Union of Evangelical Congregational Churches in Bulgaria
The Union of Evangelical Congregational Churches in Bulgaria is a Reformed Congregational denomination in Bulgaria. A member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship.
American missionaries founded the Congregational Churches in Bulgaria 150 years ago when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. The mission developed from the work of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In 1819 the congregationalists and Presbyterians begun to consider mission to Bulgaria. The New Jersey born missionary Rev. Elias Riggs, he become influential in the translation the Bible into the Bulgarian language. In Smyrna 2,000 copies of the New Testament was sold. The first evangelists wer Rev. Cyrus Hamlin and Christipher Rhinelander Robert arrived in 1857, they were followed by Rev. Wesley Prettyman, Albert Long, and Charles Morse. Hamlin and morse established 3 missionary centres in Plovdiv, Odrin and Stara Zagora. In 1859 the Russian born Frederic Flocken joined the work. The first church was founded in Plovdiv. The American evangelists served the country till the Second World War.
From 1840 to 1878 churches were founded in Bansko, Turnovo, Svishtov, Ludovic. In 1899 a congregation was also founded in Sofia. In the late 1800s there were 10 missionaries with 25 assistants. In southern Bulgaria there wer 19 congregations in 1909 and these churches formed a legal association. In 1926 the American College of Sofia was founded. Later in 1931 an evangelical seminary was founded in the town. Till 1944 the Bulgarian culture toward Protestantism was intolerant. During Communist Regime the church experienced several hardships, in that time there were 22 churches, now there are 40 and new churches are being planted every year. In 1948 pastors were arrested and imprisoned. In 1949 Protestant churches were declared unlawful. All contacts with other Protestant were cut.