In celebration of our church’s founding on October 25, 1721, the 300th Anniversary Committee will plan and carry out a memorable celebration in 2021 of the Tricentennial Anniversary. Events will be designed to reflect on the past as we rejoice together in the present, all the while inspiring future generations to appreciate our church history, which led to the formation of the town of Portland.  

Throughout 2021, we will celebrate the people and places of our past with our members and community as we continue to grow in the love and work of Christ, and together discover ways to make our community and world a better place. May our light shine as we celebrate our rich history represented through our logo showing the “Son” shining down on the church – past, present, and future. 

Our logo above was created by committee member Diane Burgess and digitally designed by her daughter Carolyn Gorman.

300th Anniversary Committee Members


        Nancy                                      Jane                                     Diane


         Ann                                        Kelle                                  Melissa                       


      Connie                                      Mary                                    Sarah                     



       Phyllis                                       Gail                                     Marcie



A Message From the Members of the 300th Anniversary Committee

On April 15, 2018, a small group of interested church members gathered in the fellowship hall following the morning worship service to begin discussing how best to celebrate our 300th anniversary in 2021. On November 7, 2018, a formal committee was established, officers were voted in and the work began.  Meetings were held and ideas were developed creating excitement for what was yet to come.  Our planning became more challenging in March of 2020 when the pandemic struck and we no longer could meet in person.  However, we were not discouraged and continued to work and plan our events via  Zoom video conferencing committed to bring a year-long celebration to all.

It is our privilege and pleasure to offer the congregation opportunities to celebrate this historic milestone in the life of our church. Our goal has been to design events that reflect our storied past while bringing enjoyment in the present moment.  As we look back to where we’ve been, we also look forward to where we hope to be in the future.  With thanksgiving for those who came before us these past 300 years, let us celebrate together the ongoing spirit of faithfulness that is alive today in the First Congregational Church!

Nancy Johnson, Chair

The Rev. Jane Hawken, Pastor

Diane Burgess, Historian

Marcie Clark, Secretary

Mary Pont, Publicity

Gail Bergan

Phyllis Clark

Ann Labby

Sarah Richards

Melissa Vibberts 

Connie Wache 

Kelle Young



January 3, 2021 


Ring in the Anniversary Year Worship Service


On the first Sunday of January we plan to begin the celebration of our 300th anniversary year by offering a very special worship service with a focus on bells.  Throughout time bells have played an important part in our history.  They are used to tell the time, to warn of danger, to sound an alarm, to announce death, to proclaim liberty, and to make music, just to name a few. Most importantly, bells are used to call people to church and to celebrate joy!  Let us share that spirit of joy as we worship together as a church family either in church or at home.

This service would not be complete if you did not have a bell to ring, therefore, one will be provided for you to ring out loud and clear.  The anniversary committee is very fortunate to be able to offer you an official  Bevin Bell inscribed with our logo. Our history includes Susannah Bevin as one of our founding members making this bell all the more meaningful.  Given in memory of former church members, Melvin and Betty Strickland, we thank their family for offering this very generous gift to help us in our celebration. 

The first hymn of the day will be “Ring Your Bells” sung to the tune of “On this Day, Earth Shall Ring.”  The words are found on the next page and we suggest that you ring your Bevin Bell and/or any bell you may have at home each time during the singing of the refrain.  


"Ring Out, Wild Bells" is a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year our present church building was built, he tells us to “Ring out the old; ring in the new.”  What a perfect way to begin 2021!




            Ring Your Bells!


On this day, bells will ring

Calling us to pray and sing

As we worship Christ the King

Born on earth to save us

Guide us and inspire us

REFRAIN:  Celebrate, brate, brate

                      Celebrate, brate, brate

                      Celebrate, 300 years

                      Rejoicing all together!

Years ago, our land was bare

People gathered, everywhere

Built a church and worshipped there

Served God with such grace

Blessed us with this place 




Grateful for our history

We have shared true ministry

Now we are one family

Called to love each other

Sisters and our brothers 




So, ring your bells, loud and clear

Tell the world that love grows here

Spread the word for all to hear

Let God’s spirit guide us

Shape us, mold us, lead us 




Words by Nancy Johnson

Sung to the tune PERSONENT HODIE

Hymn “On This Day, Earth Shall Ring”





Vintage Sale And Chocolate Dessert Café

Postponed until 2022



Keeping in line with historical offerings during this anniversary year, the committee plans to offer this fun event.  The vintage sale was going to be a part of our November 2020 all-church fair that could not happen because of the pandemic.  Our 24th annual Mid-Winter Chocolate Fest was also put on hold due to the health crisis.  We hope that there will be a time when we can put the two together in this coming year.

