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The Redding Federated Church (Congregational Church and Methodist Church, 1932) Author Unknown, Believed to be Rev. Fred G. Allen  

*A special "thank you" to Mark Bono for allowing me to view and copy this material


This booklet has been published for two reasons:

First to give to the members and others vitally interested in the church, correct information as to its present organization and work, and a brief history of its growth through two hundred years.

Second, to give all who might be interested some conception of the scope of its activity and range of its service to the community.

This is the first time in many years that an effort has been made to bring together the many facts relating to our church life and fellowship, and our sincerest thanks are due those who have generously aided in the costs of publication.

Redding Federated Church has a splendid heritage from the past and a tremendous challenge for service in the future. We hope this booklet will in some small way give the perspective to point the direction and in inspiration to march on.

Historical Sketch

If our church buildings could talk, what an exciting story they could tell of people who have gathered under their roofs throughout the past century, and of people who remembered those who built the first churches in Redding a century before that. It is a long story; a story one-tenth as long as the story of Christianity itself. It is a story of two branches of a stream bounding down out of the mountain of time, tumbling over rocky crags, or bubbling in little eddies, or lolling in shady pools of woodland quietness till finally they meet to form a wider stream which winds on down the slope.

One day about two hundred years ago, a handful of farmers came in from clearing their fields and building their fences, and sat down in the home of a neighbor to talk over plans for a meeting house for the worship of God "in the Presbyterian way." Once the dimensions were roughly set, they chose three of their number to have charge of putting it up. Stephen Burr's oxen drew stones and clay for the underpinning; Daniel Lion laid them. Others hewed timbers, mortised them, and pegged them into place so they would stay.. Men came bringing lath and laying them on; and before the summer was up, the town common was graced by a tidy, two-story house of worship.

Now they must have a pastor, and the first man bold enough to serve this young parish so recently wrenched from the wilderness was the Rev. Nathaniel Hunn. Early in 1733 he responded to their call, and on March 21 of that year "was separated to the work of the ministry by prayer and fasting, and the laying on of hands." His yearly salary they fixed at 70 pounds, his firewood, a convenient dwelling, and 100 acres of land, with the promise of an increase year by year. Under his guidance the Congregational Church at Redding Center was organized with 26 members, including two deacons.

Its parishioners built plain, sturdy homes and reared their children with the fear of God in their hearts! Its members laid taxes, built roads and school houses, and its ministers taught in them.

Services were conducted regularly throughout the year. Residents were "obliged by law to contribute toward the support and worship" of the church. In 1742 it was voted "to beat the drum as a signal to call the people together on the Sabbath." When they got there, fervent preachments besought them to dedicate their souls and copper foot stoves insured protection against cold feet. Soon a rail was put across the foreside of the gallery, and plain strong seats were installed on the ground floor and assigned by families according to their rank and degree.

During the winter encampment of General Putnam's army in 1779, all troops that looked anywhere near presentable were marched to church to hear the eloquent sermons of the patriotic parson. Rev. Nathaniel Bartlett, for fifty-seven years pastor of the Congregational Church, served at this time as Chaplain to Putnam's Division, administering to the needs of cold and hungry soldiers, and carrying a shot-gun in his carriage while he made his parish calls.

The danger of the Revolution over, there rose up before the eyes of conscientious Congregationalists a new, if not more ominous spectre; the rise of Methodism.

On a warm afternoon in June, 1789, Jesse Lee, out on his mission to quicken and vitalize New England churches, drove down a stony road into Redding Center. There he happened to meet the Rev. Mr. Bartlett who invited him to his house to quiz him about what doctrines he preached. Flint and steel struck sparks which ended in Mr. Lee not being invited to preach in the meeting-house because he held what Mr. Bartlett "thought was contrary to the Gospel." Mr. Lee, nothing daunting, spoke in school-houses, under trees, in barns; and the fruits of his efforts bore vivid testimony to the vitality of his message and the eloquence of his speech.

The Methodist Society in Redding, the second in New England, was formed in that year and meetings were held in the home of Aaron Sanford until the Town Hall was leased in 1803 for fifteen dollars a year. It was arranged that the Town Hall "be used as often, and as much as they please for public worship." Any apprehension about the wisdom of this action was dispelled by the last clause in the motion, i.e. "and said society to repair all damage done to the Town House while they are assembled therein for public worship!"

