Our History

The history of our church begins with its founding in 1830 as a splinter group from the First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca which is said to have had over 700 members. The thirty-one charter members decided to become a Dutch Reformed Church whose governance and religious philosophy were similar to the Presbyterians. In a month, the church building was built. Three Sunday services were held in it until 1846, when two began to be held. The first Pastor, Alexander Mason, increased the membership from 31 to 146. By the 1870s, the congregation wanted to be independent from overseeing governance and they voted to become First Congregational Church on March 29, 1873. At the same time the congregation needed a new building. William Miller designed the building which was built in 1884.

By 1949, the old building was showing its deficiencies that were serious enough to look for new accommodations. Land in Cayuga Heights was purchased and plans for a new building commenced. The present building was dedicated in May of 1960.

Our church is more than just a building; it is a community. It has and has had an active religious education ministry, fellowship groups, and music program which have varied over the years depending on the needs of the community.

Our church community has a history of being interested in the world outside our walls. In the 19th century the Missionary Society and other groups supported missionaries and other local community needs and concerns. In the mid twentieth century, members of the church community knew missionaries serving overseas, as well as international students studying in Ithaca.  Some were missionaries themselves furthering their education in Ithaca. This was their personal connection to the outside world. This work continues today through our Outreach Committee. In fact, three of its projects are supporting Feed My Starving Children, Church World Service, and the United Church of Christ’s “Five for Five” ministry.

Today, First Congregational Church of Ithaca is an open and affirming church and also a sanctuary church. It is firmly rooted in faith, and dedicated to caring ministries and loving our neighbors in Ithaca and the world.