In the Beginning
In the summer of 1975, a group of 134 individuals came together to form a new church. The common thread that wove us together was our commitment to being in covenant with the United Church of Christ. Most of the individuals had been members of the First Congregational Church of Redlands and had decided to leave when that congregation voted to remain separate from the UCC.
Several small organizational meetings were held in different homes. The first formal meeting and worship service was held at the
June 26, 1975
, with the Rev. Bruce Van Blair agreeing to serve as pastor of the new church and Rev. Richard Blakley as Associate Minister. Bruce had close ties to the minister of the First Methodist Church of Redlands, who generously invited us to meet that summer in their facility. By early fall, a more formal agreement was reached with the Methodists that allowed us to worship in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and use some of their education rooms and office space.
A Home of Our Own
In 1977, the church offices were moved to a heritage house -- affectionately known as “The Church House” -- located on the property we had purchased on the corner of
In the fall of 1983, the congregation temporarily relocated its worship services to the Chapel at the
, where there was ample room to house the new organ. Upon completion of the first building phase, all activities moved to Redlands UCC's present site at
168 Bellevue Avenue.
Rev. Bruce Van Blair (1975-1980) was the founding pastor of Redlands UCC, and his intense leadership was very important during our formative years. He stepped down after completing the agreed-upon five-year term of service but returned to preach at the dedication of the present sanctuary in September 2001.
Rev. Dr. James Hester (interim) (1980-1982), a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands, stepped up to fill the pulpit during the subsequent time of transition. The administrative functions of the church were carried out by the church secretary and the congregational president during this time.
Rev. Richard Blakely (1982-1988) was sponsored for ordination as a UCC minister by Redlands UCC. He had served as our associate minister from 1975 to 1979, then accepted a call to a church in
He returned as our senior minister in 1982. During this period of service , the congregation completed construction on the first phase of our current building. Richard resigned in 1988 but has returned as an active member of the congregation.
Rev. Henry Rust (interim) (1988-1990) was called out of retirement to serve as a much-needed interim. Henry was very active with the church's youth programs during his two-year tenure.
Rev. Robert Nuhn (1990-1993) was called from
, where he had started a new church. He also had a strong interest in the youth education program and was instrumental in the hiring of Kemery Baldwin to assist with that work.
Rev. Kemery Baldwin (associate) (1993-1997) was also sponsored for ordination by the Redlands UCC. She served both as Director of Christian Education and as Associate Minister during her tenure here.
Rev. Audrey Turner (interim) (1993-1994) was called after serving as co-pastor of a new church start with the Disciples of Christ in
Audrey helped orchestrate a very smooth transition between senior ministers.
Rev. James Vuocolo (1994-2000) was called from
, and came with great energy. He continued to support a strong education program and was very active in music ministry.
Rev. Elizabeth Nicks (associate) (1997-2002) was another ordination success story under the sponsorship of Redlands UCC. She served as both Director of Christian Education and as Associate Minister, and it was under her care that the new building was completed.
Rev. Sharon Graff was called in the spring of 2002. A native southern Californian, she has served four congregations and developed programs for an ecumenical center and an outdoor ministry site.
comes to RUCC after a 1-1/2 year sabbatical, bringing a progressive spirituality, a sense of humor, and a desire for the church to "make a difference" within the community.
Congregational and Community Service
Redlands United Church of Christ sends local delegates to regional and national meetings of the Eastern Association, Southern California-Nevada Conference and the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. Our members have held numerous elected offices of the wider church, including Association Moderator, Vice Moderator, Treasurer, Registrar, and Conference Moderator, and have served on a variety of committees, including Church and Ministry Committee, Conference Minister Search Committee, and the corporate Board of Homeland Ministries.
Locally, RUCC was one of the founding churches of the Christian Counseling Service, where members have served as board members and officers. The church was also instrumental in the founding of Food for All, a national organization that is committed to feeding hungry people. Members have also served public and private organizations in many other capacities, as presidents of the Redlands Area Interfaith Council, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, board members of the Redlands Symphony and the Redlands Bowl, and in elected office as City Councilors and even as mayor. Through its members, our church is active in local, regional, national and global efforts to reach out to others and share our gifts.