Broadway's rich history is told in the 2015 documentary "A Church Without Walls: The History of Broadway United Church of Christ".
The history of Broadway United Church of Christ is rich, complex, and inspiring.
In 1831, Dr. Charles G. Finney, famous evangelist from western New York, first organized Broadway Congregational Church in New York City. The church's building, known as the Broadway Tabernacle, was opened in 1836. Finney designed the new church himself; it held 2,400 people. First operating as a Presbyterian church, it was located on Broadway between Worth Street and Catherine Lane. It was founded as a center of anti-slavery spirit, not a popular position in New York City. A proslavery mob burned down the church while it was under construction. Finney soon left to become the president of Oberlin College.
The minister who followed Finney shared neither his anti-slavery attitude nor his ability to gather the large throngs that Finney had. A dispute about this led to the church leaving the Presbyterian fold, through the purchase of the building by a prominent member, David Hale. He reorganized the church in 1840 as a Congregational church, and established policies that allowed for freedom of expression. The building was used for a wide variety of purposes, including the first demonstration of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as an anesthetic.
In the next decades, the church became a rallying point for those who were opposed to slavery, in favor of women suffrage (voting), and for the abolition of alcoholic drinks. Leaders of the Church took a prominent role in raising a defense fund for the Africans who were captured aboard the ship Amistad; Cinque, the leader of the captives, spoke at the Church as the freed slaves prepared to return to Africa. Members of the Amistad Committee eventually formed The American Missionary Association, an organization that fought slavery, and established schools, colleges, and churches for freed slaves after the Civil War. Lloyd Garrison, a prominent abolitionist, and Frederick Douglass, a black newspaper editor and former slave, both spoke at the Church. (See video about Douglass) In 1853, a women's suffrage meeting at the Church was so disrupted by hostile men that Sojourner Truth, the famous leader of the Underground Railroad, had to shout down the hecklers from the platform.
The church even founded a newspaper, The Independent, an anti-slavery paper that had a circulation of 15,000, which helped to spread the renown of Emily Dickinson by publishing her poems. By 1857, the church accepted an offer by the Erie Railroad to purchase its original building, and moved uptown to 34th Street and 6th Avenue. As the American Civil War began, the Church's pastor, Joseph Thompson, was so identified with the Union cause that a Confederate sympathizer attempted to shoot him during a worship service.
These years reflect a time when Protestant ministers were among the leaders of American society, and when their sermons would be reported in the newspapers. Churches were also significant cultural centers. For example, the Tabernacle was the venue for the first North American performance of Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah.
Women were given the vote in the church in 1871. During the latter half of the 1800's, the Church supported mission activities around the world. It also carried out educational and religious activities in the poorer neighborhoods of the City, including Hell's Kitchen, where it established the Bethany Mission in 1868.
Charles Jefferson became pastor in 1898, and continued in the role until 1930. He was a skilled preacher and organizer under whose leadership the Church grew. The City had spread beyond its former boundaries, and again a generous offer for the Church's property stimulated a move to 56th and Broadway, a corner where the streets were still unpaved. The Gothic building that was erected featured a parish house that was ten stories tall and had its own elevator. The "skyscraper church" continued to function as a gathering place for many meetings - more than 1200 in the year 1910 alone. During the First World War, it provided weekly canteens for men of the armed forces. During the Depression, it contained a theater, beginning a ministry to actors that lasted for many years.
Mission work continued to be a focus, leading among other things to the establishment of the Jefferson Academy in Tungshien, China. Pastor Jefferson also led the establishment of the New York Congregational Home for the Aged in Brooklyn in 1906. In the same year, Jefferson also proclaimed his interest in peace issues, as one of the founders of the New York Peace Society. Andrew Carnegie gave Jefferson and his colleagues a grant to develop strong relationships between clergy throughout the world. After the First World War, Jefferson became an advocate for the League of Nations and the World Court.
In 1928, Broadway continued to break new ground by taking the rare action of ordaining a woman minister. Two years later, Jefferson left, and Allan Knight Chalmers was offered the unenviable job of replacing him. Women now demanded, and were given, the ability to serve as officers of the Church. Chalmers was a strong advocate of the Social Gospel; as the Depression deepened, he and the Church had many challenges to meet. One of the great public controversies of the time was the Scottsboro case, when a group of nine black men were charged with sexually molesting some white women in Tennessee. All except one were sentenced to death. Pastor Chalmers became the head of the national Scottsboro Defense Committee. The men were freed from prison; Chalmers was elected treasurer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in recognition of his work on the case.
Pastor Chalmers was also a leader in the pacifist movement. The Church's Young Men's Club issued the Broadway Declaration in 1932, declaring that service in the armed forces was inconsistent with Christianity. Other young men across the nation also signed it. When the Second World War came, eight Broadway members became conscientious objectors, serving out the War in mental hospitals and other forms of community service. Without an apparent sense of contradiction, the Church during this period continued to offer regular hospitality to members of the armed forces through its weekly canteens.
