Emmanuel UCC History
Begun in 1842 as Riley Creek Church by the Rev. George Spangler, Emmanuel Church met in a log school building located near where the old cemetery is now. For 17 years the church was served by a number of part-time pastors.
In 1859 Peter Greding became the first fulltime pastor. He reorganized the congregation into the German Reformed Society, which in 1861 adopted the constitution of the German Reformed Church in the United States and the name German Reformed Emmanuel Congregation.
Following the donation of ground for a cemetery and a church building, the consistory made plans to construct a new church--the first brick church in Richland Township. Assisted by much volunteer labor and materials, the final cash expense was about $800. Members then purchased a hand pump organ for $500.
The first brick parsonage, with full basement, was built in 1872 for about $1,400, with Rev. Abraham Schneck the first resident pastor. It was also during his pastorate that 40 members were released to become charter members of St. John’s Church in Bluffton. He was the first of 14 pastors to serve both congregations until August 27, 1961, when the churches requested to become separate charges.
The brick church served about 40 years until badly damaged by a windstorm May 6, 1902. A new church and parking lot was built later that year on donated property, although inclement weather and a scarcity of bricklayers delayed dedication until May 1903.
Disaster struck the Bluffton area on the evening of Palm Sunday (April 11) 1965 when a tornado destroyed the church and parsonage, the buildings of many members, and caused many injuries and one member’s death.
Choosing to rebuild on land slightly north of the old building, the membership saw a beautiful one-story church building completed a year later at a cost of about $160,000. Dedication of the current building was held September 18, 1966.
The Reformed Church joined the Evangelical Synod of North America in 1934. Emmanuel Church became a member of the United Church of Christ in 1957, which came into being that year with the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches.