All are Welcome here!

You are welcome here, no matter who you are,
no matter where you are on life’s journey…

For us these words are more than a tune and some nice words.  These words encapsulate the kind of extravagant welcome we believe God has extended to us – a welcome God has called us to pass along to everyone else.  Within the unfathomable reaches of God’s grace, we are learning to follow Christ through simple yet profound practices of discipleship.  And along the way we have a lot of fun too!


We are an Open and Affirming Church in the United Church of Christ, our denomination. Our inclusive values are communicated through this statement:


First Congregational Church of Elgin is a community of followers of Jesus Christ who are open and affirming of all people.  We believe that God’s love embraces all people, no matter what sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status they may have.  However the rest of the world describes you, and however you describe yourself: you are welcome at FCC-E.


As Elgin’s first church, established in 1836, we are committed to staying in downtown Elgin and continuing the ministry we began so long ago.  But we are not bound to the past.  In these days of rapid change within the culture, and within the church, we are rooted in tradition while also transforming into the future.  We do not believe we have all the answers.  We do believe we are called to follow Jesus and explore the journey open to us. 


So whether you are a spiritual seeker just beginning your journey, or a committed believer continuing your walk with Christ, “you are welcome here, no matter who you are.”




Church Governance

Structure of First Congregational Church

First Congregational Church practices “congregational polity,” which is a fancy way of saying we make our own decisions about how to conduct our life together.  Although we gratefully belong to the United Church of Christ, no person or office can dictate policy or procedure to us.  Under the lordship of Christ, final authority for decision-making rests with the congregation as a whole.  A meeting of the entire congregation is held on the fourth Sunday in January to review the year, elect leaders for the new year, and approve the annual budget.  In between congregational meetings, the Church Council is charged with overseeing the operations of the church.  The Council consists of the current church moderator, vice-moderator, treasurer, secretary, the pastor, administrative assistant, chairs of ministries and committees, and members at large.  Any disciple who participates in the life of the congregation is welcome to attend Council meetings which are held on the third Tuesday of each month.

Structure of the United Church of Christ

The local congregation is the basic unit of the United Church of Christ.  The denomination can speak to churches, but it cannot speak for them.  Churches belong to a local association (ours is the Fox Valley Association) to provide oversight and authorization of ordained and other authorized ministers, to serve as the ecclesiastical link between the local congregation and the larger denomination, and to admit or remove local congregations from membership in the UCC.  Local churches also belong to a conference made up of several associations (ours is the Illinois Conference).  The purpose of a conference is to support churches in their selection of ordained leadership, as well as provide programming resources for their constituent churches.  The denomination’s churchwide deliberative body is the General Synod, which meets every two years.  The General Synod consists of delegates elected from the conferences, the members of the United Church of Christ Board, the officers of the denomination, and various other groups.  The United Church of Christ is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.

Meet our Staff

Rev. Dr. Jesse Tanner

Pastor, Spiritual Leader

Sharon Walsh

Administrative Assistant

Dr. Jeff Neufeld

Music Director, Organist

Our History

 Church records show that First Congregational Church got its start in the log cabin of its founder, James T. Gifford.  It’s a landmark that existed only three blocks from the current church structure. The church’s present building – its third- was constructed at the corners of Chicago and Center Streets in 1889 at a cost of $35,000. Constructed with red pressed brick and brownstone trim, the interior was laid out as a “church in the round,” or the “Akron” style popular at the time. The sanctuary included an organ with over 250 pipes – an instrument that still ranks as one of the largest in the Fox Valley.  The large seating capacity of First Congregational Church soon made it a community auditorium on par with the current Hemmens Cultural Center.

Jane Addams, Booker T. Washington, and John Dewey were among the notables who spoke in the building. The sanctuary also served as the sight of high school graduations and other community functions. Post World War II growth led to the demolition of the eastern portion of the building and the construction of an education wing in its place.  The new facility also included a chapel, a new office, and fellowship hall.

Following a million dollar fund raising effort during 2008-2009, the exterior of the education wing was redone to match the architecture of the existing original church. New washrooms were added and classroom configurations changed. But more than bricks and mortar mark the vibrancy of this congregation. It has been active in the city’s food pantry, Soup Kettle, Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS), and was instrumental in securing a new building for the Community Crisis Center.

While some of its neighboring congregations have relocated outside the downtown area, First Congregational sees its mission fulfilled by remaining in its historic building and neighborhood.

N. Clark History of FCC. Rev. Nathaniel Clark. Angel Loft & Pipe Organ Tour: A Rite of Passage at FCC 

The home of James T. Gifford at Prairie and Villa streets as it was described by his widow and other pioneers. First Congregational Church was organized in this cabin and used it as a meeting place for its first three years.

First Congregational Church constructed this building at the northwest corner of Fulton and Villa streets in Elgin in 1843 and remained there until relocating to its current location at Center and Chicago streets in 1889. The site, which was later occupied by the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, was razed in the 1950s for one of the city’s first municipal parking lots.

This circa 1930 photo of First Congregational Church looks similar to the church today, with the exception of a wing on the right side which was removed following World War II and replaced with a newer addition.