Sudbury was first settled in 1640 and successive meeting houses for the community were built, east of the Sudbury River, in 1642, 1652, 1682 and 1725. In 1780, the section of town west of the river separated from the eastern section, which was at first called East Sudbury and, from 1835, Wayland. The 1725 meeting house was replaced, in 1814-1815, by the current Federal-style church, built by Andrew Palmer of Newburyport to a design by Asher Benjamin. The church bell was cast by the foundry of Paul Revere and Son. The church became Unitarian in 1825, during the ministry of Reverend John Burt Wight. In 1850, the interior of the church was altered to to create a two-story plan, with an auditorium on the second floor. While he was minister at First Parish in Wayland, Reverend Edmund Hamilton Sears composed the Christmas hymn, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.”
The first religious services in the Parish of Sudbury took place in 1640, east of the Sudbury River in what is now Wayland. The congregation west of the river completed their own meeting house in 1722 and Rev. Israel Loring became their first minister. The current First Parish Church in Sudbury replaced the original structure on the same location in 1797. In 1837, the rise of the Unitarian movement split the congregation and the First Parish became a Unitarian church. According to the History of Sudbury (1889), by Alfred Sereno Hudson,
For a time the old society had different preachers to supply the pulpit. From March 30 to September 22, according to a record book of Capt. Israel Haynes, no less than twelve different ministers preached there. In the summer of 1841, Rev. Linus Shaw was invited to preach, which he did till fall. Soon after, the meeting-house was remodelled, and in 1844, he was invited to preach there again ; he did so, and the result was his settlement as pastor. He was installed June 5, 1845, and continued in the pastorate till his death.
Now part of the collection of historic buildings that make up Storrowton Village at the Eastern States Exposition grounds in West Springfield, the Union Meetinghouse was originally built jointly by four religious denominations in Salisbury, New Hampshire, in 1834. The Meeting House was moved from the Smith’s Corner neighborhood of Salisbury to Storrowton in 1929. The pulpit came from another New Hampshire town and the 1851 bell is from a church in Neponset, Massachusetts.
The First Church of Deerfield‘s current meeting house is the town’s fifth in succession, all of which were built on or around Meeting House Hill. The earliest of these buildings was burned during King Philip’s War. The second and third meeting houses are pictured in a sketch of Deerfield buildings made by Dudley Woodbridge in 1738. The second was built in 1682, the third in 1695. In 1952, Deerfield’s post office was remodeled to resemble the third meeting house, which was in use until 1728. The fourth meeting house, the first to have a steeple, was built in 1729 and taken down in 1824, to make way for the current church, which is known as the “Brick Church.” It was built by contractor Winthrop Clapp and was modeled on the 1819 Second Congregational Church in Greenfield. In 1807, a controversy began when the church ordained a Unitarian minister, Rev. Samuel Willard. He was succeeded by other Unitarians. Orthodox Congregationalists eventually broke away and built their own church in 1838. The Brick Church remains a Unitarian Universalist Church today.
King’s Chapel, originally founded to serve British officers, was the first Anglican church in Puritan Boston. The Chapel‘s first building was a wood structure, built in 1686 on land that had been part of the town’s oldest burying ground. The current Chapel, built of Quincy granite, was constructed around the old one in 1749-1754 (the dismantled remains of the old church were then removed through the windows). The architect was Peter Harrison, of Newport, RI, considered to be America’s “first architect,” who modeled the Georgian-style building on those designed by James Gibbs in England, like St. Martin in the Fields in London, except the steeple of King’s Chapel was never built due to a lack of funds. When the British evacuated Boston during the Revolutionary War, there were few Anglican families remaining in town. James Freeman, a lay reader, became minister in 1783 and led Stone Chapel (as King’s Chapel had come to be called) to become America’s first Unitarian church in 1789 (although the congregation continued to follow a liturgy based on the Book of Common Prayer). That same year, George Washington attended an oratorio at the Chapel intended to raise funds for the construction of a portico of wood Ionic columns, painted to resemble stone. When the Chapel’s bell cracked in 1814, it was recast by Paul Revere. Both the Chapel and the adjacent King’s Chapel Burying Ground are on the Boston Freedom Trail.
Concord’s first church congregation was gathered in 1636 in Cambridge, with its first meetinghouse being constructed in Concord soon after (opposite the current church) on Lexington Road. This was replaced by the second meetinghouse, built between 1667 and 1673, and the third, built in 1711. This third church was rotated in 1741 to face the road, but burned down in 1900. It was therefore replaced by the current church, completed in 1901, which reproduced its predecessor as much as possible. During the ministry of Ezra Ripley (1778-1841), the congregation moved away from the traditional Puritan Calvinist doctrines and became Unitarian. Henry David Thoreau signed-off from membership in the church in 1841; his funeral services were later held there. Ralph Waldo Emerson affirmed his membership in 1865. Today, the First Parish in Concord is a Unitarian Universalist church.
Dr. William Ellery Channing was a leading Unitarian preacher and theologian, who was minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston from 1830-1842. Asher Benjamin designed the 1835 house at 83 Mount Vernon Street, on Boston’s Beacon Hill, where Channing and his family lived from 1835 until his death in 1842. Among the distinguished visitors at the house was Charles Dickens, who had breakfast with Channing in 1842. Dr. Channing’s nephew was William Ellery Channing, the Transcendentalist poet.