We Come This Far by Faith
The history of Highland United Church of Church (UCC) / Highland Christian Center is an exciting one. It’s not your typical documents with events and dates. It is more of how and why we got to where we are rather than the what. We have stories of people, struggles, causes and motivation of the people who have worked to help shape this congregation.
Highland UCC, located at 7600 NE. Glisan Street in Portland, Oregon was founded in 1903. The church was originally located at 4635 NE 9th Ave in the Albina/Highland community which was at one time German, Polish and Italian immigrants. The record shows that the church grew and served the constituency of that day. The congregation met the needs of those who were members of Highland and the community.
In approximately 1965, or perhaps a little before, the community began to rapidly change and become a predominately African American community partly due to integration. During this time the church had gone through several internal turmoil’s with suggestions to disband the church. Due to the limited numbers of members who felt the need to remain and serve the community the church remained opened.
In July 1968 a committee was formed to discuss the future of Highland church and whether it had relevance to the African American Community. It was discussed to appoint an African American Leader to the church to help relate to the community. Reverend Samuel P. Johnson, a young black Pentecostal minister, suggested that the church could better serve the community by concentrating on the need for better housing, basic education, job training, community organization and recreation. Reverend Johnson was asked to head these programs, he accepted and served as the church’s first African American pastor. Reverend Johnson served Highland for several years.
When Reverend Johnson passed away the church went through several more internal turmoil with the doors ready to close again.
In 1996, Rev. Dr. W.G. Hardy, Jr. was asked to Pastor the church to save it from closing. Dr. Hardy’s mission and goal was to create a safe and loving environment that was inclusive of everyone and with a dynamic preaching style that would not compromise the message of the Gospel, Dr. Hardy saw the church grow consistently. The desire for inclusiveness was realized as politicians, former convicts, professionals, recovering substance abusers, working families, former sex-industry workers, and entrepreneurs all found a home working together to improve, not only themselves, but the community around them.
With Youth Summer Swing, Love-in-Action, Friday Night Gym, a Tutorial Program, and Men and Women’s Retreats helped draw people in but also knit them together. This produced the kind of growth that required the move to another facility on 18th and Alberta in the year 2000. Growth continued exponentially and in 2004 Highland acquired the current campus at 7600 NE Glisan St.. This multi-purpose campus consists of the main building housing the 1,250 seat sanctuary, administrative offices, fellowship hall, classrooms, separate counseling center, youth annex building, a standalone memorial hall, and a 5-plex multi-purpose facility.
Besides housing Highland UCC, the campus also is home to Albina Head Start Programs, Highland Haven Inc., HARRP and HAAYCC.
With Dr. Hardy, as the current pastor, Highland UCC is a dynamic, growing part of the body of Christ and the community. We invite you to come and get involved. We believe you will find yourself in “The Right Place” at Highland with our mission being to glorify God, edify the body and evangelize our world through ministering to the body, soul and mind.