Our History

 

In July of 1827, a small group of 12 to 15 residents of Franklin Mills (now Kent) met together to create a new congregation of Christians who subscribed to a new form of frontier Christianity. These “Disciples” practiced a pragmatic faith with a universal perspective that was born in the Great Western Revival at the turn of the 19th century right here in the Northwest Territory. The paucity of people and the diversity of faiths they came from necessitated tolerance and resulted in the ideological foundation of today’s Disciples of Christ-that “All Christians should cooperate in ministry wherever possible, affirming each other as sisters and brothers in Christ” and “Each person is free to determine individual belief guided by the Bible, the Holy spirit, and prayer.” Except for one other congregation who was formed six months earlier and who meets in Mantua Center, this makes Kent’s congregation the oldest congregation in the Entire Disciple Denomination.For a number of years, the Franklin Mills congregation met in members’ homes. On December 17, 1848, the congregation reorganized with 52 charter members, adopting the name First Church of the Disciples of Christ and then began to meet in the Franklin Township District #4 schoolhouse, now a house at 702 Hudson Road in Kent. During 1852 a series of evangelistic meetings were held, which resulted in the discussion of plans for a new church and the formation of a committee to make these plans.

The Disciples Church was organized under state law on December 12, 1853. A lot on River Street (now Gougler Ave), near Park Ave, was purchased and construction of the “Stone Church” was started in 1854. At this time, the members encountered great difficulty in raising money to complete the building. However, the walls were erected and the roof was put on by 1855, but construction stopped at this point. Even though the building was incomplete, they held services in it and it was dedicated in 1855 with Rev. Almon B. Green giving the dedicatory address and preaching the first sermon in the new church.

In 1867 the congregation became sufficiently prosperous to proceed with the construction and Rev. Isaac Errett of Cleveland dedicated the church on Sunday, August 9, 1868. Our church has hosted any number of well-known people in its history. President James A. Garfield, as president of Hiram College and Civil war hero, has preached from our pulpit. In 1903 the parsonage at 311 Park Ave was erected. In 1905, the church was redecorated, the interior remodeled, and the last mortgage burned.

On March 24-27, 1913 a great flood of the Cuyahoga River occurred. The river rose so high that it overran its banks and flooded the basement of the Stone Church, which was another 100 feet away on River Street. The water was so backed up that it was necessary to dynamite a number of the locks on the great Ohio & Erie Canal to drain the water off. This flood brought an end to the era of the Canal, as well as destroying a great number of the church’s historical records stored in its basement. The flood also hastened the demise of the Stone Church, when the water weakened its foundation.

In April 1922, the park at West Main and North Mantua streets was purchased for a new church site. Due to the Great Depression, for a number of years the plans for a new building were delayed. Early in 1941, a building fund was conducted, and in October the cornerstone laid. One of the most beautiful features of the church is the stained glass window in the sanctuary. This window was donated by the Davey Family whose generosity through the years has made much possible. The new church, which is of colonial design in the neo-classical style incorporating a number of Palladian features, was dedicated on Sunday, April 16, 1942, by Raphael H. Miller, editor of the Christian Evangelist. In August 1942, the “Old Stone Church” was razed. The mortgage for the new church was burned on July 9, 1944. In 1952 the space under the sanctuary was excavated, creating a new kitchen and Fellowship Hall. A parsonage at 513 Earl Ave was purchased in 1957. Ground breaking for an educational building addition was laid on November 2, 1966. Dedication of this addition was held on September 24, 1967 with Herald B. Monroe, General Secretary of Ohio Society of Christian Churches, giving the dedicatory sermon.

In September 1994, the parsonage was sold and the minister moved into his own house. Renovation of the church began. In November 1995, the renovations of the church were dedicated. These renovations included: Sanctuary, Narthex, new kitchen, church office, classrooms and a new front entrance. Howard Ratcliff gave the dedicatory sermon. The new elevator was dedicated on All Saint’s day, October 29, 1995.

As one of the oldest Disciples Congregations, we look forward to leading other Christians into the 21st century with the principles our denomination was founded on.