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The Church in Harvard Square: The Great Controversy

The Great Controversy

Controversy Between the First Parish in Cambridge and the Rev. Dr. Holmes, Their Late Pastor

Controversy between the First Parish in Cambridge and the Rev. Dr. Holmes (1829). (Title page transcription)

Abiel Holmes was both minister of the Church of Christ in Cambridge and the “public teacher of piety, religion, and morality” of the First Parish in Cambridge. Unhappily, he lived at a time when it was proving no longer possible to serve acceptably in both capacities. The communicant members of the church tended to be theologically conservative, or “orthodox”. The inhabitants of the territorial parish were much more diverse in their theology, and included many who had abandoned Calvinist doctrine. The crisis came in 1827, when Holmes adopted a policy of refusing to exchange with any but orthodox ministers. This departure form long-established tradition narrowed the preaching to one theological position. After vainly trying to persuade Holmes to return to his earlier practice, the Parish dismissed Holmes as its “public teacher” of religion. The Parish warrants reproduced here show the escalation of the controversy, from a request to exchange as before, to a request for a younger (and presumably more liberal) Colleague, to a request for a council to recommend as to dismissal.

These notices were tacked to the doors of the Meeting House. From the First Parish in Cambridge Archives.

These notices were tacked to up in the doors of the Meeting House. From the First Parish in Cambridge Archives. (Transcription)


Back ^ Title page of Controversy between the First Parish in Cambridge and the Rev. Dr. Holmes (1829)

Controversy between the First Parish in Cambridge and the Rev. Dr. Holmes, their Late Pastor.

Published by the Parish Committee. Cambridge: Printed by E.W. Metcalf and Company, 1829.


Back ^ Parish notices from the First Parish in Cambridge Archives

Parish Notice.

The inhabitants of the First Parish in Cambridge qualified to vote in parish affairs are hereby notified to assemble at the Courthouse in said Parish on Monday, the seventh day of January next, a 2 o’clock P.M. to act on the following articles viz.

1. To see if the Parish will by vote request the Rev. Dr. Holmes, the Pastor of said parish, to exchange a reasonable proportion of the time with such respectable clergymen of the liberal denomination, as are now Pastors of the religious society in this parish has been associated.

2. To see if the Parish will vote to request the Rev. Dr. Holmes to reject Dr. Watts’s Psalms and Hymns now used in our meetinghouse, and to substitute therefor and to use the collection of Psalms and Hymns now used in the Chapel of Harvard University.

3. To see if the Parish (if the last mentioned collection of psalms and Hymns should be substituted as aforesaid) will authorize the Parish Committee , at the expense of the Parish, to purchase an adequate number of the same to supply the Rev. Dr. Holmes and the singing seats, and any poor parishioners who are unable to purchase.

4. To see if said Parish will by vote invite such respectable clergymen of the liberal denomination, as now Pastors of the religious societies, with which the religious society in this Parish has been heretofore associated, to preach in the meetinghouse of this Parish, at such times as shall not interfere with any parochial religious exercises now established and held in said meetinghouse, and will appoint a committee to present the vote containing such invitation to said clergymen in behalf of said Parish; and if such invitation be accepted, to appoint and agree upon the times for their preaching in said meetinghouse, and to make the same known to the inhabitants of said Parish, and to make all necessary and convenient arrangements therefore.

5. To do any other business which the parish may think necessary or expedient

By order of the Parish Committee.
Cambridge. Dec. 22, 1827
ROYAL MORSE, Constable.

Parish Meeting.

The freeholders and other inhabitants of the First Parish in Cambridge, qualified to vote in Parish affairs, are hereby notified to assemble at the Court House in said Parish, on Saturday, the 5th day of April next, at 2 o’clock, P.M.

1. To choose a Moderator for said meeting.

2. To see, if said Parish will, by vote, request the Rev. Doct. Holmes, the Pastor of said Parish, to consent to the election and settlement by said Parish of such a colleague, as shall be satisfactory to said Parish, to co-operate with him, in the performance of the duties of a public teacher of piety, religion and morality in said Parish.

