First Congregational Church of Oakland

Where Love is First ::: United Church of Christ

2501 Harrison St. ::: Oakland, California ::: 94612 ::: Tel: (510) 444-8511 ::: Fax: (510) 444-8514 ::: Email us at

First Congregational Church of Oakland's Story

First Congregational Church of Oakland began in 1860, when seventeen people met in the still unincorporated little city of Oakland at the home of Mr. Shattuck and formed the First Congregational Religious Society, later known as the First Congregational Church of Oakland.

The First Congregational Church of Oakland has been active in supporting education, the arts, and social justice since the early days of this city, including playing a vital role in founding the University of California and the Pacific School of Religion seminary. John Muir pitched his ideas about forming the National Park system at our first building. Through active ministry in the community and the growing city of Oakland, the church outgrew both its first and its second buildings. In 1923 and after a decade of discernment, the church sold it's home on 12th and Clay, and bought the Adams home at 27th and Harrison Streets. Early in the 1970's, the City of Oakland purchased land from the Church that transfomed into the Harrison Street and 27th Avenue we drive today. In 1974, the Church released the Christian School to the Oakland Unified School District, which then opened Westlake Middle School. Today, the church still sits on a park like setting in the downtown Lake Merritt area.

The first First Church building in 1862
at 22nd St and Market, Oakland, California

The second First Church building about 1910
at 12th St and Clay, Oakland, California

The third building about 1955 at Harrison Street and 27th Avenue.
This photo was taken prior to the Annex.

Our longstanding commitment to dialog and friendship with people of other faiths can be seen in the fact that from 1923 to 1925, the church's Sunday School was held at the First Unitarian Church, while the congregation met at Temple Sinai, who generously allowed the church to worship there for over two years without charge.

Congregationalists at this church stood against prejudice in the early years of the city of Oakland by being the first to receive Chinese Americans as members - and the first Chinese Americans to be welcomed into any California church.

In 1862, FCCO began cooking and serving daily hot meals to the many migratory workers in and around downtown Oakland. Until 2014, we partnered with Food Not Bombs, ShareFirst Oakland, and the UCC Eucharist Ministry Food of God for People of God bringing meals to over 1200 people a month.

In 1957, the First Congregational Church of Oakland saw that its mission would be furthered by joining the movement to form the United Church of Christ (UCC), a "united and uniting" church, working for global peace, justice and unity.

The 1990's brought change to First Congregational. Because of several significant political, cultural, and social changes in spiritual life and religious observance that occured in the last half of the last century, many churches - along with First Congregational Church of Oakland - experienced a drastic decline in membership and community participation. Because of these factors, a diminishing endowment, and other internal struggles, the 150th year and new millennium saw First Congregational Church of Oakland host less than 30 people in worship on an average Sunday. Membership dwindled down to about a dozen people who did much to keep Sunday worship going, however seeing no other recourse, the church wrestled with the possibility of having to sell the building and either move to a smaller building or merge with another church.

After several months of discernment and discussion, the Members of FCCO gathered at the December 2010 Congregational Forum, and made the decision to become a Lay Lead Congregation. In practice, this means we have no pastoral leadership and choose to use spiritual gifts of those within our communites - both within the membership and beyond - to bring us the word during worship each week. Our spiritual learning and growth will be guided and provided with a breadth of spiritual training and experience includng ordained ministers, seminarians, and deacons.* We are excited to be on this journey, and hope you will join us as we explore a new, interdependent way of engaging Spirit!

We have a great history of helping people learn about Jesus Christ, helping people in our Community, and collaboration with other faith groups and secular organizations to help build a strong, just and loving Oakland.

You are warmly invited to be part of a great present and future with the First Congregational Church of Oakland - where Love is First.

* As of September 2015, FCCO has no called pastor and therefore cannot offer pastoral care. If you or someone you know would like to speak to a pastor, please contact the United Church of Christ for a referral.

About Congregationalists:

On December 16, 1773, about 5,000 people - including Congregationalists - met at the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in Boston and the Congregational church where Samuel Adams was a decon. Congregationalists actively demonstrated, spoke against and worked for the abolition of slavery. Perhaps the most well known of these acts was the Amistad Trial where Roger Sherman Baldwin, a Congregational Minister, sucessfully argued the Africans on board where "unlawfully kidnapped, and forcibly and wrongfully carried on board a certain vessel"[a] thus freeing the African prisoners.

For Congregationalists, patriotism does not mean a blind support for the actions of our leaders, but rather a thoughtful and considered working together to live the high ideals of a country pledged to respect the life of every human being.

[a] = US v. The Amistad, p. 588

The United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC) began in 1957 as the union of several different Christian traditions, and is probably the most progressive church in the country. That means that the UCC recognizes God's inclusive love as fundamental to the "good news" that we are called to share.

The United Church of Christ is made of people who seek to find unity in mission and service, rather than in dogma; in covenant rather than in creed. A covenant is a heart-to-heart commitment, whereas a creed is a statement of belief. Creeds in the UCC are approached as "testimonies, not tests of faith." Affirming our congregational heritage, the UCC functions as each congregation makes it's own decisions regarding style of worship, membership agreements, and leadership structure. The denomination serves as a resource rather than an authority. Therefore, one UCC congregation may be quite different from another.

The churches that formed the UCC believed in the transformational power of the gospel to right social evils, particularly inhumanity to other races and the injustice of slavery. Congregationalists played a central role in the Abolition movement; the man that Stephen Spielberg portrayed as a lawyer in the movie Amistad was really a Congregationalist minister. Congregationalists were very active in the creation of the historically Black colleges in the south. The Christian Churches, another of the strains that formed the UCC, ordained Isaac Scott, an African-American man from North Carolina, and sent him to Liberia in 1852 as the first overseas missionary from that denomination. Congregationalists have long affirmed Native American Indian rights and decried the US government's actions to dislocate many of the Native American tribes. Congregationalists ordained the first woman minister, Antoinette Brown, 150 years ago (in 1853). The UCC was the first to ordain openly gay and lesbian clergy, over 30 years ago, and in 2005 voted to affirm marriage equality.

At the national level, the UCC continues to stand on the forefront of many important national and international movements for peace and justice. The UCC is active in ecumenical and inter-faith dialog, and works to promote peace and self-determination with peoples around the world.

Mission-work in the UCC focuses on meeting needs identified and requested by native peoples, rather than those hypothesized by missionaries.

From the beginning, the United Church of Christ affirmed the ideal that Christians do not always have to agree to live together in communion. The UCC takes as our motto Jesus' prayer for the those who follow him: "that they may all be one." The UCC is one of the most diverse Christian churches in the United States.


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Last update:
March 21. 2020 22:19:19

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