In 2018, as Rev. Mont concluded thirteen years of ministry, the congregation made two major decisions concerning its future. First, as new questions arose over the church’s viability in downtown Canton, the congregation again voted to remain, believing that God had more in store for its life in this place. One expression of this was the church’s willingness to donate several parcels of land to Refuge of Hope for the construction of a new men’s shelter and meal ministry.
Around the same time, the congregation was approached by RiverTree Christian Church about partnering to found a community development and leadership initiative. Sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit, First Church of the Resurrection donated its building to RiverTree, helping to found The One Center for Leadership.
In 2019 the church took another step of faith, calling Rev. Dr. JR and Rev. Amy Rozko to serve as Co-Lead Pastors. As the church’s fourteenth pastorate, this call represented an embrace of a style of leadership that the church had never known in its more than two-hundred-year history.
2020 was an era-defining year in the United States and around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic brought massive forms of disruption in all facets of life, especially church life. From March 2020 through March 2021, the congregation gathered for worship virtually and in parking lot services. In-person services resumed Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.
In May 2023, First Church found itself once again in the midst of a transition with Rev. Dr. JR and Rev. Amy Rozko resigning as co-pastors to focus their attention on other areas of ministry that they felt deeply called to. Throughout the Spring & Summer of 2023, RiverTree Christian Church leadership stepped in alongside the First Church congregation to continue Sunday services. A congregational vote in August 2023 led to a vote in favor of merging First Church under the RiverTree Movement of church locations. An excitement under the leadership of RiverTree's Vision Leader, Jason Lantz is leading toward a revitalization of the church at-large as of today. We welcome you to join us in rebirthing and relaunching this incredible, historic church!
As Rev. Price’s ministry ended in 2000, Rev. Bill Seymour was called from his role as Youth and Associate Pastor to serve as the church’s twelfth pastor. In 2002, as an expression of its commitment to downtown Canton, the church launched a major renovation that included interior upgrades, a new entranceway and gathering space to better accommodate visitors, and an addition for office and classroom space.
In January 2005, the congregation voted to part ways with the United Church of Christ, becoming an independent, non-denominational church under the name, “First Church of the Resurrection.” Rev. Dr. Bruce Mont was called as the church’s thirteenth pastor later that year. In 2010, the church celebrated its two hundred year anniversary. During Rev. Mont’s pastorate, the Constitution and Bylaws were updated and a new leadership structure was adopted for the spiritual leadership of the church, with an emphasis on outreach and evangelism. In 2016 a wooden cross was dedicated in the far west parking area to mark out a sacred space for neighbors and passersby.
Rev. Koepke, to whom the Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1979, ended his ministry at the church in 1975. In 1976, Rev. Dr. Paul Carmany became the church’s tenth pastor. Under Rev. Carmany and his conviction that “the good news cannot ignore suffering,” the church’s food ministry was transformed from a hallway closet to the 901 Food and Clothing Ministry, utilizing the former parsonage as a distribution site for the Stark County Hunger Task Force and operating a weekly clothing sale that was operated by members of the congregation and the community.
In 1987, Rev. Dr. Cliff Price became the church’s eleventh pastor. During his thirteen years of leadership, the congregation formed a missions committee that expanded the church’s engagement with mission locally and globally. The church also increased its social gatherings and fundraising efforts for ministry and mission partners such as Habitat for Humanity, through which it participated in several house building projects in Southeast Canton. It was also during this time that many members of the congregation participated in Walk to Emmaus, a three-day experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that God used to bring a fresh sense of life and vitality to the church.
As German speaking services were eliminated during World War II and sensing the need for younger leadership, Rev. Blemker resigned in May of 1946 and two months later, Rev. Dr. Karl Koepke accepted a call to become the church’s ninth pastor. Under his leadership, the church’s already generous posture toward needs throughout the broader body of Christ and in the world grew to an even greater degree. This was expressed in making sacrificial contributions to the building of senior living homes, orphanages, and discipleship programs. Additionally, the church participated in relief efforts to war-stricken countries by sending clothes, shoes, and finances to aid with rebuilding projects.
Through the generous donation of church members, the “Evangelist” stained glass windows were installed in the north wall of the sanctuary in 1948. Additional stained-glass windows were installed around the second story of the sanctuary as memorials to loved ones.
In 1951, the church helped to purchase land on Market Ave. North between 31st and 32nd Streets to help establish Market Heights Mission Church.
In 1959, after several years of development, there was a merger between the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Church. This merger represented over eight thousand churches and two million people. As a result, the church’s name was changed to “First United Church of Christ.”
In 1914, the church began to partner with other congregations in purchasing land and committing both finances and people to plant new churches, such as Lowell Reformed church (1917), and to start other local missionary endeavors.
