Founded in 1850, First Congregational Church is Ripon’s oldest continuous church organization, and its original meeting house was the first church to be built in the area.
The first European settlers had moved here from Southport, now Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1844. They established a social experiment called Ceresco, which remains a section of the City of Ripon.
On November 21, 1850, eleven of these pioneers met in the Mapes Hotel to form a church which they voted to call “The First Congregational Church of Ceresco” (changed to “Ripon” in 1857). They built their first church just north of the present building.
We are proud that this church believed its calling was to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and in doing so to be controversial and even radical. It was at this church that Alvan Bovay called a meeting on February 28, 1854, to oppose the spread of slavery as proposed in the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Twenty days later a second meeting occurred at the Little White Schoolhouse. This meeting inspired the creation of a political party that, for more than a century and a half, has espoused freedom.
The church internalized that freedom in 1856, when it passed a resolution stating that “it will not fellowship slaveholders, nor admit them to our communion.”
But it was no an exclusionary institution. Quite the opposite.
First Congregational Church of Ripon welcomed women in leadership earlier than most churches. In fact, women served leadership roles since almost the beginning of the church and were elected to the Board of Trustees as early as 1896.
The current church building was constructed in 1866-68 at a cost of $22,000. It is listed on the Wisconsin and National Register of Historic Places. Through the years this has been a meeting house of an active congregation, interested not only in their own welfare, but in the well being of others.
Since our church’s foundation is strong, we believe our future is bright if we strive to build upon our past. We have the opportunity to improve and grow our ministry through a renewed commitment to transformation by applying timeless values to today’s context.
We do this through connecting the teachings of Jesus Christ to the lives of the marginalized: people challenged by war, political divisions, rising gas prices, income disparity, malnourishment, drug abuse, terror, distrust between countries and among neighbors, personal isolation, political incivility, home foreclosures, deadly weather, depression, sexual abuse, the decline of marriage and growth of single-parenthood and family.
While our faith is 2,000 years old, our thinking is not. Our congregation believes that God is still speaking.