Our History

Our History

Early in the spring of 1912 a united religious campaign called the Lyon Tabernacle Meetings took place in various Middletown churches. From this campaign, about 100 individuals expressed a preference for what was known as the Christian Church or Church of Christ, which had begun in 1832 under the leadership of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott and others. It was determined that there was adequate interest to consider building a new congregation, and the Rev. I. L. Mercer, employed by the Ohio Christian Missionary Society, was sent to Middletown to organize the church. The first organizational meeting was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Slagle.

The members began meeting every Sunday either at the United Presbyterian Church or the Oakland Presbyterian Church, and on May 12, 1912, Articles of Incorporation for the Church of Christ, Middletown, Ohio, were filed at the office of the Secretary of State at Columbus, Ohio.

The new congregation proceeded in earnest to establish themselves and make their work a permanent part of the religious life of Middletown. With the assistance of Reverend Mercer and the State Secretary, the Reverend C. C. Cowgill of Washington, D.C. was called to lead the new congregation, bringing with him his wife and four daughters. While serving as pastor, Cowgill also worked at the American Rolling Mill Company, later known as Armco.

Crawford and Logan Street – 1912 – 1919

The first steps toward building a permanent structure to house the congregation were taken when two lots on the corner of Crawford and Logan Streets were leased in the summer of 1912. During the same summer and fall, a tarpaulin building called The Tabernacle was built, but was soon too small a structure for the growing congregation. An additional lot adjoining the original two was purchased and an additional building, nearly as large as The Tabernacle, was erected. These combined buildings were used for seven years. Succeeding Rev. Cowgill, who gave up active ministry in 1916, was Rev. W. H. Thompson from suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who brought with him his wife and three children.

First Avenue – 1919 – 1995

The church continued to grow, and in 1917, plans for a new building began to take form. A new site was > located on Fourth Street, today First Avenue, was purchased in July 1919, and in late September of that year, excavation began. Due to cost constraints, however, only the basement was completed at that time and was dedicated as a place of worship on February 6, 1921. Not until October 1927 was the building completed at a cost of $100,000.

Since its inception in 1912, the church had grown from its original membership of 74 to a membership of 700. Reverend Thompson died in November 1942 and the pulpit was filled by interim minister Rev. Robert Lilley until June 1943, at which time Rev. W. Dale Brock was installed, coming from Brilliant, Ohio, with his wife and four daughters. Rev. Brock served as minister until March 1951.

On May 6, 1951, Rev. Edwin Bobbitt delivered his first sermon to this congregation. Accompanying Rev. Bobbitt from Warren, Ohio, were his wife Frances and their three children, Trent, Larry and Elaine. In 1953 the congregation voted to change the name of the church from First Church of Christ, Middletown, to First Christian Church. A new constitution was adopted, establishing a firm identification with both the Christian Church in Ohio and the International Convention of Christian Churches.

In 1956 the church acquired property immediately to the east side of the building, upon which a new educational building was completed in 1962. In 1974 a revised constitution and bylaws was adopted. The Rev. Edwin Bobbitt officially retired on December 31, 1974, ending more than 24 years of service as pastor of First Christian Church. In the wake of Rev. Bobbitt’s departure, Dr. Monroe Schuster of Walkerton, Indiana, served as interim minister until Rev. Paul Remick was called in August of 1975. Rev. Remick came from Martinsville, Indiana, with his wife and two of his five children. Rev. Remick served until October of 1978 when he accepted a position at Broad Street Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. The Rev. M. Dale Humbert served as interim until April 1979 when Rev. Donald Steffy was called to become pastor. Coming from the Regional Staff in Columbus, Rev. Steffy was accompanied by his wife Laurie and two of their three children. Rev. Steffy faithfully served as Senior Minister at First Christian Church in Middletown for 15 years, retiring in November 1994.

In November 1986, a long-range planning committee was charged with evaluating the church’s needs and determining goals to insure a vital, caring ministry. The church was experiencing financial challenges due in large part to a declining membership and the upkeep of an aging building in a declining neighborhood. After an extensive study, congregational interviews and its presentation to the membership, in 1988 the congregation determined it wished to take steps to become a “growing, dynamic church” as opposed to its current “caretaker church” status .

In 1987 a Long Range Planning Committee conducted a study of the status of First Christian Church. With a building which was increasingly costly to maintain and an aging and declining membership, a decision had to be made to remain the “caretaker” church we had become or to take steps to become “growing and dynamic.” The church chose the later and in 1989 the first of several financial campaigns was conducted with the goal to build a newer building in a location which would have the potential of growing our membership.

Rosedale Road – 1996 – Present

As one major step to this end, the first of five capital campaigns began in July of 1989 to raise money to construct a new building which would be cost efficient on a site which would be attractive to new membership. Property at 4520 Rosedale Road was purchased in 1990 and construction began in 1995. With the eventual sale of the First Avenue building in 1995, First Christian Church temporarily operated from rented offices at the Faith United Methodist Church in Middletown, and conducted worship services in their gymnasium. In November of 1995, the Reverend Michael Weber was installed as minister. Joining him were his wife Debbie and two sons.

On February 1, 1996, the move was made to our new church home on Rosedale Road, with the first service being held on Sunday, February 11. On April 21, 1996, the building was dedicated at a special afternoon service. Through the congregation’s financial support and unexpected bequeaths, the building and lot costing approximately $1,200,000 was completely paid off by March of 2002.

Reverend Weber served as Senior Minister until October 1998, at which time the Reverend Carol Oetzel, who had served as Associate Minister at First Christian Church, took on the duties of Interim. In October 2000, the Reverend Terry Van Heyningen, accompanied by his wife Sylvia, joined the church as Senior Minister, coming from Kalispell, MT. Rev. Van Heyningen retired from active ministry in mid-2005. The Rev. Robert Harris served as interim until early 2006 when Rev. Laureen Roe joined our congregation along with her husband Mark and two sons. In June 2015 Rev. Roe concluded her Ministry with First Christian Church. In September 2015 the Elders called Rev. Nik Donges to serve as Interim Minister to prepare the congregation to call a settled pastor.

In February of 2017 the Pastoral Search Committee recommended to the congregation who voted to Call Rev. Tracy Siegman to serve as Pastor of First Christian Church, Middletown, Ohio. Pastor Tracy had previously served as Pastor of First Christian Church, Bethany, Illinois.

Note: Much of this historical information was taken from “75 Years of History: 1912 – 1987,” Marvyn A. Mahle, Editor.