First Congregational Church of Redwood City was founded nearly 150 years ago – on November 2, 1862. We first met on the second floor of the Redwood City Courthouse but, within two years, had purchased a site at Jefferson and Middlefield and built a steepled ediface that served our congregation for 90 years. The original church bell arrived by ship and was first rung in February of 1865.
In 1893, we purchased an additional site in Woodside which eventually became the Woodside Village Church (also a UCC congregation).
The earthquake of April 1906 jarred the church off its foundation and broke all the crockery on the tables which had been set for a church dinner. Members met in the Baptist Church for the next six months while repairs were made. We also assisted refugees from San Francisco during that time.
In 1922, with a membership of nearly 500, we built a new church building near the original site and remained there until the mid1950s.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, seventy-six of our members joined the armed services.
The downtown church building was sold in 1954 and the congregation moved to the Euclid Avenue site in the newly developed Sterling Heights area of Redwood City. By 1956, with a membership of 695, we held three Sunday services and three Sunday School sessions each week. By 1961, membership had reached 1,224.
As the congregation grew, we continued to be a significant social force in Redwood City and, in 1971, construction was started on Casa de Redwood, a much-needed low-income senior housing facility in downtown Redwood City. We continue our involvement with Casa primarily by providing the majority of members of the Board of Directors to this day.
By the end of 1987 our membership had dropped to 403. As the 21st century dawned we faced a continuously dwindling membership due to attrition and societal changes reaching a low membership of 125 at the end of 2004. After a long and prayerful review of how we might transform into a new and vital church for a new culture, we sold our church buildings and land in 2007 with the intent of using those funds to support programs within our church commuity and to support local efforts.
Our initial effort was to use 10% of the sale of our property to help others. We contributed a total of $560,000 to various charitable organizations:$100,000 – One Great Hour of Sharing $135,000 – Casa de Redwood $125,000 – American Guild of Organists Organ & Education Fund in Memory of our faithful organist Joanna Smullin $200,000 – Youth and Young Adult Fund (Education and Recreation Leadership) through our local UCC office
In mid 2009, we funded a new church start/mission church in Redwood City for an 18-month period. Although this effort failed to thrive, it was a valuable and worthwile experience that we believe touched lives in immeasurable and unseen ways. It was an important process for the discernment of our current community of faith.
What we discovered is that we remain a viable community of faith – even though we are small, we are a strong, cohesive group of Christians with similiar values and goals. Thus, we are currently discussing ways to discern who we are as a congregation and how we can maintain our authenticity and take action based on the result. Through this process we hope to: identify who we are as a community of faith; determine what impact we, as a congregation, are making on our church community and on the greater community; realize the benefits and consequences of remaining a ‘church without walls’; and review the alignment of our actions with our Mission Statement and with specific and general expectations of our congregation.
We currently have office space near downtown Redwood City where we hold meetings, informal worship, Prayer Circles and other small gatherings. Quarterly worship and larger meetings and fellowship events are often held at Casa de Redwood, other churches or in people’s homes.