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



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.

Are you of the vintage era?  If not, do you have items of this time period?  You could help us out by donating items made between 1920 and 1970.  We are looking for a variety of items that might include, but not limited to the following:  jewelry, doilies, teacups, fine china, cookware, hats, aprons, purses, etc.  A collection has been started and if you would like to add to it, please contact Nancy Johnson at nlj1952@comcast.net or 860 342-4098.

Shopping always makes one tired so we plan to have a place where people can not only relax, but also enjoy a delicious chocolate dessert and  a beverage.  After all, we are famous for our Chocolate Mousse Café and we would like to offer something chocolate to the community this year.  Stay tuned for the date of this event, but don’t hesitate to call Nancy with your vintage items.


                                 Memorial Day Parade 2021


On Sunday May 30, 2021, we hope that  Portland will be able to resume their annual Memorial Day Parade that had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The anniversary committee is planning to organize a  couple of different ways that our members can  become involved as we celebrate our 300th Anniversary with the whole town.  First, the  committee is planning on creating a spectacular float for the parade and secondly, we hope to have many of our church  members and friends march together behind the float. This picture shows what we did in celebration of our 275th anniversary year in 1996.  This very imaginative float received the blue ribbon for taking first place.  If this photo inspires you to come up with an idea for this coming year, please relay your thoughts to a committee member. 


We also encourage everyone to participate by marching with us in matching T-shirts that the committee plans to sell in the spring.  As the time gets closer you will hear more about what we plan to offer.  In this 300th anniversary year, remember the three ways you can help with this memorable and meaningful event:

  1. Offer your ideas for a float and help create it.

  2. March with us on that day.

  3. If you are unable to do either, be in the crowd and cheer us on.  


Since our founding until now, our history is filled with people who have served in wars and many who have died while serving.   Let us take this time to remember and honor these men and women for their service to us and to our country.  As we gather together on Memorial Day 2021, either in person or virtually, let us take note of the words in this anonymous quote:  


 “All gave some, some gave all. Remember them this Memorial Day.”



Celebrating 300 Years With Church History

 and Art History 


What is a 300th Anniversary Year without learning about the history of our church?  We have planned a program (date to be announced) where you will not only hear about our history, but you will also see some of that history with a wonderful display of artwork.  

Church History In partnership with the Portland Historical Society, we will be exploring how some of the first settlers of Portland became the founding members of the First Congregational Church of Portland. The circumstances of their times and the homes that they lived in are ingrained in the deep history of our town. The evolution of our church influenced the formation of the Town of Portland. 

Pictured above is the Ruth Callander House Museum of Portland History located at 492 Main Street. One of our original 29 members, Nathaniel White, built this house in 1715.  He was one of the first inhabitants in this area known then as East Middletown.  Nathaniel married Mehitable Hurlburt in 1714 and they had ten children of whom only five survived to adulthood.  More history will be explored.  Stay tuned.

Art History  Over the years, our church has accumulated a variety of beautiful pieces of art.  Paintings created by one of our former ministers and paintings of the church created by church members, historical quilts, quilts raffled off at our church fairs of the past, and banners all created by women of our church, hand-painted plates, vases, and so much more will be on display.  You will also hear the stories behind their creation.  You will not want to  miss this lovely collection of art crafted by our very talented members.

This program of hearing and seeing our history come alive will surely be one you will not want to miss.    


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 walking tour of the grounds of Center Cemetery on Bartlett St. Ext. 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!  Other Portland residents who have been interred in this cemetery include Obadiah, Philip and Sylvester Gildersleeve of ship building notoriety, Gen. Seth Overton and his wife Mehitable who lived in the present-day Historical Society Museum homestead, and Revolutionary War soldiers, David Sage, Seth Strickland, Eber Stocking, and Daniel Shepard.  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 your personal guidebook, you’ll also encounter some surprises along the paths!!

One of the stones you will find on your tour is pictured above and belongs to our 3rd minister, the Rev. Cyprian Strong. Cyprian was the son of Asahel Strong and Ruth (Hooker) Strong.  He was born May 26, 1743 in Farmington, CT and served this church from August 19, 1767 until his death on December 27, 1811.  He is our 2nd longest serving minister having served for 44 years.


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 flashlight if you desire, but weather permitting, we should enjoy some twilight as well.  Cider and cookies will end the tour.



Homecoming Sunday October 24, 2021  

Worship Service and Celebration Banquet


What would an anniversary be without a time to gather and worship God with thanks for the many ways this church has been blessed over the last 300 years? Our logo reminds us to celebrate the spirit past, present, and future, and we plan to do that on October 24th, the closest Sunday to the actual day of our founding which is October 25, 1721.  On this day we plan to gather in our sanctuary and worship with a very special service of re-dedication, welcoming back some of our former ministers, members, and friends. We will look forward to praising God with thankful hearts, singing voices, and thoughtful prayers.                                                                                                                                                                                 

Following this memorable worship service, we will gather together at the Quarry Ridge Golf Course Restaurant located at 9 Rose Hill Road in Portland for a delicious anniversary dinner and recognition of our long-time members. 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.  At the same time one can marvel at the spectacular views of the hills of Portland that should be filled with color at this time of year.  Details of this most memorable event will be announced as the time gets closer.  We do hope that you will be able to join the congregation in this joyous celebration!


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











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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