St. Paul UCC was founded in 1846, first meeting in a council chamber inside the Monroe County Courthouse in Waterloo and starting the first local public school with open enrollment shortly thereafter. The church moved into its first building in 1847.
As German immigrants began moving into Monroe County during the middle third of the 19th century the church grew in size, and built a large brick sanctuary for worship in 1856, which was the church home until 1974.
In the early 1920s St. Paul began the switch from German to English as its primary language, and along with that shift, the congregation began to cast a wider vision for itself. St. Paul joined the German Evangelical Synod, which later merged with German Reformed churches in the northeastern part of the country to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Ministers began to be called from outside of the St. Louis area, who had previous experience serving in other regions of the country, as well some with experience in foreign missions, bringing a rich cultural awareness and diversity to the congregation. In the 1930s Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany, who settled in Monroe County, began participating and joining St. Paul, because it was the most open and welcoming spiritual community in the area.
As St. Paul experienced the 1960s and 1970s, and started coming to terms with its new denominational identity as a member congregation of the new United Church of Christ, its awareness of issues around issues of racial justice began maturing. Since then several of St. Paul’s pastors have led the congregation to participate in racial reconciliation and in community reconstruction. One project, Uni-Pres KinderKottage, a preschool in East St. Louis, remains a viable ongoing testimony to those days.
In 1974 the church moved into its present larger and more modern structure, which enabled its ministries to expand, and styles of worship to diversify.
However, in 2000, a series of conflicts began wracking the church. The conflicts in large part reflected the anxieties, uncertainties and shifts of the wider culture of the country as it began coming to terms with a post 9/11 world. We at St. Paul are committed to navigating these shifts, and have renewed a real commitment to be a relevant and open church for our community. We strive to show compassion and express that compassion publicly by advocating for simple justice for all people, as we try to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Jesus.
We yearn to be a community that is literally “beyond belief.”