First Congregational Church United Church of Christ is a vibrant and joyful faith community in the heart of Ripon, Wisconsin. Ours is a community of wonder: holding up hope, dabbling in doubt, building up the beloved community, and seeking God’s love and justice in the world.
I first came to First Congregational Church UCC in 2003 as a student at Ripon College. I now serve as pastor and teacher of this special congregation which has nurtured my spiritual growth and challenged me to live my faith in life-changing ways. Like so many who find their way to this church, my life has been shaped and my spirit nurtured by the people of this place.
God can be found here in the small children playing at holy mischief in the pews, in life-long members remembering sacred stories of the church, in Bible studies asking questions that invite more questions than answers, in curious minds wondering at God’s mystery. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
I hope you find here the best of our Christian tradition: a church whose unity is centered in Jesus Christ, the sole head of the church; a church whose diversity is grounded in freedom of belief and theological thought; a church heeding the urgent call to action to advocate for God’s great justice and mercy in the world; a church that takes the Bible seriously, not literally; a church concerned with social justice and civil rights and has declared itself Open and Affirming of all God’s people, especially our LGBTQ+ members; and an intergenerational and multicultural church seeking to think globally and work locally.
We invite all to participate in God’s Kin-dom and be the church: Protect the environment. Care for the poor. Forgive often. Reject racism. Fight for the powerless. Share earthly and spiritual resources. Embrace diversity. Love God. Enjoy this life. We are glad to have you join us for the journey.
Grace and peace in the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
Reverend Jeffrey Dodson
We are a congregation of the United Church of Christ and a local congregation of the Wisconsin Conference
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, division in our country, 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.
Through congregation-led study, dialogue and prayer. On January 27, 2019 our congregation voted to become part of the UCC's Open and Affirming covenant, committing our members to welcome LGBTQ+ seekers, support their relationships, and advocate for their basic rights. ONA churches take seriously the Bible’s admonition to “accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7, NIV). ONA is a calling for welcome, inclusion and justice.
"Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ's (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions."
- from United Church of Christ website
Open and Affirming Statement
Following the example of Jesus Christ, First Congregational Church UCC in Ripon, Wisconsin professes that we are a community of openness, kindness, and support for all people regardless of who they are or where they may be on their faith journey. We recognize that everyone is a child of God and celebrate the diversity of God’s kingdom. We welcome all people regardless of age, physical ability, economic status, sexual orientation or expression, race, gender identity or expression, relationship status, ethnicity, or mental ability. We encourage all to share in the membership, employment, ministry, and worship experience of our congregation as we seek to grow together in faith and love. With God’s grace, First Congregational Church UCC declares itself to be an Open and Affirming community.