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ecting the Unitarian Church were then foremost, and deeply interested him. He was not sufficiently reverent of others' reverences, inclined to make differences of view, personal differences, and it was not long before the favor which his ministry created in the beginning changed, and after a serious division of the parish, threatening its welfare, his ministry came to an end in 1867. In March, 1869, mine began, covering now nearly half of the history of the parish since its organization in 1824. I have been telling the history of this parish for more than seventy-five years as it is recorded in the life of its ministers, because this way of tracing the history is more convenient. But the minister is little without the people who are behind him, who work together with him for the purpose for which a church exists, the establishment of righteousness in the earth. I could recite names connected with this church during this period which have not only honored it but honored human na
July, 1860 AD (search for this): chapter 16
ry that made him widely known. His voice was rich, and finely modulated, and there are those still living who in their youth remember his reading of hymns and scripture as something that uplifted them. He was followed in 1857 by Rev. Theodore Tebbetts, under whose care the church and parish seemed entering upon brighter prospects. But ill-health, which had forced him to resign his work at Lowell, returned after about two years of his ministry here, though he continued as minister till July, 1860. His was a name I often heard when I first came to the parish. He was deeply and tenderly beloved. The parish was very kind and generous to him, supplying the pulpit at its own charge during his long illness. Indeed there is nothing in the history I have been reviewing which has impressed me more profoundly than that of the friendly relations between Mr. Tebbetts and this parish. He became its minister with a considerable minority against him, but in the brief period of his active pa
forces, and at a subsequent meeting, July 9, 1849, passed the following resolution: Resolved, that in view of the history of this parish, its present condition and its future prospects, it is regarded as inexpedient and hazardous to our best interests as a Christian church, for our pastor to preach any political abolition sermons or discourses in the pulpit on the Sabbath. There were then two distinct organizations of church and parish, and as the church could be sooner called together, on July 15 a meeting was held, when Abner Bartlett, one of the most respected members of the church and parish, presented this counter resolution, Resolved, as the sense of this church, that its truest welfare will be best secured by leaving the pulpit under the control of the pastor for the time being, without the interference of the parish in any way, other than as may be stipulated in the terms of his settlement. This resolution was deferred a week, when the church again met for its consideration.
, he became associated with the Boston Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, living in Boston afterward on the comfortable property inherited from his father. He was a wide traveller and published two volumes of his travels in the East. Mr. Caleb Stetson, a graduate of Harvard College, was unanimously chosen as the successor of Mr. Bigelow, in January, 1827, and was ordained to the ministry over this church and parish in February. His service covered a period of twenty-one years, ending in 1848. Personally he was a delightful man, easy in conversation, friendly in spirit, and of ready humor which flashed on all appropriate occasions. His brethren in the ministry were wont to say he was the life of every social hour, but events were happening during his ministry that were very disturbing. The agitation against slavery was growing to whiter heat; the temperance reform was stirring community against the indifference, apathy, and the prevailing social customs as to the use of intoxic
cepted the call, approving of the clause the town had inserted in it, and never before existing, that the connection could be dissolved by either party by giving six months notice, a rule which has since continued whenever a minister was chosen. July 9, the ecclesiastical council, invited by the church and town, met to install Mr. Bigelow as pastor. Some names of clergymen composing the council are worthy of remembrance as indicating the weight of influence on the liberal side of the old Congrs resolution was deferred a week, when the church again met for its consideration. There is still preserved a letter written by Misses Mary and Lucy Osgood, daughters of Rev. David Osgood, in protest against the act of the parish at its meeting July 9th, in which they say that they wish to express the astonishment and concern with which that resolution has inspired them. After defending the memory of their father who was distinguished through his long ministry for the freedom and fearlessness