In 1917, Rev. Bolliger published “History of the First Reformed Church in Canton, Ohio.” This book constitutes an invaluable record of the first one hundred years of the church’s life. Rev. Bolliger concluded his ministry at the church in September of 1919.
The church’s eighth pastor, Rev. Dr. R.W. Blemker, was called in 1920. In the summer of that year, the church published its inaugural edition of The Helper, a monthly publication meant to connect, inform, and equip the congregation, something it continues to do one hundred years later!
In 1926, the congregation launched construction of “The Parish House” on church grounds. This building was to be used for the rapidly expanding Sunday School program, as well as other educational, recreational, and social purposes.
Historically, in 1934, the Reformed Church in the United States merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church, a joint body of 850,000 people. As a result, the church changed its name to, “First Evangelical and Reformed Church.”
With thirty years of pastoral experience, Rev. Dr. Frederick Stassner was called by the church in 1890. He oversaw the building of a parsonage on the east side of the building and instigated the founding of “A Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor” as well as a “Junior Society,” both of which instilled a vision of servant leadership in young people.
In 1896, Rev. Frederick C. Nau became the church’s sixth pastor. In order to secure funds to build more space for the growing congregation and Sunday School, the church was legally incorporated in 1897 under the new name, “The First German Reformed Church of Canton, Ohio.” In 1899, a major addition to the west end of the building was dedicated, the basement was remodeled as a social and dining hall, and memorial stained-glass windows were added to the sanctuary thanks to the Frauenverein, a society of German-American women organized to provide relief of widows, orphans, and the sick.
1902 saw the creation of “The Woman’s Missionary Society,” and in 1906 Andrew Carnegie contributed half the cost toward the purchase of a new organ, with the other half coming from memorials and congregational donations.
Rev. Dr. Theodore P. Bolliger was called by the church in 1907, becoming the church’s seventh pastor. Rev. Bolliger’s pastorate began with the addition of English services on alternate Sunday mornings.
On account of a close personal friendship between Rev. Herbruck and Rev. Fr. John Baptist Uhlman, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, all the lumber for the new building was donated by a local Catholic man, Andrew Meyer. The new church building was dedicated in October 1862 under the name Jerusalem’s Reformed Church. The steeple reached 145 feet, the tallest structure in Canton. Beside the church building, a schoolhouse was also constructed and maintained by the church for many years.
In 1871, amid increasing calls for English-speaking services, a second Reformed Church was organized. This congregation, Trinity Reformed Church, worshipped for a year in the mother church before constructing its own building just down the road. In 1914 the Trinity congregation relocated to Market Avenue North and 6th Street. Today, this congregation exists as Trinity UCC and worships at the intersection of Blackburn and Fulton Roads.
In 1886, Rev. Dr. John B. Rust succeeded Rev. Herbruck as the church’s fourth pastor. In just three years, Rev. Rust introduced the first English-speaking services on Sunday evenings, created the first written record of church members, corrected clear patterns of the abuse of alcohol which had become part of the church’s culture, and oversaw several major additions and improvements to church property.
In 1837, as a desire for English-speaking services was growing, a group of members from the Reformed congregation united with a similar group from the Lutheran Church, and organized a new English-speaking church, Trinity Lutheran. Around the same time, Rev. Dr. Herbruck actively cooperated in establishing the first Theological Seminary in Canton.
The 1830’s and the 1840’s were marked by two major and related national trends: the Temperance Movement and the Second Great Awakening. Both trends impacted the city of Canton in profound ways. Steadfast through these turbulent times, Rev. Herbruck sought to lead from a place of fidelity to Scripture and the longstanding traditions of the Church. As a result, he emerged as an outstanding religious leader in the State of Ohio.
The building of the Pittsburgh-Fort Wayne railroad through Canton in 1851 brought industry, jobs, and another wave of German and Swiss immigrants. Membership in the church grew quickly, and Union Church was bursting at the seams. In 1858, as it became apparent that the two congregations would grow into their own identities, Rev. Herbruck took it upon himself to raise the money for a new church building.
Founded in 1805, Canton’s first European inhabitants were primarily Germans of Reformed and Lutheran heritage who were migrating west from Pennsylvania and Maryland.
As early as 1806, Rev. John Staugh, a Lutheran minister, and John Peter Mahnenschmidt, who served several Reformed congregations, paid visits to Canton as circuit-riding preachers. Their visits inspired the people of Canton to construct a modest church building on the 500 block of West Tuscarawas which became known as Union Church since it served both congregations from 1810-1823.
In 1818, Rev. Benjamin Faust became the Reformed Church’s first resident minister, serving until 1832. The principal event of Rev. Faust’s pastorate was the relocation of the church in 1823. A new site was bought a half mile east of the original edifice on the 900 block of East Tuscarawas, and the second Union building was erected.
Peter Herbruck, who was to serve the church for more than fifty years as its pastor and to play a vital part in Canton’s religious life, began his ministry here in 1832.