History of the First United Church of Christ
at the Top of Snake Alley
As early as 1841, informal worship services were held by a group of German immigrants in the home of John Philip Kriechbaum at the Third and Columbia Streets. However, it wasn't until 1843 and the arrival of Rev. Joseph Rieger, that a Constitution was drafted and the congregation became an official unit of the German Evangelical Association of the West. Following this organization planning, Rev. Rieger remained as Pastor for two years, during which time the growing congregation discontinued gathering in each other's home and began to use the Presbyterian Church for services. For there, the congregation moved to a rented space above Henry's Drug Store at Third and Jefferson Streets. And then in 1851, the first church building was built at the Top of Snake Alley facing east and dedicated for use later that same year.
In the 74 years that followed, this congregation known as the First Evangelical Church increased in size and numbers, necessitating the replacement of the original building with a larger church facility in 1926. This building was designed by V.C. Jones of Chicago with J.H. Hunzinger & Company of Davenport serving as contractor. It was constructed in the Tudor Gothic style, using two square towers with battlements as the front side on the north facing Columbia Avenue. Two sets of arched wooden entry doors sit beneath a large stained glass window depicting Christ praying in Gethsemane. Because of the buildings location on a hillside, there are only two stories on the north, but five stories with basements on the south. And while the original church was built before Snake Alley was constructed in 1894, the present building share it east boundary with this famous crooked street.
In the early years of its history, First Evangelical was note for its German Parochial School, and its ministry among the continuing influx of German immigrants. Another German Parochial School, started as an early mission endeavor on the South Hill, grew to become St. Luke's Evangelical Church. Zion Evangelical Church, located just over a block away, also had it spiritual roots in the life of First Church. And then in 1954 all three congregations became part of the United Church of Christ as the result of a series of denominational mergers.
Today, the congregation under the leadership of Pastor JudyAnn Morse, is alive and growing Special events such as the Palm Sunday Donkey Walk on Snake Alley and the Easter Sunrise Service at Mosquito Park are open to the wider church community, as is the on-day vacation bible school in August and the Blessing of the Back Packs in September. Our Sunday School is growing, worship attendance is increasing, and the Seekers Bible Study meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays at 10:00. Several new programs for both youth and adults are soon to be implemented into the program.
Our congregation is very appreciative of the legacy passed own to us from those who have gone before us . And as we move forward, we do so with this invitation to all..."No matter where you are on life's journey know that you will be welcomed and included at the First United Church of Christ.