The First Congregational Church has the distinction of being the first church erected in Buffalo Center, Iowa.
September 18, 1892, the church was organized with eleven members making up the charter members. The charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. Otis Chapman, Mr. and Mrs. George Chapman, Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Welsh, Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Brooker, Mrs. O.E. Jewel, Mrs. John Thompkins and Mrs. E.E. Clark. The first meetings were held in the building on Main Street.
When the Burlington Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad extended "The Forest City Branch" to Armstrong in 1892, a new field was opened for the Home Missionary Society of Iowa; Rev. N. H. Lawrence was chosen to take charge of the work. Rev. Lawrence was pastor of the churches at Britt, Crystal Lake and Linden. (The last was held in the F.J. Brooker school house.) As there was practically no roads laid out in the Buffalo Center community, only trails could cover the shortest distances between points of habitation. The "road cart, " a two wheeled conveyance for one horse, was used a great deal for transportation when it was not necessary to use the farm wagon with its spring seat. In such a vehicle, drawn by his bay gelding, Diamond; Rev. Lawrence and his bride came to Buffalo Center. The young couple built a barn on the property owned at the time by C.A. Sparks. Diamond and the road cart occupied one half of the barn and Rev. Lawrence and his wife occupied the other half. As soon as the building was enclosed, the couple moved in. The partitions in the upper story were left out so a day school for the children of the town could be established and a place provided for church and civic activities.
The Sunday School was organized December 25, 1892, with a membership of 18 with Joseph Holt as superintendent. This has now grown to a group of about 120 with classes for all beginning with 3 year olds. An annual Vacation Bible School is very popular and well attended.
In 1893, a Ladies' Aid was organized with Mrs. Woods as president. The name was later changed to "Women's Fellowship." This organization has been an active part of the church through the years, and aids in the support of several missionaries, as well as many other projects. The Missionary Work group, a unit of the Women's Fellowship, is also an active organization whose main purpose is to sew quilts, clothing, and other needed items for various missionaries.
A new church building was built on the present site in June 1893 at a cost of $1,875. The church building had a 30' X 36' auditorium, a 10 foot square hall, a 16' X 24' lecture hall and a 42 foot high bell tower, our bell was obtained in November 1896. Rev. T.O. Douglass of the Home Missionary Society preached the dedicatory sermon. In 1894, church services were held by Lutheran and Reformed congregations in the church on alternate Sunday afternoons.
Rev. J. K. Nutting and wife were the next pastors of churches at Thompson, Ledyard and Buffalo Center. Rev. Nutting is internationally known as the builder of the "Little Brown Church in the Vale," at Nashua, Iowa. He was followed by many other faithful pastors, all of whom are listed at the end of this history.
In 1914, the church was remodeled and enlarged at a cost of $7,000. This included a full basement, a choir room, and a pipeless furnace. Up to this time, the church was heated by a large coal furnace. Wood was obtained when groups of volunteers met at farm homes for "wood cutting bees." A social time was enjoyed while the men sawed the wood and the women prepared a bounteous meal. Among those who furnished locations for these wood cutting days were Lester Drake, Jake Hofbauer, W.G. Bond and Burt Edwards.
In 1930, a home was purchased from J.J. Guyer for a parsonage which was remodeled and redecorated. During the ministry of Rev. John D. Engels, an organ was purchased in 1948. The church was again remodeled extensively in 1949 at a cost of $30,000; at which the building was considerably enlarged. During the building modernization, what might have been an appalling tragedy was narrowly escaped about 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, just as the congregation was assembling for worship, suddenly the temporary wooden floor supports broke letting the main floor sink down about 3 or 4 feet! The congregation which was especially calm, quickly moved to the side walls and out of the building without any injuries. Services were moved to the City Hall until construction was completed (from Buffalo Center Tribune). Rev. Engels pastored the church the longest of any minister. He served from 1944-1962.
In 1964, plans went forward for expansion of the church during the ministry of Rev. Avery Wetzig. Badly needed Sunday School rooms were added at this time, and the sanctuary was enlarged as well as the basement dining room.