On into the 1960's, the Church continued to fight for human rights. It was the rallying point from which the United Church of Christ delegation went to the March on Washington. Lawrence Durgin served the Church for two years before being named pastor in 1963. During this time, the church embraced the ecumenical movement that was symbolized by the Second Vatican Council. As it confronted a large investment to repair its building, a proposal was made to sell the property and to use the money for mission. The proposal won by a very small margin. In 1969, Broadway left its own building to take up residence at a Catholic Church, the nearby Church of St. Paul the Apostle.
One of Broadway's staff members, Aston Glaves, became a leader in developing affordable housing in the church's neighborhood, formerly called Hell's Kitchen. A number of middle- and low-income apartment buildings in the area were developed through community efforts led by Glaves.
After twelve years at St. Paul's, Broadway moved to Rutgers Presbyterian Church, and then to St. Michael's Episcopal Church, each time moving further up the West Side. The Rev. Bonnie Rosborough was called during this time, and kept the church together during its various moves. Life as a "church without walls" began to pall after thirty years, so a relationship was formed with Advent Lutheran Church at 93rd and Broadway. Broadway would invest in the renovation and repair of Advent's building, and would be able to settle there as partners in ministry. As that relationship now comes to a close, Broadway enters into a period of discernment about housing the church’s ministry for the long term. In the interim, we are happy to take up residence at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist, a welcoming congregation with a similar mission and focus.
In 1991, Broadway became an Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ, officially welcoming all people regardless of their sexual orientation. Ministries to churches in South Africa as it threw off apartheid, to prisoners, to people with HIV and AIDS, and to women on welfare, among others, have marked the 1990's. Broadway members provided their labor and financial support to Habitat for Humanity as the millennium turned.
In a rapidly changing and challenging world, the Church continues to actively explore its mission, following the theme of its covenant:
"In response to God's love made known to us in Jesus Christ we covenant with God and with one another to be God's church in this time and place as the Holy Spirit may direct."
Broadway United Church of Christ has met in various houses of worship in New York City since we left our last building in 1969. Below are listed pictures and descriptions, in chronological order, of the different churches in which we have worshiped since we left the tabernacle (image below).
Our next home was at St. Paul the Apostle located on the corner of 60th Street and Columbus Avenue. For 13 years we were given the 11:00am worship time while the Catholic congregation met later in the afternoon. However, as their congregation began to grow, they needed back their 11:00am time.
As we began to find a new place to call home, we were invited to spend the summer worshipping at Trinity Presbyterian Church located on 57th and Columbus Avenue.
It wasn't long until we found a new place to worship at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on 73rd and Broadway. We spent the next three years at Rutgers. Just when we had called our new pastor, the Rev. Dr. Bonnie Rosborough, it was time to move again.
This time, we found space at St. Michael's Episcopal Church on 99th and Amsterdam. We stayed there from 1985 until 2000.
In 1997, a relationship was formed with Advent Lutheran Church at 93rd and Broadway. Broadway UCC would invest in the renovation and repair of Advent's building, and would be able to settle there as partners in ministry moving, once again, in September of 2016.
Broadway UCC has entered into a period of discernment about housing the church’s ministry for the long term. In the interim, the congregation has taken up residence at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist, a welcoming congregation with a similar mission and focus.
Dr. Charles G. Finney, Founder
In late 1831, the Broadway Congregational Church was organized in New York City under the leadership of Dr. Charles G. Finney.
The church's membership was constituted primarily from transplanted New Englanders and British immigrants who were attracted to Finney's espousal of the New School Theology. The New School was a distinct departure from the rigidly structured beliefs prevalent at the time in the dominant Protestant churches in New York City - Presbyterian and Episcopalian.
For nearly two years, Finney's congregation met in various halls. When his diminishing flock decided to join with another group, the Second Free Church under the jurisdiction of the Third Presbytery was established. Other Free Churches expressed the desire to join this group, which led to the need for a permanent site. Arrangements were made to purchase a lot on Worth Street just off Broadway, and a building designed to seat 2,500 persons with an additional standing capacity of 1,500 was constructed.
This new building - the Broadway Tabernacle - opened in April 1836 and Dr. Finney was installed as its first pastor. The congregation opted to function as a Congregational church. In the panic of 1837 many New York City families were financially devastated and the Tabernacle lost many of its supporters. Meanwhile, Dr. Finney was forced to resign due to ill health. In an effort to preserve the church, a merger with the First Free Church was effected and the polity of the Tabernacle shifted to Presbyterianism. Fiscal woes continued to plague the Tabernacle until early in 1840, when the church was unable to fulfill its mortgage obligations and the building was tendered for sale. In July 1840 David Hale, nephew of the American Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, purchased the Tabernacle and invited its members to join him in reestablishing it as a Congregational church, as which it has operated until today.
