First Christian Church 134 years of history

MONTE VISTA — Monte Vista is home to many beautiful old buildings. During my time at the Monte Vista Journal, I have loved getting to share some of the histories of these beautiful buildings in town. First Christian Church has 134 years of history.

First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, located at the corner of Second and Washington, was started on March 17, 1887. According to Emma M. Riggenbach’s book, “A Bridge to Yesterday: An early history of Monte Vista, Colorado,” T.J. Smith called a meeting of all the known members in the area at the home of George Jacobs. After this, they continued weekly meetings at the Jacob’s house for a while. 

The church grew and J.T. Sharrarad, a state evangelist, organized the church with 15 members. At this time, they still did not have a building and used a tent for a while. Later, they went on to rent a room in the old Armory. 

“On May 15, 1893, three warranty deeds, or indentures, were consummated by Lewis H. Cheney, Will Tewalt and J.F. Long, trustees of the Christian Church, for Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 in Block 10, description of the present property. The total price was $410,” wrote Riggenbach in her book. 

They met in a frame building for a while until 1909, when the beautiful sanctuary was finished. It still stands today. The sanctuary features gorgeous stained-glass windows that are memorials to the deceased.

“(They) are very meaningful and known far and wide. The name of the contractor is unknown,” wrote Riggenbach.

The building was expanded in 1953 when the congregation voted to have a two-story education unit added to the church. It also featured a banquet hall, parlor, and office space for the minister. 

Riggenbach’s book also records that in 1916 the Rev. L.C. Anderson published a directory of members, listing 209 on the church roll plus 126 non-resident members. It also noted that the average attendance in Sunday school was over 125 pupils. 

Over the years, the church has seen membership drop. Current member Doris Cossel said they have had many dear members who have passed away in recent times. The late Judge and Annamae Hancock gave a generous donation to the church that enabled them to do much work on the building and keep the church going. 

Cossel said how grateful they were and how blessed this gift has been. Through the years, they restored their pews, put in new carpet, new sidewalks, redid their parsonage, painting, and much more. Cossel also shared when they painted the fellowship area of the church.

“We had a lot of people from the different churches come and help us. It was so much fun. We would all do that on a Saturday and we had old people, young people, it was really nice. The community just came together which was really nice,” Cossel said 

Over its history, the church has also had many pastors. According to “A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Colorado,” by Bryant D. Badger, the church has had over 44 ministers. Current member Don Noland said that their most recent and one of their longest-serving pastors was Wayne Wittner. He served at the church from 1998 to 2020, when he retired. 

Today the church also shares the building with Grace and Mercy Bible Fellowship. Grace and Mercy, Pastor Larry Foster has also been filling in for First Christian and does both their service, which starts at 9:30 a.m. and Grace and Mercy’s, which begins at 11:15 a.m. 

The two congregations come together for Grace and Mercy’s monthly free community dinners. The community dinner happens on the second Tuesday of every month from 5-7 p.m. For more information about Grace and Mercy Bible Fellowship, visit its website: The congregations also plan to come together for a July 4 special service. 

When asked what they hope the impact of the church will be on the community, Foster answered, “Our goal and vision is to reach people for Christ and reach those who have strayed from Him. That’s really what our goal is. We’re not here to build a country club, we’re here to reach people and that’s what our vision is.” 

— A special thanks to Doris Cossel, Don Noland, and Larry Foster for their help with this article.