Since 1840 Evangelical Church has been a presence in the Highland community. In that year Rev. Joseph Rieger arrived to lead the German-speaking people of the area in worship and sacrament. Rev. Rieger helped to found a number of churches in Missouri and Illinois. In that same year he was instrumental in calling a meeting which founded the Evangelical Synod.
The Basel Missionary Society of Switzerland sent 158 ministers to the "New World" to serve among the German-Swiss immigrants. Rev. Joseph Rieger was one of the first two to begin this ministry. He did much to get the congregation organized and connected to the Evangelical Synod. In May, 1843, the congregation began the construction of its first building. This building was used as a place of worship and as a parochial school.
On Easter Sunday, 1867, the Rev. John Metelmann, the thirteenth pastor of the congregation, began his pastorate and remained for twelve years. Following him was the Rev. R. Rentschler, who served eight years. During Rentschler's terms, many of the church organizations had their beginnings. One was the church choir, another was the Ladies Aid Society, now called the Women's Guild. This was the group of women who realized that a home for the aged should become a reality. From this vision and through their efforts materialized the Highland Home. The membership of the church also increased, and in 1878, a second church building was erected on the same site as the first church.
Due to the efforts and leadership of Rev. C. E. Miche, who assumed the pastorate in 1916, plans were made in 1920 to remodel the church building and erect a Sunday School addition. Ground was broken on April 13, 1921, and the remodeled structure was dedicated to the service of God on November 6, 1921.
In 1929, the church became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America.
On October 1, 1931, the Rev. Otto C. Bassler became the pastor, and proved to be an excellent successor. Under his pastorate, membership continued to increase and church activities expanded. Both Rev. and Mrs. Bassler were active in youth work, organizing the Malico and Lawolo Fellowships and the Joy Club. Summer daily vacation Bible School was started at this time.
In 1934, the Evangelical Synod of North America and the Reformed Church in the U.S. entered into a merger and became the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which made the church a part of a larger body. Again, the name of the Church was changed and it became known as the "E & R" Church.
Because of increased membership, plans were made in 1934 to further enlarge the building. A large addition on the east side of the building was then erected. This wing contained a chapel, Sunday School rooms, and a large basement dining hall. Dedication of the church addition was held on May 5, 1935.
It was during Rev. Bassler's pastorate that the congregation celebrated the centennial of the Church on October 27th to November 3, 1940.
In December, 1945 Rev. Bassler resigned the pastorate. In February, 1946, the Rev. Fred Allrich became pastor. Rev. Allrich was active in what was then the South Illinois Synod, serving in many leadership roles including a year as president of the Synod. He was instrumental in supporting plans for the Hitz Memorial Home and the New Athens Home. He also established the Under Shepherd program in the church.
In 1952 the church purchased the property at Eighth and Pine and erected a parsonage, using the older parsonage by the church for Sunday school classes.
After a long courtship, the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches became the United Church of Christ in the summer of 1957.
Pastor Allrich resigned in the spring of 1957. In August, 1957, Pastor Victor H. Schoen became the church's new pastor. Pastor Schoen was involved in many church and community activities. With the efforts of many members of the congregation and the untiring guidance of Pastor Schoen, a new building was erected at 2520 Poplar Street on a seven acre site. The cornerstone laying services were held on September 16, 1962, and the dedication services on July 28, 1963. The church had a seating capacity of 550, with 17 classrooms and a large social hall.
On February 23, 1975, a call was extended to Rev. Dr. Kenneth O. Mesle to become the senior pastor. Under Dr. Mesle's and a group of church members' leadership, the Faith Countryside Homes was started. A nursing home and 20 acres of adjacent land were purchased. The FCH apartment complex was built in 1981-1983, consisting of 84 apartments and a Senior Citizen's Social Center.
Pastor Mesle resigned in 1986, preaching a farewell sermon on February 23. The Rev. Keith Karau became the 26th pastor in January of the next year, 1987. During his pastorate the sanctuary was renovated. In January, 1990, another "branch" of EvUCC (Wee Care Day Care) became operational. The program was designed for families whose parents work and require an alternative care for their young children.
Pastor Karau resigned in 1996. In that same year, 1996, the Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Drewer became the 27th senior pastor of the congregation.
In the fall of 2000 the Congregation began a productive relationship with an Eden Seminary student, Mr. Otis Naron. After completing his Field Education, Otis continued on staff part time through 2002, and after being licensed by the Illinois south Conference of the UCC, Otis became a full member of the clergy staff of Evangelical Church. Otis lead the Good News Worship Team, and directed the Joyful Noise Choir. Mr. Naron later left the church's employment for other positions.
In July 2001 The Rev. Dave Martin became the Associate Pastor of Evangelical UCC. His major ministry was with youth and young adults.
In 2005, Dr. Drewer left the senior pastor position because of poor health. Pastor Martin continued as acting senior pastor until an interim pastor was secured. In May 2006, Pastor Martin and his family relocated to western New York state, where he is currently a pastor. At that time, Rev. Dr. David Beebe and Rev. Cherie Hambleton became the interim senior pastor and interim associate pastor respectively.
In the spring of 2006 a tornado did considerable damage to the roof. In repairing this damage, substantial improvements were made to the church building.
A Senior Pastor search committee was formed and called Pastor Chris Hill as our next senior pastor. Pastor Chris gave his trial sermon and was elected by the congregation on January 6, 2008.
An Associate Pastor search committee was formed and called Pastor Will VerDuin as our next Associate Pastor. Pastor Will gave his trial sermon and was elected by the congregation on September 27, 2009.
The future of Evangelical UCC is bright and full of blessings from God. We pursue our ministry with Christ to the glory of God and of Christ's Reign!