Williston Federated Church
History
The Williston Federated Church has its roots in early Congregational and Methodist activity in the town.
The local Congregational history dates back to the end of the 18th century when, in 1790, plans were made to hire a minister and to build a meeting house "for religious services, town meetings and other assemblies." The Congregational Church was formally organized in 1800. By 1831, the meeting house was so dilapidated that the Congregationalists decided to build their own, and in 1832 they erected the beautiful brick church which still stands in the center of town.
Early Williston Methodists were served by circuit riders. When a church was established in Hinesburg, Williston people became a part of it. Services also were held, starting in 1836, at the Muddy Brook school, the preacher coming from Essex. The Williston Methodist Church was officially organized in 1844. The town offices for the Departments of Public Works and Recreation now occupy the first Methodist church building.
Although Congregational church growth and influence began to decline following the Civil War the Methodists experienced rapid growth and the resultant need for a larger church building. Construction began in 1867 and was completed in 1869.
The building, now the home of the Williston Federated Church, has a prominent stone foundation topped by clapboard construction. The clock in the tower was installed in 1900 and is owned by the Town of Williston. The clock continues to keep the time and toll the hours having been refurbished at the same time the church steeple was restored in 1998.
The first recorded joint meeting of the Methodist and Congregational churches was in 1889 when union services were held during a week of prayer. Toward the end of the 19th century both the Methodist and Congregational churches faced declining memberships and the possible necessity of closing. In 1899, the two churches voted to unite to support one pastor. They decided to meet in the morning in the Methodist Church and in the evening, at the Congregational Church. So it was that the Williston Federated Church was formed, reportedly the first such federation in Vermont.
An educational wing, located at the rear of the existing structure, was completed in 1964 and currently is used for church offices and the sitting room. A larger fellowship addition was completed in 1995 and is currently used for most church educational and program activities as well as numerous community organization gatherings and events.
(material for this brief history was gleaned from a number of sources including a Burlington Free Press article Oct. 18, 1969 on the occasion of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the construction of the building.)
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