3. To see, if said Parish will vote to request the Rev. Doct. Holmes, the Pastor of said Parish, to assent to an invitation by said Parish to such clergymen, as they may elect to invite to preach in the meeting house of said Parish, on the Sabbath, not exceeding one half the time.

4. To see, if the said Parish will vote to request the Rev. Doct. Holmes, the Pastor of said Parish, to assent to an invitation by said Parish to any clergymen, whom they may elect to invite to deliver lectures in the pulpit of the meeting house in said Parish, at such times as the said Parish may appoint.

5. To see, if the said Parish will appoint a Committee to present to the Rev. Doct. Holmes, a copy of record of the doings of said meeting, and to request his answer thereto, with power to treat with him on any incidental questions, which may arise.

6. To take any other measures in relation to the subject-matter of the preceding articles, which the Parish may deem lawful and expedient.

By order of the Parish Committee.
Cambridge, March 29th, 1828.
ROYAL MORSE, Constable.

PARISH MEETING

The freeholders and other inhabitants of the First Parish in Cambridge, qualified to vote in Parish affairs, are hereby notified to assemble at the Court House in said Parish, on Saturday the seventeenth day of May current, at 2 o’clock P.M. to act on the following subjects, to wit.

1. To choose a moderator for said meeting.

2. To hear the communication form the Rev. Dr. Holmes, in relation to the votes of said Parish of the fifth of April last and act thereon as may be deemed lawful and expedient.

3. To request the Rev. Dr. Holmes to discontinue the public evening lectures in the meetinghouse of said Parish, and in said Parish, by clergymen of the Calvinistic denomination.

4. To request the Rev. Dr. Holmes to discontinue his exchanges with clergymen of said denomination.

5. To see if said Parish will vote to request the Rev. Dr. Holmes, in case he shall not comply with the requests in the preceding articles, to ask a dismissal from his office of Pastor of said Parish.

6. To see if said Parish will appoint a Committee to receive the answer of the Rev. Dr. Holmes to the proceedings of said meeting, with authority to confer with him, should he desire such conference, in relation to the subject matter of said articles and of the acts of said Parish in reference to the same.

By order of the Parish Committee.
Cambridge, May 8, 1828.
ROYAL MORSE, Constable

Parish Notice.

The freeholders and other inhabitants of the First Parish in the town of Cambridge, qualified to vote in parish affairs, are hereby notified to meet at the Court House in said parish, on Monday, the 22d day of December inst., at half past 2 o’clock, P.M., to act on the following articles :—

1. To choose a moderator of said meeting.

2. To hear the answer of the Rev. Dr. Holmes, the Pastor of said parish, to the votes passed by said parish, on the 17th day of May, AD 1828, and act in relation thereto as they may deem expedient.

3. To see if said parish will appoint a committee, to propose to the Rev. Dr. Holmes, to unite with them in calling a mutual Ecclesiastical Council, to advise in relation to all differences and matters in controversy, existing between him and said parish, with authority to represent said parish before such council, and to adopt and pursue all suitable and legal measures, in relation to a settlement of said difficulties, or dissolution of the connexion existing between the said Holmes and said parish.

4. To see if said parish will authorize and direct said committee, in case the Rev. Dr. Holmes shall not accede to such proposition for a mutual Ecclesiastical Council, forwith to proceed to the choice of an ex parte council, for the purpose aforesaid, and to prepare and lay before the same, such articles of charge or causes of complaint as they may deem lawful and expedient, and to appear and act before said council, in behalf of said parish.

5. To adopt any other measures, in relation to the subject matter of the foregoing articles, or to the difficulties subsisting between the Rev. Dr. Holmes and said parish, as they may deem proper.
By order of the Parish Committee.

Cambridge, Dec. 11, 1828.
ROYAL MORSE, Constable

Series Navigation<< The Church in Harvard Square: The Reverend Mr. HolmesThe Church in Harvard Square: The Parish Becomes Unitarian >>
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Categories: Cambridge & Harvard, Congregational Polity

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