The Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ came together in 1957 when the United Church of Christ was formed by the uniting of the entities that formed the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these, in turn, had been the result of a union of earlier traditions.
Several of the 31 local congregations that make up our Conference date back to the 1700s before state lines were solidified—one of the reasons why the RI Conference historically includes a congregation in each of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Steeped in the welcoming traditions of both our Congregational and Christian forebears, our Conference presently includes Hispanic, Armenian and Korean congregations as well as one that was originally Cape Verdean and is now, UCC/ABC and intentionally multi-racial.
The oldest congregational body serving in RI was the RI Missionary Society, begun in 1803 under the leadership of pastor, theologian, and anti-slavery leader Samuel Hopkins. One of the first acts of the new Society was to build a schoolhouse for the people of the Narragansett Nation. As early as 1878, the Congregational Conference had an African-American Moderator, The Rev. Mahlon Van Horne. In that same year the Rev. Ellen G. Gustin became the first woman of any denomination to pastor a Church in the state.
The RI Conference continues to be a diverse and vibrant gathering of congregations whose motto is, “Doing together what we cannot do alone.” Our collective ministries include Christian Education, Justice and Witness, Church Life and Leadership, Stewardship Development, and our special mission focus on Haiti.
Our Conference has always been one of the highest per capita donors to the UCC’s Our Church’s Wider Mission. We are proud to be part of the progressive Christian tradition. All of our congregations offer “an extravagant welcome” to everyone. We continue to work together for peace and justice and the day when “all shall be one.”