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Church History


The First Reformed Church is Schenectady’s oldest congregation. Founded by Dutch settlers, Schenectady’s first colonists, the Church has long enjoyed an ethnically and ecumenically diverse membership drawn from the city, its suburbs and surrounding rural areas. The church has kept records since 1680. The records include ministries to the Mohawk Indians, Gen. George Washington’s presence at a worship service during the Revolution, printing money, the change from Dutch to English to American, and the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. George R. Lunn, who left the pulpit to became Schenectady’s Socialist mayor in the early 1900’s.

The first church building, located near the present bus station on State Street, was destroyed in the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. An expanding congregation outgrew its second and third buildings, replacing them with larger structures. The fourth was lost in Schenectady’s Great Fire of 1861. The present church building, an architectural landmark, designed by the highly regarded Victorian-gothic architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, was gutted by fire Feb. 1, 1948. The congregation, with generous assistance from the Schenectady community, restored the priceless edifice to its present form.

First Reformed Church has always played an important positive role in Schenectady, offering spiritual nurture to early colonists, rebuilding after the massacre, supporting the American cause in the Revolutionary War, and founding Union College. During W.W.II, our minister, the Rev. Clark V. Poling, sacrificed his life at the sinking of the troop transport Dorchester. He was one of the Four Chaplains who gave up their life jackets so soldiers would survive.

We continue our heritage of mission and ministry today. Church members serve as board members of service agencies throughout the community. First Reformed Church is an active member and supporter of Schenectady Inner City Ministry. Many of our members give their time and talents to show God’s love through the Community Gardens Project, Bethesda House Hospitality Center and other local organizations. In recent years, youth and adult groups have traveled to Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Appalachia, New York City, and Florida on mission work projects.

In touring our Church, we invite you to visit the sanctuary, chapels, library, Faith Bookshop, Poling House Christian education facilities, columbarium, Kinderwyck child-care center and gardens. Greeters and guides are on hand to tell you about the history of our Church, its stained glass windows, flags, and historical treasures on display. We’d also like to talk about our life together as a congregation today and the many opportunities for people of all ages in our Church School, adult learning, music, youth, fellowship, and mission programs.

Thank you for this “virtual visit” to Schenectady’s First Church.

We hope to see you soon, in person.