Advocacy of the anti-slavery movement was a major concern of many influential members of the Tabernacle during that era even though it was not the prevailing public opinion. Pro-slavery sentiments ran so strongly that during the construction of the Tabernacle, angry crowds rioted at the site and set fire to the structure. In 1839 Lewis Tappan, an active supporter of the Tabernacle, was named to serve on a committee to facilitate the securing of freedom of a group of slaves who had been captured off the coast of Long Island. The slaves had mutinied while in route to the United States and seized the ship. After a long series of trials and appeals - ultimately to the US Supreme Court - the men were freed. The Amistad Incident, as it was referred to, was considered a landmark decision of the era. The committee who had secured the release eventually became the Union Missionary Society, which was later enlarged to become the American Missionary Association at meetings held in the Broadway Tabernacle
David Hale, Patron Saint of Broadway Tabernacle
If any one person deserves to be singled out as the founder of the Broadway Tabernacle, it has to be David Hale, nephew of the hero of the American Revolution, Nathan Hale.
In 1827, David Hale was invited to New York City by Arthur Tappan, a prominent layperson associated with the Broadway Tabernacle in the 1830s, to assist in publishing the Journal of Commerce. By 1831 Hale and one of his associates had acquired ownership of the journal. Among the many innovations they introduced for their publication was a horse relay service from New York City to Boston and Philadelphia, which enabled them to get news to their readership hours before their competitors.
Hale and his family joined the Broadway Tabernacle in the mid-1830s. Until his death in 1849 he was the parish's most revered layman. Not only was he responsible for saving the Tabernacle building from the auction block in the Spring of 1840, but he was a major contributor and helped establish nearly 20 Congregational churches in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He also made substantial contributions to the building funds of Congregational churches throughout the Midwest. David Hale played a very significant role in dissuading a national gathering of Congregational churches from uniting with the Presbyterian Church.
Edward Warren Andrews, The First Pastor, 1841-1844
Just prior to assuming the pastorate of the Broadway Tabernacle in 1841, Edward Andrews was cautioned by the noted Presbyterian minister Dr. Gardiner Spring, "…your efforts must fail; … Congregationalism [is] an exotic in New York and [will] never flourish."
Early in his ministry, The New World, a New York City literary weekly, reported that Pastor Andrews had preached to an audience of 4,000 people, which meant that at least 1,500 eager listeners had to stand throughout the service.
One of the innovative programs initiated during Andrews' brief ministry was a series of Sunday afternoon concerts featuring the voices of young children. When these songfests began, as many as 400 to 500 children regularly appeared. By the late 1840s, that number had reached as many as 1,000!
Joseph Parrish Thompson, The Second Pastor, 1845-1871
One of the most notable achievements of Joseph Thompson's pastorate was the impetus he generated in the growth of congregationalism, not only in and about New York City but throughout the country. In his era, Thompson's Tabernacle played a major role in the development of nearly 20 Congregational churches in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Dr. Thompson was influential in convening the first national synodical meeting of Congregational churches in Albany in 1852. Nearly 500 ministers and delegates from 17 states took part in this historical gathering. One result of the synod was the formation of the first national council of the denomination. Agendas for this council and other instrumentalities of the denomination were developed at meetings held in the Tabernacle.
As the city's population expanded northward in the mid-1850s, Dr. Thompson urged members of the church to find a more suitable location for the church's future growth. A site was selected at the Northeast corner of Broadway and 34 Street, and in April 1859 the new Tabernacle was dedicated.
With the approach the Civil War, Dr. Thompson continued to echo the Tabernacle's adamant anti-slavery convictions. He invited black preachers to the church's pulpit and was a frequent visitor to Washington, DC, where he conferred with President Lincoln on concerns related to the war. At one Sunday service, when a serious shortage of regiments was plaguing the Union Army, he convinced the congregation to contribute the $30,000 needed to finance a new regiment. One of the Tabernacle's prominent laymen, Major General Oliver Howard, served with distinction in the Union Army. Following the war, Howard became involved in establishing a university for black in Washington, DC. For his efforts, Howard University honored the major general by taking his name.
Exhausted by the tremendous energies he had extended on behalf of the war effort and his ministries in the Tabernacle, Dr. Thompson found it necessary to submit his resignation in late 1871.
William Mackergo Taylor, The Third Pastor, 1872-1892
The first ten years of William Taylor's ministry at Broadway Tabernacle were notable for three major developments: the advance in the rights of women; the improvement in the Tabernacle's financial affairs; and the momentum the church provided to advance mission work in the city.
As early as 1871 - a period when churches throughout New York City were being encouraged to facilitate the establishment of separate societies for their women members - laywomen of Broadway Tabernacle were admitted as voters in the Tabernacle Society, the body which governed business affairs of the church.
Under Dr. Taylor's leadership, the Tabernacle managed to eliminate all debts incurred with the expansion of the church's facilities. About this time, the Tabernacle established the Bethany Church as a mission project on 35 Street and Tenth Avenue. Bethany was completely equipped for Sunday School activities and a wide range of programs for families in need of social services. This program was sustained through the late 1920s. Dr. Taylor also committed himself to aiding the denomination in establishing more than 50 mission churches throughout the Mid- and Far West.
