HISTORY OF WCUCC
In the early 1980’s the United Church of Christ made new church starts a national priority. The growth in Westerville (7,000 in 1960 to 25,000 in 1980) and the fact that 40% of residents surveyed did not have an active church home made the northern tier of Westerville a possible location. Robert McCorkle wanted a church to be near his new Olde Mill development and in 1981 a five-acre tract on the northwest corner of Spring and County Line Roads was purchased for a future church by the Ohio Conference.
A vision of “moderate theology” and “welcome for all” was developed for the church, and Rev. David Hubner was hired in October 1982 as the Founding Minister. After a two month publicity campaign the first worship service was held at Robert Frost Elementary School on December 5, and a Charter, needing 100 adult signatures as members, was opened. Supported by the National Church, Ohio Conference, and individual congregations, Westerville Community United Church of Christ (WCUCC) increasingly took on the payments for their land, pastoral support, and office space. From the beginning WCUCC had a goal of giving 10% of their expenses to mission.
In worship on May 22, 1983, WCUCC was recognized officially as a “Chartered Congregation” of the United Church of Christ.
At the end of November, 1983, Rev. Hubner resigned suddenly, leaving the congregation to regroup and reconsider their future. With fewer numbers but even more determination, they hired Rev. William Barndt, a retired UCC pastor, as Interim Minister. Rev. Barndt served faithfully from January through August of 1984, visiting all members, encouraging them, and assisting the church in developing by-laws and a governing structure.
Rev. Charles Lizanich became Minister in September 1984. Still worshiping in the school, the congregation made plans for their own building. A pledge campaign went over the needed goal of $100,000 and the National Church loaned money for their building, which would be multi-purpose for worship and fellowship activities. Ground-breaking took place in August 1986 and the building was completed in June 1987 at a total cost of $460,000. Dedication services were held on September 13. Rev. Lizanich left in June 1990 and membership and giving were again in a time of challenge, especially in the face of the indebtedness the congregation had taken on. Rev. J. A. Clark was hired as Interim Minister, and he challenged and saw the congregation through the next six months.
Rev. Harold Steindam began to serve as Minister on January 15, 1991, promoting a vision of “Sharing the Ever-Widening Circle of Christ’s Love.” The congregation began to grow steadily, and in December 1992 added a second Sunday morning worship service. In 1993 the denomination offered a “moratorium period” on interest payments, and the church was able to pay off the mortgage on their land.
With Christian Education growing, a fund drive raised $160,000 in pledges and an expanded CE wing was added in 1996, with dedication of the $270,000 addition in March 1997. Lisa Marchal, Kim Keethler Ball, and Nancy Millwater were hired to serve as Christian Education Directors from September 1996 to the spring of 2002.
In August 2002 Rev. Sigrid Rother became the church’s first full-time, ordained Associate Minister. Since then many programs and classes have been added to the life of the church.
A visioning process in 2000 and 2001 led to the decision to build a sanctuary. A fund drive raised $755,000 in pledges and in April 2002 ground-breaking occurred. The addition, doubling the building’s total size and at a cost of $1.65M, was completed in March 2003. The first worship in the new sanctuary was held on April 6 with formal dedication on May 18.
During these same years mission giving not only continued at 10%, but expanded greatly through many special offerings and programs reaching out to Westerville, Columbus, and beyond. A week long intergenerational mission trip is now supported by the entire congregation and attended by more than 30 members per year. As WCUCC was once helped by other congregations, it now reaches out to support other churches in direct ways each year.
Susan Langner was hired in 2011 as the church’s first full time Director of Youth Ministry, focusing on teens. Susan is currently our student pastor.
Pastor Steindam retired in 2013 after serving WCUCC for almost 23 years. Rev. Jay Groat joined the ministerial staff in the fall of 2013.
Today WCUCC has over 550 members and 285 in average weekly attendance. Wednesday evening worship, fellowship, and learning is offered during the school year. There are youth groups and Sunday school classes for all ages, with six Sunday morning classes for adults, Bible Studies during the week and many other study and fellowship opportunities. Excellence in music and great care for and participation by young children are high priorities. Sports activities continue to be popular, as is the annual “Holly-Day Bazaar” that welcomes over a thousand visitors and raises money for mission and special church projects.
WCUCC began with a vision of welcoming all and being a “10% or more” mission church. Numbers of participants, staff members, technology and more have all grown. But those fundamental principles of welcome in Christ’s name and strong mission remain at the center of all the church does.