A fine, nine room parsonage was built in 1970 on property purchased directly west of the church. Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Bowers formerly lived in this location. The most recent church project took place in 1979 when a large scale remodeling program was completed at a cost of $38,000 while Rev. Steven Oeffling was pastor. Future expansion was made a possibility with the purchase of the lot and home north of the church in 1981. A new church organ was added in 1988, a new elevator was installed in 1999 and a new electronic sign was installed at the former southeast entrance of the church in 2020. All financing for the Congregational expenses, missionary offerings, and building projects were always accomplished on a "free will" offering basis.
Through the years many individuals and organizations have been active in the work of the Sunday School and Church. Besides the Women's Fellowship/Missionary Work Group, the "Home Builders," a young married couples organization was formed, as well as "God's Partners," younger couples, now known as the "Koinonia." The Congregational Youth Fellowship, the King's Daughters (missionary oriented projects) meet regularly for Bible Study and other activities. Infants are listed on a cradle roll, and are welcomed at birth with a gift and also at Christmas time. The 60 Plus Adults meet monthly. There have been many fellowship gatherings for coffee, pot luck meals, banquets, etc. In early days a complete delicious supper was served for a contribution of $.25.
The church library contains much good Christian reading and reference materials. Reading is encouraged.
Melodious bell tower chimes sound across the country side to remind the Buffalo Center area of the First Congregational Church location.
The church boards and committees include elected church members who serve of the Board of Deacons, Board of Trustees, Christian Education Department, Deaconnesses, Music Committee, Clerk, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer and Sunday School Officers. Young parents assume responsibilty for the Nursery and the Junior Church which provide for the young children during the regular church hour. The church secretary, head usher and janitor maintain their responsibilities.
Affiliations of the Church include memberships in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the Upper Midwest Congregational Fellowship and the National Association of Evangelicals. The Pastor is a member of the local ministerial association. In 1967 the church was host to the national Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. Delegates and board members (150) registered from almost every state, Canada and Brazil.
Recent pastors include Rev. Steven J. Oeffling, who accepted the invitation from the local Congregation and greeted his new parishioners October 9, 1977. The Oeffling family endeared themselved to many people in the area during their nearly 12 years in Buffalo Center. Pastor Steve and Karin became the parents of Sara, Craig and Kirstin during those years. They served, not only the home church, but others in the community with counseling and Christian love. (Buffalo Center Tribune August 31, 1989.) Pastor Steve earned his Doctorate degree while pastoring here. The family accepted the call to the St. Paul Congregational Church in Greeley, Colorado, and left Buffalo Center in August 1989. Dr. James C. Chambers, Pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church of Lakota, capably acted as Interim Pastor for four months. The local congregation was very appreciative of Dr. Chamber's willingness to accept this additional responsibility.
Rev. Clarence Schultz of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, accepted the call assumed his new duties as Pastor of the Buffalo Center Frist Congregational Church. He delivered his first sermon at the church on December 31, 1989. He and his wife Marti, were enthusiastically welcomed by the local congregation. Installation services took place February 11, 1990. Six guest ministers took part in the ceremony followed by a fellowship dinner. Pastor Schultz accepted the call to the First Congregational Church of Kenosha, Wisconsin and left Buffalo Center in May 1992.
Rev. James Sullivan of Naperville, Illinois, accepted our call, and came to Buffalo Center in December 1992, along with his wife Kathy, and children Robbie, Jamie and James. In October 1995, the Sullivans accepted the call to the Church of Peace in Norwood Young America, Minnesota.
Rev. David Langer of New Rockford, North Dakota accepted our call and came to Buffalo Center in March 1996, along with his wife Linda, and children Rebecca, Andrea, Sarah and Matthew. Beth was born in November 2001. Pastor Langer also served our country as a chaplain in the United States Army Reserves. Pastor Langer accepted the call to the Mountain View Congregational Church of Kellogg, Idaho and he and his family left Buffalo Center in April 2009.
Rev. Brad DeVries, along with his wife Katie and children Hannah, Nathanial and Lydia moved to Buffalo Center in May 2012 and assumed his pastorate on August 1, 2012 and left Buffalo Center in October 2016.
Rev. Tim Diehl, he and his wife Gayle of Hollandale, Minnesota, has served as our interim pastor twice, he served as our interim from 2009-2012 and returned to our church in November 2016 and served until May 2019.
Rev. Jonathan Faulkner, his wife Rachel and daughter Erin moved to Buffalo Center in May 2019 and assumed the pastorate shortly there after.
Even though our congregation is small, we look forward to God's blessings in the future.