Emily Clapp, a "missionary" schoolteacher from the East, and the Rev. Frank S. Forbes probably never foresaw the success of the small Provo church they established on Feb. 5, 1891.
But now, 100 years later, the Provo Community Congregational Church has a flourishing congregation with a long and impressive history of community involvement and service."The name `Congregational' refers to the fact that the church is governed democratically by consent of the congregation," said church secretary Judith Dick. "It is a `community' church because it welcomes people of all backgrounds and persuasions."
Throughout its 100 years, the church has focused on helping the community with its spiritual and temporal needs. Dick said the church "does not emphasize a theological position but is directed toward helping each person find growth, joy and peace in personal relationship with God and with others."
Many of the church's ministers have also been politically active in the community. One of the most outspoken pastors was the Rev. Edwin A. Irwin.
According to church member Shirley Coker, the Rev. Irwin took a rather unpopular stand during World War II. With emotions running high, the Rev. Irwin began preaching pacifism.
One historical account recalls that, "A true believer in non-violence and of the evils of war, he (the Rev. Irwin) could not hide his beliefs. When the Japanese Americans were interred in a camp outside of Provo he saw them only as his fellow brothers and sisters deserving of his love and help. He ministered to them. Few always agreed with him, but all respected him."
Under the direction of the Rev. Wade Carter, the Community Church took a progressive role in the community during the 1950s. A campaign was begun to build a church to accommodate the congregation's growth, following the theme: "We build and grow with Provo." Support for the new sanctuary was unprecedented and the current house of worship was dedicated Jan. 13, 1957.
Since that time the church has reached many milestones. It has joined in a cooperative effort with other churches as a member of the United Shared Ministry of Utah. In the Utah Valley area, the church - under the direction of the Rev. Glen Halbe - helped to establish and maintain the Food and Shelter Coalition, work with the elderly and support other community programs.
In 1988, the Rev. Gordon Grant began his service as pastor for more than 200 church members. As part of his service, the Rev. Grant continues to serve on community boards and in cooperation with other local churches, strengthening bonds of friendship and brotherhood within the community.
As part of the church's centennial celebration, the public is invited to an open house at the Parsonage, 355 E. 100 North, from 2 to 5 p.m. today, to honor former pastors and dignitaries.
Other festivities include: a concert by the Brigham Young University Organ Department 7:30 p.m. at the church, 175 N. University Ave., on Sunday, Feb. 3; a "Sunday School Through the Years," Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at the church followed, by the centennial worship and celebration at 11 a.m. in the church's Sanctuary. A banquet will follow at 1 p.m.
Dignitaries scheduled to attend include the Rev. Clyde H. Miller, Jr., conference Minister, Rocky Mountain Conference, United Church of Christ and the Rev. Max Glenn, executive director of Shared Ministry.