First Congregational Church of Alameda was founded in 1879 by missionaries. The first minister of our church, George Morris, was born in England and traveled from there via Capetown, South Africa and Tahiti to San Francisco and the Bay Area. When the rent of $2.50 a week at the original space became too high, services were moved to a hayloft above a livery stable on Webster Street and the Church became known as the “Hayloft Church.” In 1883 a small building was purchased in the 1700 block of Central Avenue, which was moved in 1885 to our present location at the corner of Central Avenue and Chestnut Street, in the heart of Alameda. In 1904 the cornerstone for the new building was laid and the completed structure was dedicated on Easter Sunday 1905. An education wing was added in 1963.
In 1961 the members of the Church voted to become a congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), which was formed in 1957 by the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches.
During the AIDS epidemic, at a time when most churches were silent or condemning the LGBTQ+ community, we started the first HIV/AIDS prayer vigils in Alameda. In the late 70’s we were the second church in our conference to call a female senior pastor. In 1987, we became the 15th UCC congregation nationwide to declare ourselves “Open and Affirming” of all LGBTQ+ persons.
In 2003, we became one of the first churches in our association to call an openly gay Senior Minister. Our church has taken a leadership role in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in our community and beyond. In 2005, our church voted on a statement affirming Marriage Equality, enabling us to take a stand against Proposition 8 prior to the UCC General Synod vote on Marriage Equality and the Supreme Court decision to make Marriage Equality the law of the land. In addition, our advocacy has included marching as a church with the Pride contingent in the annual Alameda July 4th parade, advocating for LGBTQ + inclusive anti-bullying curriculum in our school district, and taking a leadership role in organizing an annual Harvey Milk Day event in Alameda.
In more recent years, in response to rising anti-immigrant sentiment, our church has advocated for our city to become a sanctuary city and our Justice Outreach Team worked to accompany several immigrant families struggling to survive. When our local Islamic Center was vandalized, and later our local Jewish Temple, we led the way in organizing a community response, including a city-wide interfaith vigil. As part of our effort to find proactive responses to the rise in hate crimes, our Senior Minister worked with other local faith leaders to form the Alameda All Faiths Coalition . That Coalition brings community members together around a common mission: to advocate for justice and inclusion, to serve the tangible needs of our neighbors, and to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. We have participated in protests against police brutality, including the interfaith response to two local incidents of police brutality.
If you are interested in exploring more about the history of First Congregational Church of Alameda, you are invited to visit our history display case featuring changing exhibits, located in the Chestnut Street foyer of the church. Past exhibits have included “Looking Back at the Church Bazaar, an Annual Fundraiser Spanning Decades” and “25 Years of Accessibility at FCCA.”
For specific historical inquiries, please contact our History Ministry via email to the church office.