Dr. Taylor was internationally acknowledged as one of the great preachers of his day. His sermons were published in England as well as the United States and found a large and receptive audience. He was in constant demand as a speaker as well as a board member by many religious and social agencies. In January 1876 he was invited to preach to a large gathering of Princeton University students. His remarks were so stirring that they were credited with stimulating the development of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions.
By the time Dr. Taylor's pastorate ended in 1892, the church's membership had increased by 1,200 persons - the greatest growth period in the Tabernacle's history.
Henry Albert Stimson, The Fourth Pastor, 1893-1896
Henry Stimson's pastorate lasted only three years. He had the ill fortune to follow Dr. Taylor, who had attracted a large, loyal and admiring congregation. Following Dr. Taylor's resignation there was an almost immediate decrease in both membership and attendance. Stimson's arrival also coincided with a time when an outward movement of the city's population to Long Island and Westchester had begun. Dr. Stimson realized that he would not accomplish his mission by remaining at the Tabernacle and, hence, submitted his resignation in 1896. Shortly thereafter, taking nearly 100 Tabernacle members, Stimson established the Manhattan Congregational Church.
Charles Edward Jefferson, The Fifth Pastor, 1898-1930
Of all the pastors called to serve the Broadway Tabernacle, Charles Jefferson was said to have had "the longest run on Broadway."
Jefferson was a firm believer that war was an evil instrument in settling disputes among nations. This conviction permeated his ministry. He publicly lashed out against provocative action taken by President Theodore Roosevelt, who sent American warships to sea as a display of flexing the nation's military muscle. He chaired the New York Peace Society and played a leading and continuing role in national and international peace movements.
During Jefferson's ministry, the Tabernacle's missionary activities around the world reached a peak that was never to be equaled. A boy's academy was begun in China at the initiative of Tabernacle members Harry and Rose Martin. The school, known as Jefferson Academy, flourished as an outstanding institution until being taken over by Communists in the mid-1900s. Important mission posts were also staffed in India, Turkey and Greece by missionaries affiliated with the Tabernacle.
In 1901, again anticipating a continuing expansion of the city, the parish moved one mile north to 56 Street and Broadway to a district at that time "so backward that there was a large horse-watering trough nearby." By early 1905, the third and last Tabernacle was completed. The press acclaimed the structure as the world's "first skyscraper church" because its height so dominated the neighborhood.
Among the great legacies of the Jefferson era was the leadership the church provided in establishing the New York Congregational Home for the Aged in Brooklyn. Since its opening, the Home has served elderly parishioners of New York City Congregational churches and, of late, persons of all affiliations.
In the early 1920s the Tabernacle acquired a campsite with a cabin in the Interstate Palisades Park (now Harriman State Park), just one hour's drive north of New York City. The camp initially was used by a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the church. Soon after, the site was formally dedicated as Camp Jefferson and, since the early 1930s, has functioned as an all-church facility.
Throughout his ministry, Dr. Jefferson's sermons provided the New York City Press with a rich and continuing source of observations from his perspective as a prominent theologian. He was a prolific writer and, in time, became the Tabernacle's most widely published author. He was honored with emeritus status when he resigned in 1929, in which capacity he continued until his death in the mid-1930s.
Allan Knight Chalmers, The Sixth Pastor, 1930-1947
Allan Knight Chalmers, The Sixth Pastor, 1930-1947Like his predecessor, Allan Chalmers espoused an ardent pacifist position. Throughout his ministry at the Tabernacle he never relented from this position. Leading New York City newspapers gave frequent coverage to his anti-war views. He played a leading role in a coalition of New York area clergymen who shared his anti-war sentiments.
Chalmers was also a strong advocate of racial justice. His advocacy of this position led the NAACP to call upon him to take on the leadership of the Scottsboro Defense Committee when efforts on behalf of the Scottsboro group had stalled. The Committee had been established to win the release of nine young black men who had been falsely accused of raping two white women while stealing a ride on a freight train in Alabama. The nine had been found guilty and were sentenced to death by a Montgomery court. After years of intense negotiations, repeated court appeals and countless visits to Alabama's governor, eight of the defendants were finally released thanks, in good part, to Chalmers' efforts. (The ninth defendant, who was still incarcerated pending a disposition of an appeal, escaped in 1948, fled to Michigan and was involved in the murder of another man. He was subsequently convicted of manslaughter.)
The early years of Chalmers' ministry coincided with the Depression years. The church offered its auditorium facilities to the WPA, the federal agency charged at the time with developing job opportunities for the unemployed. The church's lower auditorium, which had a fully equipped stage and seating capacity for several hundred, was made available to a WPA theatrical troupe, staffed by unemployed actors, for the purpose of presenting popular dramas at no charge. For several seasons plays such as the classic One-Third of a Nation and others were performed as a community service.
