. The church was dedicated in 1885 and named the Kirkwood Avenue Christian Church. As the new church was being built, the original building was taken down and our Campbell House was constructed. It served as a parsonage for many years. Today, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County resides in our Campbell House building.
On New Year’s Eve, 1916, fire sirens competed with traditional bells and whistles as the Kirkwood Avenue Christian Church burned to the ground. The cause of the fire remains unknown. On New Year’s Day, 1917, the church board met to plan a replacement. And on September 28, 1919 the new church was dedicated and named First Christian Church of Bloomington.
Over the years, the building has been through various renovations. IN 1947, a limestone pulpit replaced a wooden one. It was carved out of the nearby quarries, taken out as a solid piece weighing 3,000 pounds. Steel beams had to be set on bedrock to support its weight. Our beautiful Tree of Life stained glass window was installed in 1958. Symbolizing eternal life and faith, the tree emerges from a sturdy root system with its five branches depicting important symbols of our Church Life.
A Caring Community
But architecture tells only a small part of the history of a church, a community of believers. In the early 1900s First Christian Church became a “Link Church” providing financial support for overseas missionary work. FCC’s first “Link Missionary” was Mrs. Alexander Paul who traveled to Wu Wu, China. In 1939, FCC participated in the creation of the Christian Center in Bloomington, and later Opportunity House that operated in conjunction with it. Over the years, FCC has provided foundational and continued support for local organizations such as Monroe County United Ministries and Habitat for Humanity (that still resides in our Campbell House building). Our Gathering Place breakfast began when members organized to provide a hot, home cooked breakfast and hospitality to all who needed it. That breakfast served over 100 meals every Sunday morning for 12 years before it outgrew our walls. We continue to serve breakfast on Sundays at the Shalom Community Center. FCC also served as a host site for the Interfaith Emergency Winter Shelter, a low-barrier shelter for homeless individuals that provides a warm, safe place during the cold winter months. We continue to serve this shelter at its new, permanent location. Contributing to a caring community both locally and globally is a fundamental piece of our ministries both past and present. In 2016, a group from FCC traveled to Cuba for a people-to-people pilgrimage. The trip was an opportunity to connect with people across boundaries of faith and culture. Those who went came home with a deeper understanding of a faith that knows no borders. Plans are underway for future journeys to continue to build connections and broaden understanding.
A Bold Vision for The Future Starts Now!
After celebrating our 190th anniversary in 2016, FCC embarked on a bold plan for the future. Through work with the Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation, FCC’s Future Story was written. It is a story with a continued focus on service and spiritual growth, and an expanded focus on the arts. Groups were formed to develop plans for building use and expansion, worship and spiritual growth ministries, and outreach opportunities. Our Jazz Vespers service sprang out of this vision as well as a new spiritual practice ministry. Caregivers Create is a program that provides support for caregivers through art, and plans are underway to host NBA XPLOR , an in-residence program of the National Benevolent Association for young adults who are considering lives of care and service.