The Birth of Our Congregation

The first regularly scheduled Protestant activity in the Santa Barbara area was a nondenominational Sunday school that began meeting in a Montecito schoolhouse around 1860.

Group member David A. Nidever Sr. rode to San Bernardino to recruit Congregational minister Joseph Johnson in November 1866. Rev. Johnson began holding services in the adobe courthouse downtown. The Montecito group merged with Johnson’s small congregation.

The “Ecclesiastical Society and Church of the Congregational Faith and Order” was chartered with 16 members on September 6, 1867.

Articles of incorporation for “The First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara” were filed on October 21, 1887.

First Building of First Congregational Church of Santa Barbaraat Santa Barbara and Ortega, 1869-1889

Our First Building

Santa Barbara and Ortega, 1869-1889

Second Building of First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara at Anacapa and Figueroa, 1889-1907

Our Second Building

Anacapa and Figueroa,

Third Building at State and Sola, 1907-1936

Our Third Building

State and Sola, 1907-1936

Fourth Church of First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara at State and Padre, 1936-present

Our Fourth Building

State and Padre, 1936-present

Historical Highlights

1867 Church celebrated Santa Barbara’s first Protestant wedding and first Protestant baptism
1870’s Ice cream – a rare delicacy – served at a church social
1875 Santa Barbara’s first lending library housed in the church
1875-1900 “Chinese mission” established to teach English to Chinese immigrants
1890’s Youth center established with bowling alley, billiard table, and athletic equipment
1907 “Japanese mission” established, which eventually became Bethany Congregational Church
1925 Church survived Santa Barbara earthquake with minor damage
1928 Main church building destroyed by fire; services held in the Sunday School building
1957 La Mesa Community Church “planted” by FCCSB
1959 Christian education wing, Southwick Hall, constructed and dedicated
1960’s [early] Church affiliated with newly formed United Church of Christ
1974 Rev. Gwynne Schultz became first ordained woman on church staff
1987 Chancel Choir went on a peace mission to divided Germany
1989 Congregation voted to become “Just Peace” church
1997 Church celebrated its first same-sex holy union ceremony
1999 Congregational voted to become “Open and Affirming”
2000 Storyteller Children’s Center given a long-term, below-market lease on church-owned manse
2001-02 New sanctuary and pipe organ dedicated after a destructive fire in 2000
2006 Prayer Shawl Ministry began
2007 Fireside Circle established to honor planned-giving donors to the church
2009 Catholic Church of the Beatitudes, led by Roman Catholic Women Priests, began to share our building
2010-13 Major renovations to downstairs kitchen, bell tower, roof (including installation of solar panels), parking lot, Fireside Room
2014 Peace Crane Ministry started
2017 Year-long Sesquicentennial Celebration
2019 Coronavirus pandemic; began online Zoom worship and other meetings