During Chalmers' era, the church encouraged the development of many special interest groups. An active drama club was initiated. Special groups for teenagers, young men, businesswomen and others flourished. One of the most exceptional was a fellowship for young adults known as the Tower League, which provided a vitally significant social ministry to young adults who had come to New York City in search of meaningful job opportunities and social relationships. During his 35 years the Tower League attracted several thousand young adults, many of whom became closely involved in the life of the Tabernacle. Out of this fellowship nearly 300 marriages were consummated.
In 1947, Dr. Chalmers resigned to become professor of homiletics at Boston University Divinity School.
Albert J. Penner, The Seventh Pastor, 1950-1960
Shortly after Albert Penner's arrival, the church decided to adopt a new name: the "Broadway Tabernacle" was dropped in favor of the "Broadway Congregational Church," returning to the name by which the church had been known briefly in the early 1830s. The Penner years were marked by a concerted effort to develop programs that would respond to the personal and social needs of diverse groups.
One of the most popular new programs was the Monday Evening Recreation Club for Older Men and Older Women. Every Monday evening for several years this project attracted about 150 persons, many of who were retired veterans of the theatre. A trained social worker and volunteers from the church assisted this group. For the large numbers of servicemen who flooded the city on weekends, the church provided a canteen staffed by church volunteers and assisted by young women who served as hostesses. The church also opened a storefront church called Plymouth House on West 56 Street near Tenth Avenue primarily to serve Hispanic families who had recently relocated into the neighborhood.
Active support of the arts by the church was at an all-time high. For several years the church sponsored The Broadway Chapel Players, whose collaborators were professional actors. In each of several years they performed a series of ten-week offerings of outstanding religious dramas for audiences that crammed the 200-seat Taylor Chapel. Another dramatic company, recruited from members of the church and their friends, presented plays that had been offered previously on Broadway. The church also made available sorely needed rehearsal space for the then fledgling Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe.
In 1960, Dr. Penner resigned to become the minister of the Massachusetts Conference of Congregational Churches.
Lawrence Lazelle Durgin, The Eighth Pastor, 1961-1980
Lawrence Durgin's years were characterized by deep commitments to a number of diverse concerns. Paramount among these were race relations, housing, ecumenism, prisoners' families and the Farm Worker's Union, among others.
A full busload of Broadway members joined the historic March on Washington in 1963. During Dr. Durgin's tenure, a merger was consummated with the Martha Memorial Church. Once again, another name change was in order for the church: from "Broadway Congregational Church" to "Broadway United Church of Christ." The change was accomplished to reflect the 1957 merger of the Congregational Church with the Evangelical & Reformed Church.
In the mid-1960s, the church faced one of its most crucial decisions. When plans for a new church building at 56 Street and Broadway unraveled due to a dismal real estate market, the decision was made to sell the property and search for an ecumenical partnership that would enable the church to further its mission work. When Father Ryan, pastor of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Paul the Apostle at 59 Street and Ninth Avenue, proposed to yield his church's 11:00 A.M. worship hour to the Broadway UCC congregation for an indefinite period, his offer was readily accepted. For 13 years Broadway UCC remained in residence on 59 Street, until St. Paul's needed additional space for its expanding programs and asked Broadway UCC to search for a new home. Rutgers Presbyterian Church on 73 Street and Broadway opened a welcoming door. Broadway UCC's relationship with Rutgers lasted three years.
Also noteworthy of Dr. Durgin's ministry - and a first in the long history of Broadway Church - was that women were ordained to serve as assistant ministers. The Reverend Sharon Ringe and the Reverend Sharon Solt were to share this distinction.
Dr. Durgin resigned from Broadway UCC's pastorate in 1979 to take on the role of vice president of development for Tougaloo College in Mississippi. His successful ministry at Tougaloo College resulted in a professorship being named in his honor at the college: the Lawrence Durgin Professor of Literature.
Bonnie Ann Rosborough, The Ninth Pastor, 1984-2004
Five years elapsed between the end of the Durgin ministry and the call to Bonnie Rosborough to assume pastoral responsibilities at Broadway United Church of Christ. These intervening years were particularly trying for the parish, as its members became absorbed in an examination of the church's identity and mission. An unsuccessful bid was made to purchase "walls" for the church in the form of a vacant Episcopal church building at 21st Street and Sixth Avenue. In Broadway's final year of residency at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, a call was extended to Dr. Rosborough, who became the congregation's first woman pastor. Changes in circumstances at Rutgers prompted a move of the Broadway UCC parish to St. Michael's Episcopal Church in 1985, where Broadway worshipped and carried on its activities until 1999.
Beginning talks as early as 1998 with Advent Lutheran Church, Dr. Rosborough found an opportunity to return to the church to its name-sake along Broadway Avenue. After much discussion and financial arrangements that included renovating Advent Church's roof and basement, Broadway moved from St. Michael's into its new home. Signing a 40-year covenant of residency, both churches agreed to an extended partnership of ministry that promises to serve both congregations well into their futures together.