which there was no precedent. Until 1826 the town, as formerly, had used the meetinghouse for town meetings, but in this year the committee of the parish addressed a letter to the selectmen, stating that since the division of the town into parishes the meeting-house could not be used for town meetings without an arrangement for that purpose with the First Parish. The selectmen maintained their right to the use of the meeting-house, and informed the committee of the parish that on the 17th of May a town meeting would be held in the meeting-house, pursuant to a warrant for that purpose, to choose representatives to the General Court. The meeting-house was closed by the order of the parish committee, and one Thomas Pratt opened and entered it for the transaction of the business of the meeting. The parish committee then brought suit against him for trespass, and on trial the chief-justice maintained the right in law of the parish to the undivided control of its property. The div
unity; years after his ministry here ceased many who had known and loved him confessed their regard and affection. It was a little strange that since the prophet-character of Mr. Stetson had been the cause of his resigning from the parish, that such a hero as John Pierpont, scarred by his war with Hollis Street Church in Boston, should have been the one on whom his mantle fell. It fell on him however by a very narrow chance, for at the meeting of the parish called to choose a minister in 1849, there were 25 votes in his favor and 24 against him. A committee was appointed to communicate with Mr. Pierpont, but before doing so a paper was presented to the legal voters in the parish who were not present at the meeting when the call was extended to him, with the result that 71 were in his favor to 21 opposed, and at a parish meeting, held June 25, 1849, the call was renewed by a large vote. Mr. Pierpont accepted the call, but before he had taken up his residence here the minority in t
June, 1894 AD (search for this): chapter 16
ed it but honored human nature,—men and women eager for the truth, as eager to turn it into life, who being dead yet speak, and urge us to the best which they reverently followed. During the period of this history the most important outward events have been the building of the meetinghouse in 1839, at a cost of about $14,000, the re-modeling of the interior in 1882 at an expense of $4,000, the destruction of it by fire on January 15, 1893, and the building of a new church, dedicated in June, 1894, at a cost of about $40,000. The church is known as Unitarian, but the name nowhere appears in its legal organization. It is simply the First Parish in Medford. Not that it is in the least indifferent to the name Unitarian, rather it honors it, but the fact of its absence marks the unsectarian character which our fathers gave it. Sectarian propagandism it has never been afflicted with. Humanity is dearer to it than sect, and in its long history it is humanity which it has most sought
July 13th, 1823 AD (search for this): chapter 16
ege, Dr. Abiel Holmes, of Cambridge, the father of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Dr. Charles Lowell, of Boston, father of James Russell Lowell, and himself a man of note in his day as pastor of the West Church, Rev. Francis Parkman, Rev. James Walker of Charlestown, afterward President of Harvard College, and Rev. Convers Francis, of Watertown, brother of Lydia Maria Child, subsequently a professor in the Divinity School of Harvard College. His first Sunday as a legal minister of the town was July 13, 1823. But the narrow majority of 25 was a clear indication of much dissatisfaction at his choice, like the rote of the sea which foretells a storm. Mr. Bigelow was known to belong to the school of thought in Congregationalism which was called Liberal, and by this time, owing to Channing's outspoken word at Baltimore, and to the drift of events in many an ancient parish, the word was known to be a mild way of saying he was a Unitarian. It was because this was understood that there was so st
July 14th, 1823 AD (search for this): chapter 16
conclusion is to accept the invitation. In the time that elapsed between his call in May and his installation in July, there was sufficient opportunity in a small community, which Medford then was, for a pretty full expression of opinion, for which small communities have a special aptitude. Mr. Bigelow was cognizant of this; the diminished attendance at church after his call clearly indicating that something would happen. How well he knew it is evidenced by a quaint letter written Monday, July 14, 1823, after his first Sunday as pastor. A copy of this letter is preserved by the church, but to whom written is not known, the name which was first written in having been erased on second thought of the copyist. An extract from the letter will be of interest:— You may have heard of the good ship Medford which has accomplished many adventurous and successful voyages, and which is now abroad on some gainful traffic. Yesterday a statelier vessel freighted with far richer cargo, and b
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