Previous Site of the Month: March 2011
Faith Congregational Church (Talcott Street Congregational)
2030 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06120
In 1819 African American members of the Hartford First Church of Christ (now Center Church), were required to sit in the galleries; separated from their white fellow congregants. In order to exercise their free will, they began to worship by themselves in the conference room of the First Church of Christ. Later established as the African Religious Society, this group built a church at 30 Talcott Street in 1826, which was paid for by subscription. By 1833 they had become associated with the Congregational denomination and in 1839 the name was changed to the First Hartford Colored Congregational Church.
In 1840 the church opened a district school in the city where African American children could study free of harassment by white students and teachers. For many years, it was the only place where African American children could learn to read and write, and it was very successful. In the same year, Reverend James W. C. Pennington, D.D. was installed as pastor, where he served for seven years. Pennington came to Hartford as a fugitive slave, by way of the Underground Railroad, and became one of the most influential black men of his time. Pennington was a pioneer in organizing Christian missions to Africa and encouraging work in the wider church.
Pennington was well known as a brilliant orator, passionate preacher and advocate for human rights. On the second of three visits to Europe, Reverend Pennington obtained an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from the University of Heidelberg, Germany; the first time in the history of the school that such a degree was awarded to a black man.
The congregation, now known as Faith Congregational United Church of Christ, has a rich history of pride, activism and energy within the black community. Pennington and lay leaders of the Church like Deacon James Mars were seen as role models in the struggle for equality. The tradition has continued and many other members of the church blazed a path on the Connecticut Freedom Trail including Amos Beman, Frank T. Simpson, and Boce W. Barlow, Jr. and On November 19, 1953, Talcott Street Congregational Church merged with Mother Bethel Methodist Church to become the present Faith Congregational Church. The building at 2030 Main Street was purchased and renovated, with the dedication taking place on June 13, 1954.