So, what is considered to be vintage?  The word vintage originally applied to the age of a bottle of wine.  Now it refers to an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society. Most people know that an item should be at least 100 years old to be defined as an antique. According to a majority of experts, items over 50 years old, but less than 100 years old can be called vintage or collectable.

  February Firepit Fun     

          Saturday, February 20, 2021  6:30 p.m.

There is something special about a campfire – it draws us in with its magic, heat and blazing light.  Sitting around a fire in the dark pulls us together and helps us reconnect with each other and with nature.  The 300th Anniversary Committee would like to invite you to an evening when we will do just that.  Join us as we gather in the back field of the church around a warm fire and lighted luminaries.

This will be a time to hear a little history of this beautiful area we are fortunate to have, but mostly a time to enjoy fellowship with one another.  Bring a chair and dress for the weather.  We will provide the atmosphere and the S’mores.  If you’d rather, just drive by and say hi.  We would love to see you!  In case of inclement weather, we will gather on the 21st.



Spring Has Sprung!        

Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:00 a.m. - Noon  


Spring is in the air and the 300th Anniversary Committee is offering the community a time to share in the excitement of this historic event in the life of the church.  We will gather at the Memorial Garden gazebo to view pictures of the oldest church in town. Founded on October 25, 1721, the church history is also the early history of the town of Portland that was incorporated in 1841.  The Rev. Daniel Newell was the first minister and he along with the other 28 original members are memorialized with their names and dates of birth and death on engraved pavers that line the walkway to the gazebo. This new church became the Third Church of Middletown in the newly formed Society of East Middletown. Come see and hear some of the early history of the church.  Our new  book, The History of the First Congregational Church of Portland, and a special edition Woodbury pewter ornament will be available for sale.  



View the Quarries at Quarry View

          Saturday, June 5, 2021   1:00 p.m. – 3:00

The 300th Anniversary Committee is hosting this event to share the exciting and historical work being done by Dean Soucy and Darlene Rice on their property located at 311 Brownstone Ave. Quarry View is a unique 334-year-old brownstone quarry that is listed as a Historic National Landmark. They purchased the lot in 2019 when it resembled a jungle straight out of Jurassic Park, overgrown with trees, brush and vines.  They have spent much of their time since clearing the land and the walls of the quarries and along the way creating an historical treasure of Portland’s past.  


What is so meaningful to us is that the history of our church began at the quarries. It is believed by many that in 1690, James Stancliff, an English stonecutter, became the first European to build a house on the east side of the river.  It was built on the riverbank that stood just south and west of Commerce Street.  His ventures led to more families coming over who then formed The Third Society of Middletown on May 13, 1714.  The rest is history, our history and the town of Portland’s history, so come and feel a part of it at Quarry View.


What can you expect to see?  Here you will find natural springs that flow from what they call "The Wall of Water" down to one of their small waterfalls. There are also many artifacts including dinosaur tracks, quarry tools and carved dates in the stones that date back to 1887.   There is a drumming circle, a frog pond, a trail that winds itself through the property and don’t forget to meet Clifford B. Hanger who is Portland’s very own rendition of the Old Man on the Mountain.  This will be an open house type event so come at whatever time you like.  A short history of the Portland Quarries will be given by Bob McDougall of the Portland Historical Society at 2:00 p.m.


Center Cemetery Tour

Saturday, September 18th  6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

We invite you to discover some of Portland’s early history as you enjoy a self-guided  tour of the grounds of Center Cemetery on Bartlett St. Ext. First established in 1767, there are three of our former ministers who have headstones there and whose dedication to The First Congregational Church spanned beyond the first century of our 300-year history!  

You can enjoy your walk of the grounds as you take in the view of the western sunset and the almost-full “Corn Moon” rising in the east. Using our pamphlet as a guide, you will also encounter some of our 300th Anniversary Committee members serving as docents with a story or two to tell.  Children of all ages can get involved in a special scavenger hunt with a prize for all participants.  

One of the stones you will find on your tour is pictured above and belongs to our 3rd minister, the Rev. Cyprian Strong, who served the church for 44 years from August 19, 1767 until his death on November 17, 1811.  You will discover more about his life, family, and dedication to his ministry at his gravesite.  Other early Portland residents who will be highlighted include the Rev. Moses Bartlett, the Rev. Hervey Talcott who was our longest serving minister at 45 years, Deacon David Sage and his son David, Amos Pelton who met with a rather unfortunate demise, Gen. Seth Overton and his wife Mehitable who lived in the house which is now the Portland Historical Society, and Obadiah, Phillip and Sylvester Gildersleeve of local shipbuilding notoriety.

