It was on December 5, 1896, that a group of sixteen early settlers met at the school house in Brule to organize a Congregational Church, Sunday School and Christian Endeavor on the treeless plains. At the call of the pastor, the Rev. Hampton of the Congregational Church of Ogallala, another meeting was held on December 28, 1896 and the organization of the church was completed.
Three years after the church’s organization, it was voted by the members of the Brule Congregational Church to move their membership to the Congregational Church of Ogallala. One year later, with further development in the Brule community, the church was reorganized and 13 memberships were transferred back to Brule. The Brule congregation again combined with Ogallala in 1991 to form a yoked parish with each congregation holding their own services and programming.
After the official church incorporation in January of 1907, with the adoption of the name “The Congregational Church of Christ of Brule”, the building of a church was discussed. This church building was dedicated on July 12, 1908, with the Rev. Ruth Palmer as the first resident minister. The church was built on a site donated in 1899 by Major Isaac R. and Elizabeth Barton, who owned the land on which the town was established. The Barton’s donated lots one and two of Block 41 for the Congregational Church and all of Block 40 for a park to be called “Barton Park.” In 1927 and 1928, the church was rented to the Lutherans.
For over 100 years, our church has been a typical rural community white structure with a balcony, beautiful stained glass windows, and a quaintness found mostly in rural churches. Many improvements have been made to the church structure over time. In 1961, an addition was built and remodeling completed. The addition provided for a pastor’s study/office as well as a second entryway to the basement fellowship hall and a remodeled kitchen. Furnishings and fixtures have continued to be improved and updated through the years including a chair lift to service the basement and recently, the construction of a new bell tower on the east side of the building.
The Ladies Aid was organized on April 1, 1907. In 1949, the Nebraska Conference dropped the title Ladies Aid for the women’s department of the church and renamed it Women’s Fellowship. This group has contributed much time and effort within the church providing funds and labor for upgrades, meals for bereavement and fellowship activities for countless women through the years. A quilting group, made up of members and non-members of our church, meets on Wednesday afternoons creating wonderful quilts and lap quilts. They give a lap quilt to those from the community that have been very ill or are recovering from surgery. They raffle two quilts each year at the Harvest Festival as an annual fund raiser.
For many years our church sponsored a food stand at the Brule “Arts in the Park” event and continues a presence at the annual end of summer “Brule Day” celebration through a float in the parade. Fall brings our annual “Fall Harvest Festival” – a hearty, delicious dinner followed by an auction sale of assorted goods involving church members and the surrounding communities in an all-church effort fund raiser. It is common to see an angel food cake sell for almost $100.00 in friendly competitive bidding! This event has gone on for over 50 years.
Winter finds our church sponsoring our annual ice cream social with homemade ice cream and sandwiches. Through the years, our church has also sponsored Vacation Bible School, salad luncheons and style shows, children’s choir and programs in conjunction with Sunday School activities, participation in camping experiences at Kamp Kaleo at Burwell, and adult fellowship through the Sunday Supper Club.
Our church celebrated its 75th anniversary on Dec. 5, 1971, with more than 100 people in attendance. We celebrated 100 years in 1996 with special programs. Our church strives to provide a worship center in the community and to reach out to anyone in the community that needs a helping hand or friendship. We try to be an example of God’s willingness to reach out to others in love and friendship and to give caring stewardship to our community.