by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
In 1894, the U.S. president was Grover Cleveland, Norman Rockwell, Jack Benny and E.E. Cummings were born, and Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time. Also in 1894, a group of 50 “dissenters” from an Owosso church decided to organize a new church because they were dissatisfied that the previous church prohibited them from forming an “Arbeiter Society.” Arbeiter is a German word for “worker.” The founding group wanted to establish an insurance plan for widows and orphans in the event someone was hurt/killed on a job. During this period, many churches frowned on any type of disability insurance, claiming that it was sinful to rely on men instead of God. So, the 50 dissenters formed their own church with 40 of those individuals officially joining – the long-term result today is St. John’s UCC of Owosso, located on the corner of Washington and Oliver streets.
The founders met in an unoccupied building owned by the First Methodist Church and after much deliberation, they called in an Evangelical minister from Lansing to format a constitution and bylaws. On April 29, 1894, the first church service was held and by August 1894, the group was able to purchase the building from the Methodists for $2,600. It is the oldest church building in use in Owosso.
In celebration of 125 years, St. John’s UCC is inviting the community to a special service at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, May 5, followed by a light lunch. The address is 429 N. Washington. As of February 2018, Pastor Mike Cooper, who grew up in Howell, now leads the services at the church. Other regular activities offered include weekly Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, a monthly food pantry, a Saturday morning breakfast for the hungry and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meetings. St. John’s UCC of Owosso fully embraces the “all are welcome” message, recognizing all people, all races, all genders, all sexual orientations, all educational backgrounds – all people.
Currently, the United Church of Christ (UCC) is a Protestant Christian denomination with roots in Congregational, Reformed and Lutheran customs. Differing from many other denominations, individual UCC churches are allowed to make decisions regarding the tenets they follow – including the “all are welcome” belief that St. John’s supports.
Other upcoming celebration activities include a gospel concert during the 2019 Curwood Festival and a concert performed by a contemporary Christian group later this summer. Dates and times will be announced.