Please join us as we take you back in history.  Park along Fairway Drive or inside the cemetery off the roadway and dress for the weather.  Rain date will be Sunday, September 19th at the same time.   Bring a lantern or flashlight if you desire, but weather permitting, we should enjoy some twilight as you partake of some cider and cookies at the end the tour.


Sunday October 24, 2021  

Worship Service and Celebration Banquet

The 300th Anniversary Committee cordially invites everyone to this very special worship service of re-dedication, welcoming back some of our former ministers, members, and friends. Present that day will be the Rev. Dwight Juliani (1973 – 1990) and David and Nancy Clapp Channing, children of the Rev. Edward T. Clapp (1941 – 1973.)   Messages will be shared from the Rev. George Haskins (1991 – 1995) and others.   Our pastor, the Rev. Jane Hawken, will give the sermon titled, "Commemorating the Past, Celebrating the Present, Creating the Future."  We will also recognize our longtime members of 50+ years, honoring them for their years of faithful service to the church.

Upon entering church, you will have the opportunity to sign a refinished finial that once adorned the top of our steeple.  The worship will include music, litanies, children’s message given by Rev. Juliani, prayers, presentation of a quilt made by the church school children and more.  We will look forward to praising God together on this memorable occasion.  

Following the worship service, we will continue with a catered luncheon by Farrell’s Restaurant in the fellowship hall. This will be a time to celebrate with old friends and new and enjoy meaningful conversations as we reflect on the past with those who were so much a part of it.  Check out the luncheon details in the September Belfry Chimes.  Reservations are necessary!  Seating is limited!

 Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian Love!

October 25, 2021  On this day of the founding of our church 300 years ago, a short, meditative Commemorative Service will be offered.  This will be held in the church Memorial Garden where the names of our 29 original members are engraved on the first 8 rows of paver bricks.  This will be held at 7:00 p.m.                           









For Sale!

300th Anniversary Commemorative Items

At the time of writing this booklet, the anniversary committee has two items for sale that may be of interest to you.  We are happy to offer a beautiful 300th Anniversary pewter ornament designed by our very own church member and resident artist Kearen Enright.  In fine detail she has captured a picture of the church as it looks in its present state.  The ornament was made at the Woodbury, CT Pewter Factory and is available for $12.00.  



Also, for sale is this book  released in October 2020. This updated history book of the First Congregational of Portland, CT was written in celebration of the 300th anniversary of its founding.  It is comprised of two parts.  Part I was authored by Albert A. LeShane, Jr. with many helpful suggestions from the Rev. Edward T. Clapp, minister of the church from 1941-1973.  It was written for the 250th anniversary held in 1971 and revised in 2020. Part II contains the next fifty years and is written by members of our 300th anniversary committee.  It contains eight sections recording the history of significant areas of church life.  Also found in Part II is a list of the ministers since the church’s founding, a list of the original founding members, an historical chronology, and information on recently acquired portraits of our third minister, the Rev. Cyprian Strong and his third wife Abigail Strong.  The cost of this book is $20.00

To purchase either of these items,

please contact the church or

Nancy Johnson at nlj1952@comcast.net.

The anniversary committee would like to collect memories of your time at First Church.  It matters not if you have been here for 50 years, 5 years or 5 months.  We would love for you to answer as many of our Questions to Ponder as you would like.  Please send your responses to the church at 554 Main Street, Portland, CT 06480 as soon as you are able.  If you prefer, you can email your responses to Nancy Johnson at nlj1952@comcast.net.  We truly will appreciate your help with this endeavor.   



 1)  What are some of your First Church related memories?

 2)  What have been some of the best times for you at the First                          Congregational Church of Portland?

 3)  If any, what would you consider to be the challenging times during the life of the church while you were there?

4)  What do you see as the major changes that took place over the years while you were a member?  

 5)  What are your remembrances of the music at church?

 6)  What do you recall about Christian Education?

 7)  What memories do you have related to Missions and/or Ecumenical Involvement?

 8)  What do you recall about past anniversary celebrations?

 9)  What would you like to see happen during the celebration of our 300th anniversary in 2021?

10)  Please tell us one or two of your fondest memories that you carry with you of First Church?

11) Are there any other areas of your time at First Congregational Church that you would like to share?


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