Dr. Rosborough's ministry at Broadway Church was marked with a unique sense of compassion. During the mid-1980's when AIDS was ravishing the city's gay male population, Dr. Rosborough opened up the church's heart to a special ministry of inclusion and hope. Many AIDS patients were introduced into a community of faith that embraced and welcomed them with warmth and love. As a result of her work and the church's ministry, Broadway UCC voted to be one of the first congregations in the United Church of Christ to become an Open and Affirming congregation.
Later, during the gay marriage debate that continues to challenge traditional definitions of marriage, Dr. Rosborough embraced the challenge of whether the church should sanction and perform marriages for gay and lesbian persons. With conviction, Dr. Rosborough protested the local laws recognizing same-sex unions by refusing to act as an agent of the State in marriages performed for heterosexual marriages. As a result of her example, other clergy persons in the city followed her example.
In September of 2004, Dr. Rosborough concluded her twenty-year ministry at Broadway Church by accepting a call to Briarcliff Congregational Church in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
James P. Campbell, The Tenth Pastor, 2006-2017
James P. Campbell is the 10th Pastor of the congregation since its founding in 1840.
The son and grandson of preachers, James is a graduate of Taylor University (1984) and Ashland Theological Seminary (1988). He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Theological School of Drew University (2014), where his research explored Marian theology and devotion in a liberal Protestant context.
Originally ordained in the United Methodist Church, James served parishes in Ohio and New Jersey. In the mid-1990s, no longer willing to be silent about the plight of gay and lesbian people in the church, he took a leave from the professional ministry. During this time he worked in public relations and accounting, all the while still feeling called by God to pastoral ministry. Finally acknowledging that this was not possible in the United Methodist Church, James sought a professional affiliation with the United Church of Christ. In the summer of 2003, he was granted "Privilege of Call," a designation that recognized his ordination and gave him permission to seek a pastoral position in the UCC. That call came from Broadway Church on March 1, 2006.
During James's tenure at Broadway, the congregation has enjoyed a period of growth and revitalization. The membership and worship attendance have doubled while financial support has increased four-fold. By God's grace, the congregation has a renewed sense of purpose and mission, continuing to explore new ways to extend God's extravagant welcome. It's an exciting time in the history of our congregation.
When not at work, James likes to read fiction, explore New York, poke around flea markets and take photos. He resides in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan with his spouse Marcos Martins and their Boston Terrier, Ella.
1620: Pilgrims seek spiritual freedom
Seeking spiritual freedom, forbears of the United Church of Christ prepare to leave Europe for the New World. Later generations know them as the Pilgrims. Their pastor, John Robinson, urges them as they depart to keep their minds and hearts open to new ways. God, he says, "has yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy Word."
1630: An early experiment in democracy
The Congregational churches founded by the Pilgrims and other spiritual reformers spread rapidly through New England. In an early experiment in democracy, each congregation is self-governing and elects its own ministers. The Congregationalists aim to create a model for a just society lived in the presence of God. Their leader, John Winthrop, prays that "we shall be as a city upon a hill ... the eyes of all people upon us."
1636: To advance and perpetuate learning
The commitment of those who walked before us to education and higher learning was deep. Both Harvard (1636) and Yale (1701) were founded out of that vision. So were eight historically black colleges and universities in the South, schools that continue today as places of nurture and liberation for the children of this generation. Also founded by our UCC forebears were Wellesley, Smith, Dartmouth, Williams, Amherst, Oberlin, Mount Holyoke, Howard, Elmhurst and UC Berkeley. Nationally, 47 schools are members of the UCC Council for Higher Education today, including residential secondary schools, colleges, universities and 15 seminaries.
1640: Beginning of freedom of the press
The idea of a "free press" in North America begins when Congregationalists publish their first book - the Bay Psalter. In Europe, the first "Pilgrim Press" was seized by government agents to suppress criticism of King James. In America, the new community could publish in freedom. Today's Pilgrim Press - an imprint of the United Church of Christ - is the oldest publishing house in the U.S.
1663: First Bible Printed in North America
The first bible in the new world is printed in the Algonquin language, translated by Congregationalist John Eliot. Eliot begins preaching to the Algonquians in their own language in 1646. Photo courtesy of http://www.greatsite.com
1700: An early stand against slavery
Congregationalists are among the first Americans to take a stand against slavery. The Rev. Samuel Sewall writes the first anti-slavery pamphlet in America, "The Selling of Joseph." Sewall lays the foundation for the abolitionist movement that comes more than a century later.
1730s: The Great Awakening
The first Great Awakening sweeps through Congregational and Presbyterian churches. One of the great thinkers of the movement, Jonathan Edwards, says the church should recover the passion of a transforming faith that changes "the course of [our] lives."
1773: First act of civil disobedience
Five thousand angry colonists gather in the Old South Meeting House to demand repeal of an unjust tax on tea. Their protest inspires the first act of civil disobedience in U.S. history - the "Boston Tea Party."
1773: First published African American poet
A young member of the Old South congregation, Phillis Wheatley, becomes the first published African American author. "Poems on Various Subjects" is a sensation, and Wheatley gains her freedom from slavery soon after. Modern African American poet Alice Walker says of her: "[She] kept alive, in so many of our ancestors, the notion of song."