A modest meeting-house was erected in 1811, with no steeple, no ceiling, "as unpolluted by paint as when its timbers were standing in their native forest," and heated by foot-stoves carried in by the female worshippers. But in spite of this chaste beginning, the Society increased in numbers and in strength, until it became an accepted maxim that there was room for two churches at Redding Center.

It may be interest some to know that the present Congregational building(burned in 1942) was erected in 1836, repaired in 1859 and 1870, and put in its present shape in 1893, when it was completely remodeled; and that the present Methodist(now Congregational) building was built in 1837, and refurbished and rededicated in 1868.

During the nineteenth century came the great nationwide industrial and agricultural boom in which Redding had its share of prosperity. Families grew in numbers, and new people were attracted by its pleasant streams, its fertile fields and rich woodland. There were dairy farms and gardens, creameries and button factories and flour mills. Stores came, where women bought calico and men spun yarns.

The churches prospered in those good days. Folks who worked and frolicked through the week, became stern on Sunday, brought their lunches and spent the day at church. Revivals occurred periodically, the most notable one being conducted in 1867, when some sixty people professed their faith and united with the Congregational Church. Sunday Schools, started early in the century, numbered nearly two hundred children before its close. Large and active groups of Young People gathered for social events and spiritual nourishment. Each Sunday found both churches packed to the galleries for two, and sometimes three services.

Then there came a new kind of change. A tidal wave of large-scale manufacturing swept the country. New inventions and improved transportation focussed attention on industrial centers. People began to emigrate to the city in search for the unusual opportunities it offered. Chain stores made the independent dealer pretty largely a matter of history. It became increasingly difficult to make one's living on a farm. Small factories and mills were closed and dismantled. Fewer people sought a means of livelihood in Redding.

All this, of course, had its effect upon the churches in Redding Center, as it had on the churches throughout the land. Elderly parishioners grew older and passed on. Young ones sought careers in the city. Many of those in between grew impatient with the church's slow transition from an outgrown theology, greeted with warm welcome the mechanical outlook implied in the New Science which was at that time still in rompers, and turned an indifferent ear to a vital new message which sought to employ all the tools given it by the New Order. It grew harder to enlist new interest and support for the work of the churches. Membership in the Sunday Schools declined. Contributions began to fall off. The need for a new strategy became evident.

When the nation entered the World War, citizens far and wide were called to lend their help. Throughout the land those who had been severed by separate loyalties were drawn together by a common loyalty to their country. Out of that condition of affairs was born a new tolerance among people of different denominations. That gave a clue to the churchmen at Redding Center for the new strategy.

In 1920 a committee of six was appointed, with equal representation from the Congregational and Methodist Societies, and instructed to find a way by which the religious forces of the community might be consolidated. In its report this committee recommended that the two churches unite, and drew up a plan of union which was called the Articles of Federation. Progressive sentiment registered itself in this way: "Recognizing that such a federation is so obviously to the good of both churches, and for the good of the community, anyone who refuses to support the project through prejudice or smallness of vision or sheer inability to forget personal ends or animosities, could very easily be looked upon as having the wrong kind of spirit, to say the least." Although the sea was somewhat choppy, the Federation was launched in May, 1921, and the wisdom of that move has been proven by eleven years of splendid co-operation.

Pastoral Message to Friends and Church Members

Front Page News
By Fred G. Allen
A Sermon preached in Redding Federated Church, November 6, 1932

Text: "But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear."-II Timothy 4:17.

Strange how fast news gets about town! Someone is taken sick one morning and by noon scores of people know about it. An accident happens one afternoon and it is stale news by the time the paper comes that night. We don’t need newspapers in our towns, as a matter of fact-but thank goodness for the telephone! One operator tells me that about 20% of the calls that go through Central are of a business nature, while the other 80% are just talk! That’s all right. I’m not condemning gossip-at least not today. I’m just trying to account for that strange way in which news gets around.

