2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the merger of three Hinesburg churches with historic ties to three different Christian denominations. Here’s the United Church of Hinesburg’s origin story:
Hinesburg was settled in the late 1780’s by a group of families from Connecticut. They were drawn to the area by the fertile ground, hardwood forests and streams that were suitable for building mills. The leader of this original group was Abel Hine, the namesake of our town.
At times, for the support of the church, members pledged themselves to pay cash, and donate livestock, grain and dairy products. The church music was mostly by the choir. There were a few hymn books, without tunes. At times some of the congregation would sing, but it was not common. There were three services on Sunday; the morning service at half-past ten; in the afternoon at one, and the Sunday night prayer meeting at ‘early candle lighting.’
By the 1860 census, the population of Hinesburg was 1,702 and the three churches were well established. According to Erastus Bostwick’s 1861 History & Tales of Hinesburgh, Vermont, the Methodist Church had 118 members, the Congregational Church had 132 members and the Baptist Church approximately 75.
But for the next sixty years, the population of the town of Hinesburg would decline sharply. The American Civil War, western expansion, new railroad lines in neighboring towns and the decline of textiles all impacted Hinesburg’s farming and industry base. By 1910, the population of Hinesburg had fallen to 1,042. All three churches struggled keep their doors open.
So, the three churches began to meet together in 1915 and in 1919, these three churches officially merged, “in view of the desirability of having one strong Protestant church in Hinesburg which shall serve the entire community and shall consider all Protestants as part of its parish” (words taken from the original contract).
Early on, the congregation worshipped at the Methodist Church located on the land that is now Memorial Park. The church burned down in the 1930’s and the congregation began meeting in the Baptist Church, UCH’s current home.
For most of UCH’s history, the church has been served by Methodist Pastors. The Sanctuary was remodeled with New stained glass windows during the long pastorate of Rev. James Osborne in the 1960’s. During his tenure, the Parish House was also built. In subsequent decades, the Parish House would see the addition of a kitchen and classrooms.
In the mid-2000’s, the church went through the process of becoming an Open and Affirming church in the United Church of Christ, a Reconciling Church in the United Methodist Denomination and a Welcoming and Affirming Church in the American The Methodist Church The Congregational Church The Baptist Church Baptist tradition. This designation reflected the congregation’s desire to welcome all people into the full life of the church without discrimination. Since then, the church has been served by pastors from the United Church of Christ.
This, of course, is only a sketch of the rich history that makes the United Church of Hinesburg what it is today. Throughout 2019 we will spend time looking over our records to search out stories of church life over the last one hundred years. We hope that we will be able to tell a little more of the story each month in the Newsletter, focusing more on the people that called UCH their faith community.
If digging through local history sounds interesting and you would like join the small group of amateur historians or if you are interested in working on a 100-year celebration event, contact the church office this January at 802-482-3352.