1777: Reformed congregation saves Liberty Bell
The British occupy Philadelphia - seat of the rebellious Continental Congress - and plan to melt down the Liberty Bell to manufacture cannons. The Bell is safely hidden under the floorboards of Old Zion Reformed Church in Allentown.
1785: First ordained African-American pastor
Lemuel Haynes is the first African-American ordained by a Protestant denomination. He becomes a world-renowned preacher and writer.
1798: 'Christians' seek liberty of conscience
Dissident preacher James O'Kelly is one of the early founders of a religious movement called simply the "Christians." The Christians seek liberty of conscience and oppose authoritarian church government.
1806: Modern American Mission Movement
A prayer meeting and a sudden thunderstorm sent 5 Williams College students into a haystack in 1806. Their commitment to spread the teachings of Christianity around the world launched the modern American mission movement. Starting in India, then including blacks and Native Americans in the US, they translated the Bible into local and often previously unwritten languages. Missionaries built schools, churches and hospitals and trained local leaders. Their efforts sometimes led to conflict and the destruction of indigenous practices. Today, successor bodies work with local partners and ecumenically in 80 countries to share life, resources and needs.
1807: First Protestant seminary in America
Congregationalists organize Andover Theological Seminary the first Protestant seminary in America, which becomes a center for religious reform. It later introduces the critical study of scripture and church history, and offers the first challenge to conventional religious thinking in the debate on the theory of evolution.
1817: First School for the deaf community in America
The Rev. Thomas Gallaudet went to Europe to learn new forms of communicating with those without hearing. He opened the Connecticut Asylum for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Persons in 1817, supported by voluntary contributions and subsidized by the state. In 1856, the school for the deaf later named Gallaudet University opened in Washington, D.C.
1839: defining moment for abolitionist movement
Enslaved Africans break their chains and seize control of the schooner Amistad. They are arrested and held in a Connecticut jail while the ship's owners sue to have them returned as property. Congregationalists and other Christians organize a campaign to free the captives. The Supreme Court rules the captives are not property, and the Africans regain their freedom.
1840: 1st united church in U.S. history
A meeting of Missouri pastors forms the first united church in U.S. history - the Evangelical Synod. It unites two Protestant traditions that have been separated for centuries: Lutheran and Reformed. The Evangelicals believe in the power of tradition, but also in spiritual freedom.
1845: 'Protestant Catholicism'
Theologian Philip Schaff scandalizes the Reformed churches in Pennsylvania when he argues for a "Protestant Catholicism" centered in the person of Jesus Christ. The movement founded by Schaff and his friend, John Nevin, revives sacramental worship in the Reformed church and sets the stage for the 20th-century liturgical movement.
1846: First integrated anti-slavery society
The Amistad case is a spur to the conscience of Congregationalists who believe no human being should be a slave. In 1846 Lewis Tappan, one of the Amistad organizers, organizes the American Missionary Association—the first anti-slavery society in the U.S. with multiracial leadership.
1853: First woman pastor
Antoinette Brown is the first woman since New Testament times ordained as a Christian minister, and perhaps the first woman in history elected to serve a Christian congregation as pastor. At her ordination a friend, Methodist minister Luther Lee, defends "a woman's right to preach the Gospel." He quotes the New Testament: "There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
1858: First Community to openly defy slave laws
Members of First Congregational Church in Oberlin, Ohio join others from Oberlin College and the local community, both blacks and whites, in defying the Fugitive Slave Law. They rescue a captured runaway slave, John Price, from the hotel where he is being held in nearby Wellington, Ohio. Twenty are arrested and held in jail in Cleveland. Price is hidden and sent along on the underground railroad to Canada. The Oberlin Wellington Rescue Case helps raise opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law, one cause of the Civil War.
1862-77: Colleges and Universities for Blacks in the South
The American Missionary Association starts six colleges: Dillard University, Fisk University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Huston-Tillotson College, Talladega College and Tougaloo College, all historically black colleges and universities that continue to offer excellence, access, and opportunity in higher education. It also founds Brick School, today part of the UCC's Franklinton Center in North Carolina.
1887: Poor Wolf becomes Christian
Poor Wolf, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Hidatsa people, converts to Christianity. In 1971, the UCC Council for American Indian Ministry is formed. to provide ministry and witness in Indian settings, and understanding of Indian communities to the wider church.
1889: First theological school to admit women
Hartford Seminary in Connecticut is in the first in the nation to admit women into regular classes, training them for work in education and missions.
1889: Deaconess Movement
The Evangelical Deaconess Society and the Evangelical Deaconess Home and Hospital begin in St. Louis. Katherine Haack, a trained nurse and widow of an Evangelical pastor, is the first deaconess to be consecrated. At a time when women were often silenced at church, women such as Haack were leaders in the administration and guidance of the home and hospital.
