Our History

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United Reformed Church is one of nearly 1,000 congregations of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). The adjective "Reformed" derives from the Religious Reformation in the 1500's. The protest (therefore the word, Protestant) was against several practices of the abuse of authority in the Roman Catholic Church of that time.

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The unbroken 316 year history of our congregation's ministry began with the organization of the Reformed Dutch Church of Raritan. The first service was conducted by the Reverend Guiliam Bertholf on March 8, 1699. Thus began the journey of faith and purpose.

After worshiping in homes and barns, a church building was built by 1709. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was the first minister sent from Holland to lead the Reformed Dutch Church of Raritan. He preached his first sermon on January 31, 1720. Within a year, a new church was erected in what is now the Finderne section of Bridgewater. In 1750, John Frelinghuysen accepted the call to follow his father in ministering to the congregation of the church. A parsonage [now known as the Old Dutch Parsonage and located on Washington Place in Somerville] was built for John and Dinah Frelinghuysen in Somerville.  It was in the kitchen of that parsonage that the oldest theological seminary in the United States - New Brunswick Theological Seminary - began training ministers to preach and teach the good news of Jesus Christ. In May 1758, Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh began his pastorate and, shortly thereafter, married John's widow, Dinah Frelinghuysen.

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In 1779, while General George Washington was in his winter quarters in the Wallace House, located near the parsonage, he and Rev. Hardenbergh developed a warm friendship. On October 27, 1779, the church was burned down by Lt. Col. Simcoe and his Queen's Rangers who also burned down the county Court House in Millstone, New Jersey. In 1783, a building was erected in Somerville [on land now located on the northeast side of Main Street, opposite Hamilton Street] for the respective use of both the church and the county courts. This arrangement only lasted about a year before land was purchased on which to build a church further west on Main Street.

Over the years, the Reformed Dutch Church of Raritan grew and prospered. In 1834, twenty-four members withdrew and organized the Second Reformed Church in Somerville. Both churches continued to grow and a cordial relationship was maintained between the First and Second Reformed Churches of Somerville throughout the next 140 years. In 1974, the two churches were re-united.

In 2010, Third Reformed Church in Raritan (established in 1848) was disbanded, and was merged with United Reformed Church.  Thus, United is now a congregation of three historic congregations.

Today, the congregation of the United Reformed Church worships in the beautiful edifice at 100 West Main Street, formerly the Second Reformed Church. The building was designed and constructed in 1893-94 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture, which is characterized by low granite columns, unmatched towers facing the street, and rough-hewn stone (Alexander Hall in Princeton is another fine example of the style.). The impressive pulpit in the sanctuary was dedicated in memory of the Frelinghuysens and was originally installed in the First Reformed Church building.


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