Congregational Church in Grinnell, Iowa

Congregating at Grinnell

Season 2 Episode 1

To kick off season 2, George Drake '56, president emeritus, puts his long-lost degree in church history to use and takes us on a tour through the College's religious history.

"Now appoint your trustees to take care of that dollar for Iowa College." And thus, with a silver dollar, the history of what would become Grinnell College had begun. But before that mythic silver dollar was laid upon a table, Asa Turner put out a call to ministers from New England to join him in Iowa. Those Congregationalist ministers would become the “Iowa Band,” and members of this group would go on to found Iowa College in Davenport, which would later move to Grinnell, and become the College we know today. Many Grinnellians know the story of the Iowa Band and the founding of the College, but fewer know the details of the College's religious connections, and the importance of Congregationalism with respect to the founding and development of the College.

Postcard of Congregational Church in Grinnell
Postcard of the "Old Stone Church," erected in 1877, and costing $26,000

Even though the College moved locations from Davenport to Grinnell, the religious affiliation and motivations of Congregationalism came along with it, and J.B. Grinnell was a Congregationalist minister himself. In this episode, we dig into the particular tenets of Congregationalism and why they yielded so many long-lasting and heralded institutions of higher learning, including: Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams, Middlebury, Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Oberlin, Beloit, Pomona, and, of course, Grinnell.

Continuing to trace the religious history of the College through the Social Gospel movement, required church services for students, and the end of formal affiliation with the church, Drake points to Grinnell's tolerant atmosphere, dedication to critical thought, and commitment to social responsibility as manifestations of Congregationalism's influence on the College.

Grinnell music for this episode comes from Seth Hanson '17 and Will Bennett '13.

Photo of cover of the booklet telling the story of the Iowa Band

From the Archives

“The Iowa Band: the Story of a Home Missionary Enterprise and Its Results,” a brief history of the Iowa Band and the founding of Iowa (Grinnell) College, written by Truman Douglass

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