But what kind of news is it that gets around so speedily? Is it the good news? It is-if it’s exciting. But it’s mostly the spectacular news that gets on the Front Page of Town Talk –and spectacular news is generally bad! If a sick person passes away, it is broadcast far and wide before you can say "Jack Robinson." But if he lives, one seldom thinks to call and say the Lord has spared him through another night. Or one society dame has a spat with another, and immediately the whole town knows about it. But after it's patched up, few people take the trouble to notify others that the reconciliation has taken place. Everybody knows about the Political Rally where there might be a little mud-slinging, but few find out about the innocent little Church Social where one might go just for an evening of wholesome play.

Good news is exceedingly unpopular because so often it is not exciting. When things seem to be going smoothly there is nothing to write home about. In fact, we've come to believe pretty widely that, "No news is good news!" There's the real truth of the matter. A thing that is not spectacular, in the ordinary sense of that word, just is not news. Any newspaper reporter will tell you that.

Now our idea of what is spectacular depends entirely upon our sense of values. There are lots of things folks think exciting that are not exciting at all. They may be gruesome or horrifying, but not in the least spectacular.

Here's a man who has beaten and deserted his wife-but that's not spectacular! Indeed, when you think of how little young people really know about marriage or about each other on their wedding day, it's a marvelous thing that more marriages don't end that way. The really exciting thing today is not the large number of divorces registered in the government files, but the huge number of marriages that are as happy as they are.

Or a boy breaks into a house and takes something that doesn't belong to him-but there is nothing spectacular about that! Indeed, robbery, in all its forms, is fast becoming one of the most ordinary ways of making a living. When you combine the effects of the poverty of a considerable proportion of our people, with the "catch as catch can" philosophy we've all been brought up on- it's a wonder there's not a whole lot more larceny than there actually is. The spectacular thing is not so many boys steal, but that so many boys go straight!

A couple of nations may go to war-but there's nothing spectacular about that! When one calls another names, or tries to take something from him, it's the most natural, ordinary thing in the world for them both to double up their fists and start punching each other. That's not exciting! Indeed, when you consider all the scathing remarks that have been bandied about in diplomatic circles in the last ten years; all the treaties violated; all the insolent tariff walls thrown up; all the invasions that have taken place; all the goods that have been dumped; all the insults to national pride that have been swallowed; all the prejudice, bitterness, and hate that have been festered up and then receded- the amazing thing is that in that short period we've had such a large measure of peace! The United States entered the World War on much less provocation than she has stood for in recent years. The thing that is exciting today is not that nations got to war, but that they stay out of war as well as they do!

If Paul Revere were alive today we might well imagine him tolling the bell of an Old North Church to proclaim, not an invasion by a foreign army, but rather a period of peace in the face of great international strain; not to fan the inflamed passions of men, but to celebrate the birth of the principle of conciliation; not to sound the clarion call to war, but to broadcast encouragement to nations which are at last learning "to take it on the chin" because of a great hope that somehow they can find their way out of a sorry mess by purely peaceful means.

Such are the things which are making news today. The real Front Page News is not the latest murder or bank robbery or Hollywood divorce. The real Front Page News is of tremendous projects that are being waged on the frontier of social progress. The real "hot scoops" are not those things which are holding society back, but those things which are leading it forward in the light of a great hope. The Good News is not of those things which narrow men down and show their petty selfishness and lust; but rather those things which broaden men out and show their compassion, humility, and trust; not those things that tell of their human weakness, but of their unfolding capacity for spiritual power!

In other words, the Good News of today is just the same as the "Good News" of 2,00 years ago. In the midst of the strife and conflict and confusion of the world there is a guiding hand which is progressively tending to draw the best out of men. And all that leads to our civilization ahead by the perpetual light of the great faith, an insurmountable hope, and an unconquerable love is the "Good News" that was summed up in the personality and teaching of that invincible man of Gailee.

It's good news that man is progressing not only in the care of his body, but also in the care of his mind and spirit. It's good news when a man learns what it really means to love his neighbor. It's good news when a man learns that the abundance of life consists not in the things he possesses. When our income has been cut and we have to piece things together to make ends meet-it's good news that, in spite of that, we can keep our spiritual equilibrium. When our faith in the abiding love of the living thing God enables us to conquer our handicaps-that's good news. When a man who is hungry and in need finds the hand of a friend stretched toward him-that's good news.

