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History

Early residents of Fontana went to services on Sunday either in the old schoolhouse on the Hill, or they gathered in some home in the neighborhood. Both Sunday school and preaching services were held whenever circumstances permitted. An itinerant preacher, or a minister from a neighboring community came occasionally, and the whole town flocked to the appointed place to hear the sermon.

The need for something more than this somewhat erratic instruction was felt. The women met from time to time to work and plan for the good of the community. Formal organization of the Ladies Aid Society took place April 8, 1887. The main objective of the Society was to provide religious education for the people of the Fontana.

On May 30, 1889, a meeting was held in the home of one of the members. The all-important question of building a church was under discussion. Only nine members were present at the meeting and they agreed to act as a committee for solicitations and to meet one week later to report results. The results were promising, so now the ladies began to discuss in earnest matters relating to the size and location of the new building. After some discussion a site on Main Street near the current school was selected.

There was great rejoicing on the afternoon of September 7, 1889, when the ladies purchased their lot for $35 and were assured that the work would begin immediately. The Ladies Aid had a variety of ways for making money for their project. They made many different items, and put all the money they collected into the fund for the church building. They had suppers and festivals, and even spent a day lathing in the church building to speed the work along. The men also helped and contributed much to the project.

The first service was held in the new building on January 19, 1890, only a little more than half a year after the ladies decided that a church in Fontana was needed. The service on that memorable day was in charge of Reverend Rowland of Lake Geneva. In 1896 the little group joined the Congregational Conference and became known as the First Congregational Church of Fontana.

The idea of gaining a larger membership through the information of an organization for all Protestant Christians gradually grew, and on September 5, 1923, the First Congregational Church of Fontana was dissolved. About the same time, it was learned that the foundation under the church was unsafe. A state inspector condemned the building and ordered it closed until proper repairs were made. The Ladies Aid Society took the matter up at the next meeting and decided to call a meeting of all people in the community who were interested in establishing a Protestant church. The meeting was held in the Woodman Hall (on Mill Street just south of Van Slyke Creek) on August 17, 1923, and it was well attended. Mr. Willis Herrick offered to give a lot on Kinzie Street (the present site of our church) for a church building as a memorial to his deceased wife. They voted unanimously in favor of two propositions:

To accept the generous offer of Mr. Willis Herrick, and to plan to move the old church building to the rear of this site and build a new house of worship on the front part of the lot.

To take steps toward the formation of a Protestant Community Church.

A meeting to organize such a church was held a week later when a Constitution and Article of Faith were adopted. Services were held in the home of a member from September 1923 until May 1924.

The project to build the Community Church received the support of the whole village. Lake shore residents helped and neighboring communities lent assistance. In the winter of 1924 the old church building was moved intact to the new site and first service was held there in May of that year. Construction of the new building was started that same winter, and first service was held there in 1926.

During the first few years after the church was founded, three ministers were installed in quick secession, Reverend Raymond Smith, Reverend A. MacCraken, and Reverend E. A. Briggs. Reverend A. G. LaMar was active during that early period and was installed as the minister early in the 1930 decade. He served until 1960, a period when strong programs were developed and the church became a vital religious center for the community.

He was followed by Reverend Schultz who served a relatively brief period of time from 1960 through 1964. It was during his tenure that the membership voted to abandon its independent status and to join the United Church of Christ denomination. This period was one of the considerable tension within the congregation.

He was followed by the Reverend James Parker who was our minister from 1965 to 1989. His tenure was highly successful, and it was a period of great activity. Our membership in the UCC was consolidated. In the early 1970 decade, the property now used as our parking lot was acquired from the estate of Mr. Harold Foot, and funds were received to build and landscape it. Also at about the same time, land was obtained and the education addition was built.

Following Reverend Parker's retirement, Reverend Donald McPeek became only our fourth minister over a period of 60 years. He led us through the hectic nineties and brought the church into the twenty-first century. His time with us was marked by many renovations of our buildings, and he left the church in excellent spiritual, moral, and financial condition. Following Reverend McPeek's retirement, Reverend Robert Meyer accepted the calling at Community Church of Fontana. After ten years of faithful leadership, Rev. Meyer retired in July 2012. On Sunday, November 17, 2013, Community Church approved a call to Rev. Ruth Costello to be our new full-time pastor. She began her ministry with us on January 1, 2014.