Donor Spotlight: First Congregational Church UCC of Columbus



The Rev. Dr. Timothy Ahrens, pastor of First Congregational Church UCC of Columbus (First Church), has connections to United Church Homes that are personal and date back 75 years. His great-grandparents once lived at Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. His grandfather, Rev. Hugo Carl Kellenmeyer, was the superintendent of Fairhaven from 1942 to 1946.

While his personal connections are significant, they are not what fuel his passion for UCH. Instead, it is the opportunity to advance the health and healing ministry of Jesus Christ that animates Rev. Ahrens. For him, Christian faith is not only about personal salvation, but about helping others as well.

First Church is unique. It’s located in downtown Columbus, on East Broad Street, across an alley from the Columbus Museum of Art, and a block away from the Columbus College of Art & Design. With such distinguished artistic neighbors, it’s no wonder that the church itself is an exquisite architectural gem. It was designed by John Russell Pope, who’s better known as the architect of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. No other church in Ohio enjoys such a pedigree.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Ahrens, pastor of First Congregational Church UCC of ColumbusThe sanctuary is equally impressive, adorned with ornate carvings and millwork that evoke majesty and reverence. Two massive organs support First Church’s well-known, classically-based music ministry. Sitting high above the altar is a spectacular stained glass window that tells the story of the life of Jesus.

Notwithstanding the church’s singular beauty, it is the congregation’s abiding faith and deep sense of social justice that make it different. “This is a great place to be connected,” said Rev. Ahrens. “It’s all about your relationships, your connections to other people.”

First Church has enjoyed an especially fruitful relationship with United Church Homes for decades. Many UCC churches in Ohio can make comparable claims, but few can do so despite not having a UCH community nearby. The nearest UCH campus is Canal Village, an affordable housing community located in Canal Winchester, 15 miles away from downtown Columbus.

Time. Talent. Treasure.

First Church is the place of worship for multiple members of the United Church Homes Board of Directors. Tom Brownfield, a retired IT executive who lives in Lithopolis, and Rev. Phil Hart, the designated UCC Ohio Conference minister, currently serve on the UCH Board. They each willingly donate time — at least 12 days per year plus conference calls and committee meetings — and specialized talents to provide governance and direction to the organization’s senior management. Another lifelong church member, Bob Kutschbach, a Westerville real estate broker, was a director for 10 years until 2014.

“Our congregation shares a deep sense of social justice,” said Rev. Ahrens. “It’s part of the church’s historical legacy and part of our community identity. We are here to be supportive of, and to be connected to, the ministries of Jesus Christ.”

Church members have been generous in providing charitable financial support to UCH, having donated nearly $30,000 over the past three decades. “We take up about 35 offerings each year, and United Church Homes enjoys a special place in the hearts and minds of our parishioners,” said Rev. Ahrens.

Cognizant of the historical connections between First Church and UCH, Rev. Ahrens invoked the memory and words of the Rev. Dr. Washington Gladden, an influential theologian who served First Church as pastor for 36 years, from 1882 to 1918. His insight still bears witness today. “I’ve come to believe we are shaped by two things: our relationship with God, and our relationship with others.”