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First Church In Jaffrey UCC is one of the oldest congregations in the Monadnock Region. Over the generations, this congregation has evolved to serve the changing spiritual, educational, and cultural needs of the surrounding community.


When the middle Monadnock area was opened for settlement around 1750, the land grant specified that shares must be set aside for “a Good Convenient Meeting House near the Town Center” along with land for a settled minister, support for the ministry and a school. All would be funded by taxes. When Jaffrey qualified for its town charter in 1773, a town meeting confirmed these requirements. ” By June 1775 the wall frames were raised into place while the cannon roared at the distant Battle of Bunker Hill. The impressive white building provided space for the First Congregational Church, which was formally organized in 1780 and called its first settled pastor, Laban Ainsworth, in 1792.


When the 1819 NH Act of Toleration cut the ties between church and state (taxes would cease funding the churches by 1831), the Congregationalists, the Baptists, and the Unitarians had to share the Meetinghouse space with each other and with town meetings. This arrangement pleased no one, and the Baptists and Congregationalists started to plan their own buildings. Work on the Brick Church adjacent to the Jaffrey Meetinghouse began in 1831 and was completed the following year. Jonas Melville, nephew of Rev. Laban Ainsworth, led a successful fundraising effort. The Brick Church was finished in 1832 and continues to be our home.


People, mills, and other businesses started to move to downtown Jaffrey (known then as East Jaffrey) along the Contoocook River in the 1830s and 1840s. In December 1849, 23 members of the First Church in Jaffrey asked and received permission to leave First Church and organize the Jaffrey East Orthodox Congregational Church. Jonas Melville again applied his fundraising skills to build a church on Main Street, which is now the United Church, UCC.


Thanks to a donation of land adjacent to the church, a parsonage was built in 1877. The parsonage initially had an attached barn, in the New England style. This barn with loft evolved into a carriage house, a garage, and then a small meeting room. Minor improvements continued in the 1950s, but the limitations of the structure became apparent. Fundraising and planning began in 1969 for a major renovation that would include a pastor’s study, classrooms, and proper stairs. In 1977 the Parish Barn became the Parish House.


The sanctuary underwent a complete redecoration in 1956, when the light style returned (during the Victorian 1890’s the style was dark). Pews and interior shutters were again painted off white, and the walls soft peach. Much of the sanctuary’s structure that we see today dates from this renovation. In the 1970s, peach was changed to a soft gray, brass chandeliers were installed, pew cushions, recovered, and new chairs were designed for the altar area by Bradford de Wolfe, an architect and summer resident. In 2017, the front pew and the choir rail were removed and the carpet repaired to make the space more flexible for services and concerts.


Rev. Steve Miller
And Wife Dr. Jill Tyler

The Rev. Steve G. Miller started his ministry at The First Church in Jaffrey in January 2022, after a unanimous vote of approval by the congregation in October of 2021 when he visited and conducted worship. His wife, Dr. Jill Tyler, will join him in the First Church parsonage after she retires in May as professor and chair of the University of South Dakota (USD) Communications Department. Currently Leah and Luke Summit (Steve and Jill’s daughter and son-in-law) and the Summit’s two boys are staying with Miller while the young family looks for a house in the greater Boston area.

“I am very excited about getting to know all the people in Jaffrey, the church and the wider Jaffrey community!  I’ve met neighbors walking my dog and playing in front of the parsonage with my two grandsons, who are ages 2-1/2 and nine months.”  Miller confessed: “I’m a bit of a schmoozer.”

For the past 26 years Miller was the senior pastor at the United Church of Christ-Congregational in Vermillion SD.  Originally a New Englander, Miller grew up in  Worcester, MA, in what is now the United Congregational Church.  Miller shared, in his first Sunday leading worship at First Church: “I used to come up here to climb Monadnock as a kid.  It’s like returning home.  I love the mountains, the trees, the ponds and rivers – it’s beautiful here.”

A man of many interests, Miller spent five years studying Lakota spirit, language and music. He invited the Lakota community to hold sacred ceremonies at the UCC church. Speaking for the Lakota community during a farewell gathering honoring Miller, one participant observed that he and Steve have been friends for years and call each other “Kola,” the Lakota term for brother.

At this same event Miller was honored by the Vermillion Community Theatre with a poster of six photos of him in community theater productions that was headlined “Actor, Playwright, Songwriter, Musician, Director of Spirit” in appreciation of his and the church’s support in helping the theater build a center for performing arts at the Vermillion high school.  A devoted baseball fan, Miller was a leader of the Vermillion Youth Baseball Association for players 5 to 12 for many years.

The title of teacher also belongs in Miller’s repertoire, as demonstrated by his popular “World Religions” course at the University of SD.   The University’s provost Kurt Hackemer observed that an important Miller offering was titled “The Pipe and the Cross,” about the intersection of Christianity and native spirituality. “So many students considered this THE great class, the best class that they ever had at USD,” the provost added.

Steve Miller graduated from Springfield College in 1981. He began studying at Yale Divinity School and transferred to the Pacific School of Religion, where he received his Master of Divinity degree in 1987.  He served churches in Bethlehem, CT and Gilman, IA before going to Vermillion in 1995. Rev. Miller has also been involved with Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality in Oak Park, IL for more 30 years through retreats, conferences, and classes.

Please come to First Church in Jaffrey at 10:30 on Sundays and meet Steve Miller!

Gene Faxon
Minster of Music

Gene brings his experience with teaching music and his expertise on the organ, piano, and harpsichord. He leads the choir as well as organizes special musical worship and other church events. Gene is also an accomplished recorder player.  During the pandemic Gene and three ladies have become a harmonious quartet.  We enjoy their offerings on multiple occasions during our services.  The congregation joins this group in singing Taize chants and hymns selected from the Pilgrim Hymnal and the New Century Hymnal.

Judy Lessard
Administrative Assistant

Judy brings her corporate experience. Working with our pastor and music minister, she creates the worship bulletins, sends out e-blasts, and monitors phone calls and church email. Working with our treasurer, she maintains the QuickBooks database and generates financial reports. Working with the communications team, she creates, prints, and distributes the church newsletter.


In late January 2022, First Church heartily welcomed (bottom row)  Roy Lake, Pam Hill,  David Bliss and Janet Grant as new Trustees.  Nancy Elder-Wilfrid is the new Clerk and in the top row is Ann St. Cyr Gordon (Treasurer) and Sam Greene Moderator.


Sam Greene, Moderator
Ann Gordon, Treasurer
Nancy Elder-Wilfrid, Clerk


David Bliss
Janet Grant
Pam Hill
Roy Lake
Tom Warren
Dan Wilfrid