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HomeOrganizationsFaith BasedTwo Become One: A Merger of Congregational Churches in Haddam/Higganum

Two Become One: A Merger of Congregational Churches in Haddam/Higganum

Submitted by Jeanne Messick

(February 17, 2023) — You may not realize it, but there is a new church in town, and our name is the United Congregational Church of Haddam and Higganum (UCCHH). We formally came into existence on January 1, 2023, the date when Higganum Congregational Church and First Congregational Church of Haddam merged. Our members will continue to utilize both the Higganum and Haddam church buildings and facilities, alternating the Sunday service locations on a monthly basis.

The process to merge began several years ago with the recognition that, by joining together, the churches could better serve their community outreach/mission goals and provide for a more sustainable future for its members.  Beginning in 2015, the two churches began working together with joint committees, e.g., Outreach/Mission, Deacons, Music and decided on using a Shared Minister, and hosting joint Sunday services.  Several working groups were formed to address the creation of new church bylaws, record keeping, property issues, financial planning, membership, mission activities, etc.

During 2022, after the installation of Rev. Hilary McLellan as the new Shared Minister, the final steps were taken to merge the churches.  Several congregational meetings were held to approve church bylaws, select a new church name, and to engage legal assistance to prepare the required state forms to merge and change financial records.

The two churches shared a very old, common history.  The original Meeting House of First Church was built and occupied for worship in 1674.  On November 14, 1700, First Congregational Church of Haddam was officially organized.  Since that early beginning, the church has occupied five different houses of worship.  The current sanctuary in Haddam was rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire on November 15, 1979.

As early as March 6, 1738, the formation of a Church in the northwestern part of the town of Haddam was undertaken but never completed.  Again in 1766, a memorial for this purpose was offered “[t]o the Hon. General Assembly of His Majesty’s English Colony of Connecticut holden in New Haven” but this action “resolved in the negative.”

But in 1844 the petition was granted, together with division of Church Funds.  First Church’s Rev. David Dudley Field and 135 members withdrew to organize the Congregational Church at Higganum on May 14, 1844.  The current Higganum church was dedicated on July 23, 1845 with an addition (chapel, church parlor and kitchen) in October, 1870 and a new parsonage in August, 1882.

It may seem strange today to have two churches of the same denomination within 2.5 miles of each other. The economic center of the town had shifted to Higganum Village, and sentiment was strong for a new house of worship to serve the spiritual needs of the people living and working there. Rev. Edward E. Lewis states in his “Historical Sketch” of First Church that, following the separation, attendance at Sunday service and enrollment in Sunday school for children soon flourished and was encouraged by the proximity of the meeting house “situated more conveniently for public gatherings and uniting the members in closer sympathy.”

Rev. David Dudley Field, who served as pastor, first at Haddam and then at Higganum, was born in Madison on May 20, 1781; he graduated from Yale College in 1802 and was ordained at Haddam on April 11, 1804.  His wife’s name was “Submit”; this was either prophetic or coincidental, because she bore him 10 children.  Four of them won international notice:

  • Cyrus laid the first American trans-Atlantic cable
  • Stephan served 34 years as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court
  • David, Jr., a noted jurist, worked in the U.S. and England to codify the Law of Nations
  • Henry was a renowned clergyman and author of travel books
  • These four sons gave the town of Haddam property that we know as ‘Field Park’ in honor of their father (1878 on the 75th anniversary of their parents’ marriage).

After a common beginning more than 300 years ago, the two churches have returned to a common purpose, to serve our community, our country and the world through our faith and missions. Our members will continue to utilize both the Higganum and Haddam church buildings and facilities, alternating the Sunday service locations on a monthly basis.

UCCHH will continue to host many of the events for which the separate congregations were known – the Bread For Heat Ministry, Children’s Kindness Camp, the Ron Booth Memorial/Mission Golf Tournament and Outing, the Yuletide Quilt Show and the Holiday Cookie Walk, to name but a few. Members of both churches founded Haddam Area Refugee Resettlement Project (HaRRP). This project is currently sponsoring a family of six from Afghanistan who are living in Haddam. Support for HaRRP will continue through UCCHH with the assistance of many individuals and businesses in town and surrounding communities.

Under the leadership of Pastor Hilary McLellan, our congregants look forward to future growth in membership and continued service to our community and the wider world. Please check us out on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Service is held at the Haddam campus in February and the Higganum campus in March of 2023. We are open to all and no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.

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