2023 Spring Concert Series

First Congregational Church of Elgin invites the wider community to our annual Spring Concert Series, featuring four performances from local and international musical artists. All concerts are free admission and open to the public. A free-will offering will be collected for donations to the Music Program at First Congregational.



Sunday, February 26, 2023 at 4:00 PM

Lindsay Garritson, concert pianist

Dr. Lindsay Garritson has performed throughout the United States and abroad since the age of four. She has appeared on stages such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Place des Arts (Montreal), and has been featured as soloist with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra (Texas), Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal), Atlantic Classical Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfônica Barra Mansa (Brazil), the Yale Philharmonic Orchestra, and the European Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. An award-winning performer, Lindsay has received top prizes at the Montreal International Piano Competition, USASU Bösendorfer International Piano Competition, and the Mozarteum International Chopin Competition (Salzburg).


Sunday, March 12, 2023 at 4:00 PM

Elgin Symphony String Quartet

Eleanor Bartsch is a violinist with a diverse and vibrant career as a chamber musician, orchestral musician, Concertmaster, soloist, educator, and entrepreneur. In addition to serving as Associate Concertmaster of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, she is Concertmaster of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, a performing member of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 2018 was named first violinist of the critically acclaimed Kontras Quartet.

Eric Pidluski is a native of Fairfield, CT, where he began playing the violin at age 9. He is currently a member of the first violin sections of Elgin and Rockford Symphonies. He attended the DePaul University School of Music, where he received a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a certificate in violin performance.

Rebecca Swan received her Bachelor of Music from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Heidi Castleman and Misha Amory. She is a member of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and is principal violist with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Illinois Philharmonic. She is also a member of the Elgin Symphony and Chicago Sinfonietta.

Sara Sitzer is an active and versatile freelance cellist and entrepreneur in Chicago. A member of the Elgin Symphony, Sara also performs regularly with orchestras and ensembles including the Milwaukee Symphony and Chicago Opera Theater. 



Sunday, March 26, 2023 at 4:00 PM

Harper College Steel Drum Band

Paul Ross, director

The Harper College Steel Bands have been entertaining audiences for over 35 years. They perform on a family of instruments called steel pans which were invented and developed in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. These instruments are hand crafted from 55 gallon oil drums/barrels. Harper owns ten steel pans made for them by legendary pan builder and Trinid native Cliff Alexis. Caribbean styles such as calypso, reggae, ska, cha cha, and mambo along with rock, bossa nova, samba, and pop make up the heart of their musical repertoire. Director Paul G. Ross arranges most of their music and has also written many original pieces for them over the years.


Friday, April 7, 2023 at 7:00 PM

Good Friday Choral Concert and Service

Several church choirs in the area join to perform Faure's Requiem, including liturgical elements of scriptures and prayer.


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.