Congregational Church of Union celebrates 275th anniversary

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Union - posted Wed., Dec. 11, 2013
Parishioners Margaret and Bob Tyler have been church members for 49 years and have had their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren baptized there. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
Parishioners Margaret and Bob Tyler have been church members for 49 years and have had their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren baptized there. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

“The Little Church That Built a Town” could not be a more appropriate title for Jeannine Upson’s book. Upson is a long-time member of the Congregational Church of Union, and has a lot of first-hand knowledge about its history. “I was the clerk of the church for many years and had all these records. In 1974 I was instrumental in starting the Union Historical Society,” she said. Upson’s book updates the church’s history since 1984, adding to the interesting history which is reflective of how most New England towns became established: they were centered on a church.

Between 1718 and 1730, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians settled in the region known as Union Lands. It was the only town in Connecticut in which they settled as they peopled the eastern seaboard. They joined with the Puritans who were living in the region and received permission from the General Assembly in 1734 to incorporate as a town. The church was established in 1738 in what is known as the Grove. The present-day church was built in 1833 on the Buckley Highway in Union Village and still serves as a center of community life in 2013.

“This church anchors and holds the town together. We reach out to all residents of the community in their moments of joy and need,” said the Rev. Jessica McArdle. “We are a missional church.”

The update of the history in Upson’s book complements the celebrations of the church's 275th anniversary. The events acknowledging 275 years began six months ago and were highlighted this month with a Christmas Concert featuring the Quinebaug Valley Singers on Dec. 8. On Dec. 15, the church had the actual celebration with a congregational breakfast and a special service performed by McArdle honoring long-time members and hosting former pastors.

In 1738, when the church was established, there were 120 residents, and at the last census the number was 854. Helen Bradway has been a dedicated parishioner for 64 years. “The church has been a big part of my life. It has supported and sustained me for all the important events of my life,” she said.

Upson is not ready to start another book right now. “It was a satisfying and time-consuming project. I hope that future generations will read this history and will document their own history. If they don’t, it will be gone,” she said.


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