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The Church in Harvard Square: The Eighteenth Century

The Eighteenth Century

Nathaniel Appleton (1693-1784) was minister of the Cambridge church for 67 years, from 1717… until his death. Because of the increase of population, the section of Cambridge known as Menotomy (now Arlington) was given the status of a religious precinct in 1732; the remaining part then became the First Parish.…

The Church in Harvard Square: Move Toward Independence

Move Toward Independence

The Fourth Meeting House was erected in 1756 on land now part of the College Yard, where Lehman Hall stands. The pulpit was in the middle of the long north wall, and most of the floor was divided into box pews.…

The Church in Harvard Square: The Reverend Mr. Holmes

The Reverend Mr. Holmes

Abiel Holmes (1763-1837), a native of Connecticut and a Yale graduate, was installed as minister of the Cambridge church and parish in 1792. A moderate Calvinist, his relationships with the liberal ministers of the Boston area were cordial until late in life when, under pressure from his evangelical colleagues, he adopted a policy of refusing to exchange pulpits with the liberal Christians.…

The Church in Harvard Square: The Great Controversy

The Great Controversy

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 Church in Harvard Square: The Parish Becomes Unitarian

The Parish Becomes Unitarian

William Newell (1804-1881) was a minister for thirty-eight years, from 1830 to 1868. In 1833 an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth abolished the old system of taxation for the support of public worship. The First Parish was no longer a territorial parish, with power to assess all inhabitants not supporters of such recognized religious groups as the Episcopalians, Baptists, Universalists, or Catholics.…

The Church in Harvard Square: A New Meeting House

A New Meeting House

When the fifth meeting house was built in 1833, the expense was met by the sale of pews. Since Harvard College had contributed to the cost of the fourth meeting house in exchange for pews in the gallery and the use of the building for Commencement and similar occasions, an equivalent arrangement was worked out for the new building.…

The Church in Harvard Square: Defining Social Ethics

Defining Social Ethics

To the doctrine of horizon as applied to industrial affairs must be added the Christian doctrine of industrial progress. Jesus not only surveys the world of business from above, but approaches it from within. His method begins with the individual.…

The Church in Harvard Square: The Fifth Meeting House

The Fifth Meeting House

The architect of the fifth meeting house was Isaiah Rogers. An early example of wooden, or “carpenter” Gothic, it was never truly a Gothic building, but was rather a New England meeting house with Gothic ornamentation. The square shape of the auditorium and the focus on the pulpit emphasize the spoken word, in the Puritan tradition, rather than liturgical worship, for which Gothic is appropriate.…

The Church in Harvard Square: For an Industrial Society

For an Industrial Society

Samuel McChord Crothers (1857-1927) was well known in his own days as the author of familiar essays, often appearing in the Atlantic Monthly, in which he treated human foibles with a gentle, humorous touch. His parishioners saw another side of him — the religious thinker who knew how to take old dogmas and discover what of value still remained in them; a preacher of singular elevation of thought; the leader of a congregation who encouraged his people in social welfare projects so subtly, that they hardly knew what had moved them; the pastor “who, when a mother was dead, said oh, so very little, but just the right thing”.…

The Church in Harvard Square: Architectural Evolution

Architectural Evolution

In the 1890s, the Parish seriously considered replacing the fifth meeting house with a new building. Authorization was given for the solicitation of funds for the purpose. But soon disagreements surfaced as to the architectural style to be adopted, and the Parish divided into a stone Gothic faction and a brick Colonial faction.…