Vergennes Congregational church to celebrate 225 years

VERGENNES — Vergennes Congregational Church will celebrate 225 years this coming Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 16, when the Vergennes City Green and 60 Water St. will be bursting with activities. The Rev. Gary Lewis, who recently retired, and former pastor Russ Gates will be on hand at both Saturday’s Food for Fuel event on the Green (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Sunday’s special service (9:30 a.m.). They will be reminiscing about their combined 40 years of service to the church and community.
From its charter date of Sept. 17, 1793, the church by Otter Creek has been central to the fabric of the Little City community. In the words of the founders, “Where lately was the howling wilderness … there light has sprung up.” Spearheading the formation was the distinguished Rev. Cotton Mather Smith of Sharon, Conn., who served as a chaplain at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. Daniel Clark Sanders became the first pastor of the infant church in 1794. (He later was president of the University of Vermont for a few years).
For many years church services were sporadic, especially during the War of 1812 and partly because the pastor’s salary was paid (or not) by the town. Services were held in homes or the schoolhouse built in 1794. It took more than 40 years before the brick building of today was completed and the adjacent Manse added in 1837. One hundred years later, Vergennes Congregational Church became part of the United Church of Christ federation, and now proudly is an open and affirming church, “embracing everyone, wherever they are on life’s journey.”
Through the years, and especially since pastors Gates and Lewis took charge, the church has focused on community outreach programs. The Rev. Lewis founded the Vergennes Community Food Shelf in 1991, and thanks to the donations and efforts of VCC and many other area churches and organizations, it now serves 6,000 people every year. More recently, Laundry Love, a monthly evening of free services at the Vergennes Laundromat, was added to the roster. Each month money goes out to provide fuel, electricity, dental, auto repairs and gasoline and more to meet the needs of area residents, old and young.
The Sept. 15 Food for Fuel and More event helps support those many programs. This year the Champlain Brass Quintet will entertain with jazz, ragtime, and marches and as usual the Lion’s Club will grill hamburgers and hot dogs. All the dollars raised for the food and the fun will go to help others. All are welcome to help VCC celebrate 225 years at the Sunday service.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Jeanne Peters based on the history written by Joe Klopfenstein.

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