It's good news because it is the Gospel of Christ- and we must never for one moment think when that first came out that it was tucked away on an obscure page in the Sport Section. It was blazoned forth in boldest type on the very Front Page: and in it a powerful wedge which drove itself deep into their lives and made them whole!

It's that news we, if we still believe it, must drag out from way back there in the back pages. That's the news we ought to get really excited about. Let that news drive us to our telephones with an undeniable passion to share it with our friends because it has given  us a new sustaining power we never knew before. Let us proclaim it from the house tops, because all men have a right to hear it. When pain or adversity come into our lives, let us stand fast with Paul, and say "But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that all the Gentiles might hear!" Let us, following Barnabas, lift Christ up that he may draw all men unto him. Let us bring him out of the indifferent background of our lives and put him on the Front Page.

In a little village in the Adirondack Mountains there is a man who is putting Christ on the Front Page. Four years ago when he came to that isolated town of 800 people he found it destitute of any means of abundant living. The only church was an abandoned shack. The nearest hospital was fifty miles away. Farming was dead; the people had nothing to do; they were a poor and deserted lot in their little sleepy hollow. Then came Eric Thompson who had left his job as president of a ship building concern because, as he said, "It was not exciting enough for me," and set himself to give that community a standard of living such as it had never known before. They bought an old defunct hall and converted it into a rustic furniture factory. That gave them work and an income. They remodeled the church and built a beautiful little parish house. That gave them a place to worship. They bought a big empty house and converted it into an emergency hospital; maternity ward, operating room, X-ray machine and all. That gave them a place to care for their sick. Now they're building a school in which to teach their children; and soon they will build a Little Theater in which they can see high class movies and put on their own plays. These are some of the outward signs that great inward rebirth which has not only put the town on its feet, but which has in four short years made the community self-sustaining and given it a permanent standard of life better than ever before. All because Eric Thompson had some exciting NEWS and wanted to broadcast it. All because he felt a great power from outside and let it descend upon him and work in him, and showed his parishioners how it might work in them, until today they have the makings of a miniature Kingdom of God-and all because they put Christ on the Front Page.

I'm not saying that we must do just as they have done; but I am saying that we in our church, and millions of other Christians in their churches must somehow catch fire and burn with that same kind of enthusiasm for lifting people to God. How can we send missionaries to preach the Gospel to foreign people if we haven't got enough enthusiasm for it to preach it to those whose ears are stopped in our own community! How can we send teachers to children in the slums of our great cities and in our mountain districts unless our light shines out before our fellow citizens here until they say, "Well there, that man has got something I don't have, and something I want in my life, too!" The Gospel of Christ may strike sparks any number of times in our presence, but it will not catch fire if the tinder is damp.

There are lots of things we need here in our own community and in our church, but our greatest need of all is to bring Christ out from among the pages of the Sport Section and put him on the Front Page.

We may feel that we need to abandon one of our churches and put the other in first class shape; but before we do that we must catch something of the sacrificial spirit of our Master so we will not lay undue emphasis on the importance of our physical property. We must catch something of his sense of spiritual values in order that we may put first things first and build for the spiritual needs of our Federation.

We may feel that we need a new organ to enrich our worship services and make them more dignified and beautiful; but first we must learn more of what Jesus meant by saying, "The Kingdom of God is within you," and "if you approach the Temple in a proper frame of mind and spirit, even if it be an old barn, you will receive the hidden manna, which is the end of all worship."

We may feel that we need to gather in that great body of people who are working with our church and yet who have not taken a definite stand within our Church Fellowship; but first of all we've got to catch something of that spirit by which personalities are reborn; we've got to have a light to hold up before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is working in us mightily!

We may feel that there are various and sundry ways in which our church ought better serve our parish; but we must first "make sure that the Lord stands by us, and strengthens us; that through us the message might be fully proclaimed."

My friends, there is no half way in the true spirit of Christianity. We either have it, or we don't. And if we have it we can't sit content and see people living mediocre lives; we can't be happy when the job of Christianizing a community is only half done; we can't be blessed when we see a world giving whole hearted devotion to Mammon and paying only lip service to the God of Love! We must be up and doing! We must be taking the Good News where it needs to be heard, brandishing it abroad in our lives where it may be seen by men! Taking Jesus out of the bland indifference of our inner selves and putting him on the Front Page!

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