1897: Social Gospel movement denounces economic oppression
Congregationalist Washington Gladden is one of the first leaders of the Social Gospel movement, which takes literally the commandment of Jesus to "love your neighbor as yourself." Social Gospel preachers denounce injustice and the exploitation of the poor. He writes a hymn that summarizes his creed: "Light up your Word: the fettered page from killing bondage free."
1943: 'Serenity Prayer'
Evangelical and Reformed theologian Reinhold Niebuhr preaches a sermon that introduces the world to the now famous Serenity Prayer: "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
1952: 'The Courage to Be'
Evangelical and Reformed theologian Paul Tillich publishes "The Courage to Be" - later named by the New York Public Library as one of the "Books of the Century." "Life demands again and again," he writes, "the courage to surrender some or even all security for the sake of full self-affirmation."
1957: Spiritual and ethnic traditions unite
The United Church of Christ is born when the Evangelical and Reformed Church unites with the Congregational Christian Churches. The new community embraces a rich variety of spiritual traditions and embraces believers of African, Asian, Pacific, Latin American, Native American and European descent.
1959: Historic ruling that airwaves are public property
Southern television stations impose a news blackout on the growing civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. asks the UCC to intervene. Everett Parker of the UCC's Office of Communication organizes churches and wins in Federal court a ruling that the airwaves are public, not private property. The decision leads to hiring of persons of color in television studios and newsrooms.
1960: Nobel laureate protests apartheid
Albert Lutuli is honored by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 1960 for non-violent protest campaign. Educated in a Congregationalist mission school in South Africa, Albert Lutuli becomes an educator, lay preacher, and key leader in the United Congregational Church of South Africa. He opposes apartheid policies and the unjust 'Pass Laws' that limit freedom of movement of Africans. Despite threats of arrest, charges of treason, and government bans restricting his travel, he persists in opposition until his death in 1967.
1972: Ordination of first openly gay minister
The UCC's Golden Gate Association ordains the first openly gay person as a minister in a mainline Protestant denomination: the Rev. William R. Johnson. In the following three decades, General Synod urges equal rights for homosexual citizens and calls on congregations to welcome gay, lesbian and bisexual members.
1973: Standing with farm workers
Meeting in St. Louis, the UCC General Synod suspends business after learning from Cesar Chavez that farm owners have unleashed a campaign of violence and beatings against strikers. The church flies delegates to Coachella Valley to show support.
1973: Civil rights activists freed
The Wilmington Ten - 10 civil rights activists - are charged with the arson of a white-owned grocery store in Wilmington, N.C. One of them is Benjamin Chavis, a social justice worker sent by the UCC to Wilmington to help the African-American community overcome racial intolerance and intimidation. The UCC's General Synod raises bail. Chavis' conviction is overturned and he is released after spending four-and-a-half years in prison.
1976: First African American leader of an integrated denomination
General Synod elects the Rev. Joseph H. Evans president of the United Church of Christ. He becomes the first African American leader of a racially integrated mainline church in the United States.
1977: National UCC disabilities ministries
Harold Wilke (standing in photo) is first to lead national UCC disabilities ministries. Born without arms, the internationally known disabilities advocate serves as pastor, author, denominational executive. When President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act, newspapers worldwide carry a photo of Bush handing Wilke one of his pens, which Wilke accepts with his left foot.
1978: First to publicize the Love Canal disaster
UCC member Roger Cook helps organize public response to the Love Canal disaster. A residential area and school had been built directly on the former toxic waste dump near Niagara Falls, NY. The Ecumenical Task Force, using tactics including civil disobedience, brings the site to public attention. President Carter declares it a federal emergency. Residents are moved and the site cleaned up.
1987: Identifies "Environmental Racism"
The UCC Commission for Racial Justice issues "Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States," a groundbreaking study documenting that race is the most significant variable in the national distribution of hazardous waste facilities. Study leads to use of the term "environmental racism."
1989: Ecumenical Partnership
The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approve a historic partnership of full communion. The two denominations proclaim mutual recognition of their sacraments and ordained ministry.
1993: Apology accepted
Sometimes "being first" means being the first to admit a past mistake. In Hawai'i, UCC President Paul Sherry apologizes on behalf of the church for the complicity of missionaries in the 1893 overthrow of Hawai'i's government and leader, Queen Lili'uokalani. $3.5 million is pledged to native Hawai'ian churches and a non-profit organization.
1995: Singing a new song
The UCC publishes The New Century Hymnal - the only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God. Although its poetry is contemporary, its theology is traditional. "
1997: 'Formula of Agreement'
Centuries of division between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity end when UCC, Presbyterian Church USA, Reformed Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America agree on a relationship of full communion through a "Formula of Agreement." The Formula acknowledges the common historical roots - and the theological differences - between the traditions, and celebrates the potential for shared mission and ministry.
2005: Marriage equality
On July 4, the General Synod overwhelmingly passes a resolution supporting same-gender marriage equality. UCC General Minister and President John Thomas says that the Synod "has acted courageously to declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of same gender couples ... and encouraging our local churches to celebrate and bless those marriages."