On September 28, 1666, "the town bargained and agreed with Nathan Parmelee for forty shillings per year to beat the drum Sabbath days, for the calling of the people together, and to maintain the drum at his expense." For 12 years, until his death in April 1986, Wolcott Parmelee, a descendant of Nathan and sexton of First Church, rang the bell "For the calling of the people together," "Wally" was expected to maintain the bell, but the church did assume the responsibility for any bell related expenses! Dr. Abraham Pierson was pastor from 1694 to 1707. He instituted classes in his home in 1701, a school that later became Yale University. Pierson served as the first president of Yale.
People and Programs
One of Dr. Pierson's students, Jared Eliot, became pastor in 1709 and served for 56 years. Benjamin Franklin was a frequent visitor to the town when he came to consult with Eliot. It was during Eliot's pastorate in 1737 that the town divided. The northern part kept the original name of Killingworth and the shoreline section became known as Clinton. Dr. Eliot's pastorate benefited from the revivals of Jonathan Edwards (1734) and George Whitfield (1740). Achilles Mansfield began as pastor in 1777 and had the second longest pastorate 37 years. His Sunday message the week of his death was entitled: "His Rest Shall Be Glorious!"
This was an exciting time for the church and town. The two couldn't be separated because the church building was used for town meetings as well as divine services.
In 1700, the second church building was completed. The building faced west and was 35 feet square. The steeple housed one of the first bells in the area. In 1731 the third church building was constructed. This building, like the previous two, was located on the southwest comer of Loft 19, facing west. The building was 38 feet wide and 60 feet long.
In 1801, the building known as the Academy was built. The two story wooden structure with a cupola on top was built by twenty public spirited people of the town. They donated both materials and labor. The building served as both the town hall and a public school until the original Morgan School was built in 1871.
The major changes in the 1800s were based on the buildings. In 1823 the parsonage was built to the northeast of the present church. Most ministers of the church since that time, have resided in the parsonage, but a few times the building was rented to others when the minister already had a house or was lodged elsewhere.
The present church was built in 1837. This building established many firsts which today are taken for granted. This was the first of our buildings to set on the very top of Meeting House Hill, the first to face south (toward the Sound the building can be seen from Clinton Harbor), and even the first to have a walled basement. In 1892 a daughter of Charles Morgan presented as a gift to the town a clock which was placed in the only tower in Clinton at that time, that of our church.
1900 TO PRESENT
People and Programs
Moving into the 1950s, the need for a full time support staff became apparent In 1952 Merton Kelsey became the first fulltime sexton, a position he held for 20 years. His wife, Dods Kelsey, served as the first full time secretary from 1954 to 1984. After a series of pastors who served relatively short terms in the first part of the century, the Rev. Wilson Busick became pastor of the church in 1969, serving for 20 years until his retirement in December 1989. His pastorate was the third longest in the history of this church.
In 1977 a second ordained person was added to the staff to "organize and coordinate a Christ centered education for all members youth and adult." The Rev. Tom Burlington ministered in that position for 12 years, and briefly in a pastoral capacity between the pastorates of the Rev. Busick and the Rev. Martin Gibbs (1990 2001). Following the retirement of Martin Gibbs, the Rev. Robert Woodward assumed the position of interim minister until the call of the church's present pastor, the Rev. Dr. Christopher Horvath.
The town clock in the church tower was deeded to the church for the amount of one dollar in 1972. In 1976 the church owned Parsonage Meadow at Waterside Lane was deeded to the town of Clinton. This is at the site of the Clinton Town Beach. Since no formal deeds had been drawn at the time of the separation of church and state, the church gave the town clear title to the property where Clinton Social Services is located, and the town gave the church clear title to the land where the church stands.
The parish house was built in 1950, enlarged in 1958, and extensively renovated in 1999. During the renovation, the Town surrendered the portion of Church Road on which the existing fellowship hall is built. The original parish house building, behind and now connected to the church by fellowship hall, houses church offices, a chapel/meeting room, classrooms, and two kitchens. The Academy building had many uses and in recent memory was the location of the Clinton Park and Recreation Department and Clinton Social Services. In 2017, The Academy Building was purchased from the town and became home to Kidz Konnection, a non-profit youth theater company.