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First Congregational United Church of Christ - National Fund For Sacred Places
2019 Cohort

First Congregational United Church of Christ

Sheridan, Wyoming

First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sheridan, Wyoming, is connected to the history of pioneers and settlers in the United States.

First Congregational United Church of Christ by Steve Bourne

First Congregational United Church of Christ by Steve Bourne

2019 Cohort

First Congregational United Church of Christ

Sheridan, Wyoming

First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sheridan, Wyoming, is connected to the history of pioneers and settlers in the United States.

The church was founded in 1881 on a homestead, and its early history is inextricable from the founding of the town of Sheridan. John D. Loucks, the town’s first mayor, was a founding member of First Congregational and served as the Sunday school superintendent. In 1892, the congregation built a wooden church building at the location of the present-day courthouse and moved into a larger Gothic Revival church in 1881, where it remains today. The church is attributed to “Mr. Vial;” however, it is likely that architect D. Everett Waid actually designed it. Waid worked alongside Nels A. Pearson, the church’s contractor, on the construction of the famous Trail End home nearby.

Today, First Congregational Church regularly collaborates with other organizations to support the community and promote social justice. Volunteers participate in Lunch Together, a soup kitchen that has served over 300,000 meals in 25 years out of the church’s fellowship hall. The church hosts a free concert in the sanctuary every month and provides space each week to alcohol recovery programs. The congregation partners with the local Methodist church to collect warm clothing for members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. Recently, the church committed to being a green church and unanimously voted to be open and affirming. 

An $83,000 National Fund grant with equal amounts of matching funds raised by the congregation allowed First Congregational Church to undertake a comprehensive renovation, which included building a new restroom compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, installing wheelchair platforms and ramps, reinforcing the box trusses with steel plates and diagonal braces, and adding hot water to the basement restrooms. The church’s increased accessibility and functionality will allow the congregation to increase community partnerships and host additional programs.

First Congregational United Church of Christ by Steve Bourne

First Congregational United Church of Christ by Steve Bourne

Two Sacred Places as Community Spaces in Rural America

Often built in the center of town near the local post office or town hall, rural churches were designed with community gathering in mind. In small towns like Sheridan, Wyoming, and Abbeville, South Carolina, with populations fewer than 20,000 people and congregants living across wide geographic regions, going to church meant reconnecting with friends and family, accessing free resources, and participating in service projects to better the region.

First Congregational United Church of Christ by Steve Bourne

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez