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BURLINGTON — Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ will celebrate 160 years during a special Heritage Sunday service on Nov. 18.

The public is invited to attend this seventh annual Heritage Sunday service and anniversary celebration at the 10 a.m. worship service followed by fellowship and a look back at a rich and storied history. During the service, members of Plymouth Church for 25 years or more will be honored and a mini museum of church archives and artifacts will be on display for reminiscing. Guests are invited to enjoy a potluck luncheon following the program.

Community of progress

The congregation of Plymouth Church continues its industrious history that helped to shape the community of Burlington with opportunities for continuous learning, involvement and social engagement. Many of the founding members were prominent pioneers whose significant contributions to the Burlington community helped to shape the city as we know it today. Photographs of the diverse congregation were presented as a gift to their first minister, the Rev. Philo C. Pettibone in 1865. The historic album is on display at the Burlington Historical Society Museum in a large frame. Many of the early pioneers have direct descendants still active in the community today.

Heritage of progression

Plymouth Congregational UCC has deep roots in Burlington’s earliest religious history beginning with the Protestant Free Church that first met in Whitman schoolhouse in 1843. Since that time, a steady heritage of spiritual progress has grown through a church community working for justice. As early as the 1850s, this spirit of inclusion began when Pettibone gave a manual to each member of the congregation which included a strong view against slavery and a statement that anyone could become a church member regardless of the color of his skin.

Charter members of the early church took part in the underground railroad, “a little way station,” from 1842 until the formation of the church. These members were prominent citizens like Dr. Edward D. Dyer, who raised funds for fleeing slaves like Carolyn Quarlls, the first fugitive slave from St. Louis, providing free passage to the safety of Canada. It took great courage at the time and Dyer was assisted by men like Deacon Samuel Brown, Lyman Goodnow, E.D. Holton, Cramer, Finch and others.

Historic progress made by the congregation’s early efforts echo in today’s openhearted spirit. Plymouth Congregational UCC church ministries continue a welcoming acceptance of all who are on God’s journey and transform cultures of hate and violence into communities of healing and reconciliation. They give witness to God’s continuing testament and how his gifts are being liberated for service in the world.

Open and affirming covenant

Honoring that strong spirit of breaking down barriers, Plymouth Congregational UCC celebrated one year of being an open and affirming church in October 2018. Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) designation for congregations that make a public covenant of welcome to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions into their ministry.

Plymouth Church’s ONA ministries are rooted in the gospel message of love and compassion, justice and peace that are at the very core of the life and ministry of Jesus.

The first national UCC body to affirm civil rights for LGBT people did so in 1969. Plymouth Congregational UCC is one of more than 1,400 ONA churches in the United States.

Congregational UCC history

The Congregational United Church of Christ includes new denominations of some of the nation’s oldest churches, including the West Parish of Barnstable, Mass., founded in 1616 (initially formed in London) — four years before the Pilgrims came to America. The United Church of Christ formed in 1957 at Cleveland, Ohio, when 2 million members of the Congregational Christian churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church joined together.

In 1820, three groups of early colonists in search of religious freedom and liberty, joined to form the Christian Churches. Now 111 years later, the Congregational Churches and the Christian Churches joined together to become the Congregational Christian Churches in 1931. The Reformed Church in the U.S. (that began in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century) joined with the Evangelical Synod of North America (that began as a union of Lutheran and Reformed groups in Germany) to become the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1934.

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