For many, the definition of “church” is simply a physical building, a gathering place, a brick or wood structure – whether huge cathedrals or humble chapels – easily identifiable by common features such as stained-glass windows, large wooden doors and spires that seem to reach for the sky.
However, it’s not the structure itself that makes a church, but rather the people who attend, those who bring their faith and industry to a common setting to enrich both their lives and those of their neighbors – no matter how far away they may be.
The history of Deerfield Community Church is firmly rooted in the small New Hampshire town it has called home since 1766.
Through revolution, economic hardship, expansion and merging, the church now known as DCC has stood strong, offering a safe place to gather, worship, teach and learn.
Although the building most people know as the Deerfield Community Church has been standing at its present location since 1835, its history begins long before that time.
Mindful of their important place in local history, the church’s 1985 sesquicentennial committee asked then-Town Historian Joanne Wesson to research and write about the church’s long and storied past. She created a 30-page pamphlet that celebrates the church’s beginning as a 1766 meetinghouse, the move to congregationalism, the “new” church of 1835, renovations in 1887, and the 1929 union of Congregational and Calvin Baptist churches forming the Community Church.
While that union lasted a little less than 20 years, when the Baptist Church voted withdraw from the agreement, the Community Church continued on through the years following the Great Depression and World War II, forming the “United Church” in 1950 once again with the Calvin Baptist Church. That affiliation lasted for two decades, when the two split again and the Community Church came into being.
Through the years the physical building underwent huge changes, with the purchase of additional land, adding a parish hall with offices, meeting rooms, and a large Great Room and large parking area possible.
Today’s Deerfield Community Church is welcoming, warm and connected to both its history and its roots. Although services today may little resemble those that preceded it, there are still commonalities that link it to its past. Like the 17th century parishioners who once gathered in the center of town, those who gather today to worship, to give back to people in need locally or around the globe, do so finding comfort and fellowship.
When the next chapter in the church’s history is written it will most assuredly include the technological leaps that have made “virtual” church a reality during the Covid-19 pandemic that forced so many closures. To log-in on Sunday mornings, “see” each other and have services gives more credence to the position that as beautiful as the DCC building is, it is truly the people who gather there – in person or online – who keep DCC a vibrant and vital church. With talent, skill, and energy, DCC members continue to respect their history while simultaneously looking to the future for the next challenge, the next innovation or the next opportunity to serve others.