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History of the church of the first Universalist Society, Medford.

There appears on the first page of the Church Record Book this entry:

‘The church connected with the First Universalist Society in Medford was formed on Sunday, Jan. 19, 1834, and organized by choosing Messrs. Timothy Cotting and James O. Curtis deacons.’

It was publicly recognized Wednesday evening, January 29. The Lord's supper was first administered by Winslow W. Wright, pastor, on the last Sunday in February following. The following is the uniting compact:


We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, do unite ourselves together as members of the Christian church connected with the First Universalist Society in Medford.

By so doing we profess:

1st. To believe that “there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time.” [p. 33]

2d. To esteem it a duty and a privilege to obey the command of Jesus Christ by celebrating the Lord's supper in remembrance of him.

3d. That we may keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, the unanimous consent of the members shall be obtained before any person shall be admitted to this church.

Each one of these articles seems worthy of comment.

With relation to the first: One who is familiar with the language of Universalism to-day will have the thought brought forcibly to mind that the Universalist church in common with all other churches has made a long advance in the better understanding of its own faith since this compact was drawn up, nearly seventy years ago.

The second article is remarkable for what it leaves out rather than for what it puts in. There is no obligation of conduct or character mentioned save this sacred one of observing the Lord's supper.

The third article of the compact is a rule of government rather than a basis of fellowship, but it served its purpose for nearly ten years, for not until Oct. 24, 1843, was this simple compact supplemented by a code of by-laws.

For the first eight years the records relate only to the admission of new members; but from 1842 until the present time there has been an increasing tendency to give full details as to what occurred at each meeting.

In 1850 appears this record showing that a happy relation existed between this society and the First Parish:

‘Our meeting-house and vestry being under repair, and our church and congregation holding public service on Sundays with the First Parish (Rev. Mr. Pierpont) in this town, there were no regular meetings of the church in May and June.’

May 22, 1851, it was voted to receive Bro. Sumner [p. 34] Ellis. This man subsequently won fame as a minister and writer in the Universalist church.

May 4, 1862, this doleful record appears:

... A cloud seems to have settled down upon the church—the awful cloud of war, which has enveloped the whole nation in its blighting, withering grasp; and inasmuch as this church has been accessory or conniving to it (with the majority of other churches throughout the land), so is the curse following us in the loss of the pure, peaceful, quickening spirit of the Prince of Peace.

After we shall have taken for the curing of our sick spirits the bitter medicine of war and its desolating consequences, may God grant unto us a refreshing return of the real spirit of charity and forgiveness, which will enable us to dwell in the realm of Peace forever with Christ our great Head, when our swords will be beaten into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, and all souls shall know and praise the Lord.

Oh, when shall Universalists learn to live out the glorious doctrine of forgiveness, which has been vouchsafed to them, instead of endeavoring to practise continually the old and harsher doctrines of justice and punishment. May our eyes be opened to a consciousness of our glaring inconsistency, and as a consequence our souls be humbled to that condition requisite to the reception of the spirit of Christ!

First observance of ordinances, Lord's supper, Feb. 23, 1834.

Baptism (by sprinkling), Catherine Coolidge Brooks, June 26, 1842; (by immersion) Mrs. Catherine M. Hall, June 30, 1844. (This was probably the only case of baptism by immersion in our church and took place at the site of the Mystic ford.)

Children's Sunday and baptism. The first record and probably the first observance was July 2, 1868, when twenty-five children were baptized. This service was instituted in 1858 by Rev. C. H. Leonard, at that [p. 35] time pastor in Chelsea, now dean of Tufts Divinity School.

One of the most delightful occasions in the history of the First Universalist Church was that of Friday evening, Nov. 3, 1899, when the members of the church assembled for their reunion.

The vestry had been beautifully decorated with palms and potted chrysanthemums, loaned by Mr. John M. Leahy. Several members over eighty years of age were present, as well as a number of former members now living in other cities and States. The reception hour afforded pleasant opportunity for renewing old acquaintances.

At a quarter-past seven the company, numbering sixty-five, were assembled about the tables, and joined in singing ‘Blest be the Tie that Binds.’ The divine blessing was invoked by Rev. E. C. Bolles, of Melrose. The company then sat down at the well-filled tables, and an hour only too quickly passed in feasting and sociability.

The pastor, Rev. C. L. Eaton, welcomed the guests of the evening on behalf of the church, and declared that the purpose of the evening was to strengthen and deepen the bonds of Christian friendship. The roll was then called and the hymn, ‘I Love the Church,’ was sung.

The pastor then presented Mr. P. R. Litchfield, senior deacon of the church, as toast-master. The following toasts were given: ‘Our Common Work,’ responded to by Rev. E. C. Bolles, D. D.; ‘A Message from the Watch Tower,’ Rev. C. H. Leonard, D. D.; ‘Our Common Bond,’ Mrs. E. L. Houghton; ‘The Church and the Parish,’ Mr. R. B. Lawrence; ‘The Church and the Individual,’ Rev. E. L. Houghton; ‘Our Problem,’ Prof. W. S. Woodbridge; ‘Our Young People,’ Miss Anna B. Archibald; ‘Our Church,’ Deacon E. F. Roberts; ‘The Future,’ Mr. T. Howard Barnes. Letters from former members and pastors added much to the interest of the occasion. [p. 36]

The exercises closed at a late hour with the singing ‘God be with You till we Meet again,’ and the benediction. Not only was the gathering delightful because of its sociability, but also most helpful because of its inspiring religious spirit.

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