Community United Church of Christ is the oldest continuous congregation in Morton. The church began as a group of English immigrant and New England Congregationalists meeting together in Evans Corner (where present day I-74 crosses North Main Street) in 1832. John M. Roberts who assisted on the Underground Railroad (and whose family donated land for the still in use Roberts Cemetery) was an early worker in the church.
Full organization of the worshipping community into a formal congregation took place in 1854 under the leadership of Rev. W.W. Blanchard. At the time the congregation shared space with the Evans Corner library. It was in this building, in 1854, that Abraham Lincoln addressed the issue of whether the Nebraska Territory ought to enter the Union as a slave or a free state.
As Morton grew, the congregation, with money from a short term, low interest loan from the National Council of Congregational Churches, purchased the site of its current sanctuary and built a white wood frame church. This church building can be seen in an artist’s rendering painted from contemporary photographs, which currently hangs outside the sanctuary. The congregation incorporated in September of 1870, when its membership included 35 people (16 male and 19 female). The new building was dedicated on Christmas Day of the same year.
Not much is known of the congregation between that date and 1910. However, we can safely assume that the church continued to be the English language community of faith for area Christians – many of whom were German speaking in those days. In 1910 a Sunday School class taught by Carrie Mosiman was reorganized into Semper Fidelis, which continues today as our women’s service and fellowship group.
In 1912 our congregation merged with a small group of local Methodists to become Morton Federated Church. The 42 members of this joint congregation decided to use the existing Congregational church building for worship, and to remodel the Methodist Church at 301 E. Madison Street into a parsonage – which it remained for nearly five decades. In 1920 the ladies of Semper Fidelis began the Morton Public Library.
In 1925 Morton Federated Church became Morton Community Church because members came from a variety of denominational backgrounds extending beyond Congregational and Methodist. The next year, the original 1870 structure was remodeled, enlarged and rededicated. A painting of this structure is also located outside the sanctuary.
Following World War Two the growth and expansion of Caterpillar and other local and regional industries brought many new families to Morton, and the homes of these families were filled with the children of the Baby Boom. In the early 1950s the people of Morton Community Church organized and operated the village’s first Kindergarten. After just one year, it was such a hit with local folks that the school board – which had been hesitant to embrace this “newfangled” approach to early childhood education — was all but obligated to offer a kindergarten itself!
Our current building was begun in 1951, during the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. Willis Elliot. It was constructed around the previous wood structure, portions of which are still visible in the attic. Our present day chapel is actually a refinished piece of the 1926 sanctuary’s nave and chancel areas. Parts of the 1870 foundation also remain. Members of the church, under the guidance of a general contractor, did much of the work on this part of our building. Dr. Elliot designed all of the stain glass windows visible inside and outside of the sanctuary.
In 1961, under the leadership of Rev. Herbert Rasey, the congregation voted to covenant with the United Church of Christ. In 1967 the balcony at the rear of our sanctuary was built and our ten rank Wick’s pipe organ was installed and dedicated.
Following the Vietnam War in 1975 the congregation sponsored Nheim and Nga Nguyen, a young refugee couple forced to flee their nation upon the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. The 1970s also saw our membership organizing community wide Bible Schools, and founding the local Meals on Wheels program. The latter has since grown into We Care, Inc., an independent social service agency still dedicated to meeting the transportation and nutrition needs of many elderly and underprivileged folks in the area.
During the 1980s our congregation was instrumental in the creation of a daycare program for senior adults. CUCC folks were also at the forefront of beginning local recycling efforts. During this decade members of the congregation also birthed a before and after school program for children that is still in independent operation at the Morton Roller Rink. In 1994, during the ministry of Rev. Roger Mealiff, a building just north of the church was transformed, thorough the sweat equity and gifts of members, into our beautiful and functional Fellowship Hall.
Recently we have begun a partnership with the Heart of Morton Foundation, which is made up of a group of concerned parents and volunteers who are seeking to offer post-High School programming and experiences to adults with mental disabilities. Most Fridays throughout the year we share part of our building with folks from the Heart of Morton.
Today we continue to be a community minded people, partnering with others and united by our common Christian drive to share our faith and fellowship while living up to our social and civic responsibilities. We invite you to join us as we praise God in celebration of our rich history and continue to serve the growing needs of our community. We are Community United Church of Christ.