Off to one side of Tappan Square, facing east, stands the grand old orange brick meetinghouse, Oberlin’s First Church, once the moral center of a mission to spread perfection through the new American West.

First Church was built from plans by Richard Bond, a prominent New England architect, whom Charles G. Finney met while recruiting faculty in Boston. The structure that went up in 1843-44 was actually a mix of Bond’s specifications, Finney’s dreams, and the will of the congregation, expressed by majority rule. Finney wanted an interior with circular seating, similar both to the arrangement in the New York City church from which he came to Oberlin in 1835 and to the revival tent he used on Tappan Square during his first years here. His dream survives only in the curve of the balcony.

Building the church was a massive community effort, directed by Deacon Thomas P. Turner, a Vermont-born craftsman. Most of the locally fired bricks came from a farm just south of town. Huge whitewood roof beams, 12 inches square and 75 feet long, spanned the brick walls, and pine rafters and shingles enclosed the meetinghouse. The tower, taken from an Asher Benjamin pattern book, was added in 1845.

Finney served for 37 years as pastor to the congregation, which by 1860 was the largest in the United States. Beginning in 1852 with a visit to Oberlin by John P. Hale, Free-Soil candidate for president, the house opened for political and secular meetings. Over the next half-century, such eminent Americans as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Carl Schurz, Horace Greeley, Henry George, Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington and Woodrow Wilson spoke here.

Although the auxiliary buildings north of the church have changed and expanded steadily over the years (the most recent addition going up in 1965), the outlines of the meetinghouse itself remain virtually intact. Remodellings occurred in 1882 when stained-glass windows were installed, to be replaced in 1927 by clear bubbly glass; in 1892 when 12 thick Doric columns supporting the balcony gave way to the present iron posts; in 1927 when the pulpit and organ loft were redesigned; in 1983 when a new ceiling went in; and in 2004 when a new organ was installed.

First Church is a City of Oberlin Historic Landmark, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Click on the links for more information regarding the missionaries in China and the Amistad connection.



Founded in 1834, today we still emphasize our need to be centered in the worship of God so we may best accomplish the work of God. First Church in Oberlin continues to demonstrate an exceptional commitment to benevolence, mission work, and social action both locally and globally, through its individual members and its collective financial support.

We recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world by: 

  • ministering to its needs, contributing to the welfare of all, being enriched by those aspects of culture that help to make human life more human, working through institutions and supporting laws that reflect God's just and loving purposes for the worldseeking justice and liberation for all.

This is the challenge of the Church. We invite you to add your voice to ours as we seek to grow in faith so we might continue our heritage of love and justice rooted in the Gospel.eritage of love and justice rooted in the Gospel.



Drawing on our heritage, we will grow by being an intentionally inclusive, multicultural, just and loving community that practices relevant and inspiring worship, mobilized to collaborate with our wider community by opening our doors to be a central gathering place that is dedicated to healing brokenness in our relationship with God, each other and the Earth.


First Church is a gathering of people whose loyalty to Jesus and understanding of the Christian faith may take many forms. We seek to welcome all regardless of faith understanding, ability, sexual or gender orientation or expression, age, race, ethnic identity, or social and economic standing. In loving acceptance of one another we seek an inclusive wholeness nurtured by worship, learning, celebration and service—all part of a faith pilgrimage. We hold discipleship above orthodoxy and inquiry above correctness. We acknowledge that our understanding of the Ultimate is crucial, yet limited, and our discipleship required, but never perfect.


First Church is currently engaged in a Vision Planning process. The Implementation uses First Church as an internal decision-making structure, An Implementation Team was commissioned in the fall of 2016 and is accountable to Executive Council. The team is charged with taking the Vision Statement, Strategic Goals and Top Priorities from paper to reality - bringing it to life. The co-chairs report at least bi-monthly to Council and also send a monthly Enews to the congregation. Weekly updates are also available in each issue of First Things First!

One of the most diverse Christian mainline churches in the United States, the UCC was formed in 1957 when several denominations merged. Now, the UCC comprises more than 5600 congregations with 1,200,000 members.

Each local UCC church writes its own constitution, creates its own structure, and hires its own staff, guided by the regional and national staffs. The same is true with issues of the day: Although the wider church entities encourage action, the local church decides what and whom to support. The overall mission of First Church is guided by an Executive Council elected by the congregation and comprising the Pastor, the Moderator, the Clerk, and six at-large Councilors. Standing committees, most members of which are also elected by the congregation, perform specific tasks or delegate them to appointed individuals or subcommittees.

The Administrative Committees of First Church are:



Ministerial Relations



The Committees representing the life of the congregation, each of which includes an ex officio liaison member who is an at-large Councilor, are:

Christian Education

Christian Outreach






In the UCC, members, congregations and structures

have the breathing room to explore and to hear.

For after all...