Abington, Mass. First Church

Collection History

The First Church in Abington called its first minister, Rev. Samuel Brown, in 1711. Prior to that call, the nascent congregation had been lead by layman Elder William Pratt, as a result of the largely agricultural community having been denied its petition for incorporation as a town by the General Court. Rev. Brown wasn't ordained until 1714, at which time the church records show eight male members (no female members are listed). Ten years later church membership had grown to 46. Eventually, the congregation grew large enough that it became feasible to establish three "daughter churches" in the Abington area. The First Church housed a Sunday school that was established in 1818 and is thought to be one of the oldest Sunday schools in the country.

The church's history reflects strong stances on political and social issues. In 1835, the congregation voted to declare slavery a sin, and became active in the abolitionist movement. A year later the church became a strong supporter of the temperance movement. The church also supported the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The church's support of missions continued into the 20th century. In 1968 First Church merged with North Congregational Church, formerly Fourth Church, and became United Church of Christ, Abington.

The records below include church records listing baptisms, marriages, and deaths, as well as meeting minutes. There are also two parish record books which also consist largely of meeting minutes. Also included are financial record books, and documentation regarding the infamous "Singing Controversy" and its effects on the congregation and town.

For more detail about this collection, please see the finding aid.

 

Digital Materials

Before accessing transcriptions, please read this Note on Transcription >

Church records, 1714-1749

These records consist primarily of deacon records and records of baptisms. Deacon records contain records of admissions to communion, deacon's acceptance and dismissals, and complaint hearings. Of particular note are records of ongoing discord relating to accusations of premarital sexual relations.

A full transcription of this volume is available.

 

Church records, 1750-1774

This bound record book contains the Church's covenant, member lists, meeting minutes, records of admissions and dismissions. and listings of baptisms.

 

Church records, 1779-1785

This small volume primarily contains church meeting minutes, as well as testimony in a disciplinary case of public drunkenness.

 

Church records, 1820-1822

This folder includes church meeting minutes, copies of correspondence, and material relating to allegations against Rev. Holland Weeks for Swedenborgianist heresy, and documents relating to the invitation of Rev. Samuel Spring to the ministry.

 

Church records, 1822-1831

This bound record book includes a chronicle of Church events, interspersed with meeting minutes, as well as admissions and dismissions. Several copies of correspondence are also included, and a listing of female members from 1829.

 

Financial records, 1808-1877

This volume contains the financial records for the church. These include meticulous records of both incoming and outgoing payments. Most of the financial transactions indicate the person involved in the payment, and specifics of services rendered.

 

Parish records, 1808-1852

This bound volume consists of parish meeting minutes for the First Parish in Abington, mainly dealing with topics such as church furnishings, the parsonage, and ministerial salary.

 

Parish records, 1812-1820

This volume of parish records contains parish meeting minutes and lists of admitted members. Of particular note are records relating to a motion to excommunicate Rev. Holland Weeks, who held Swedenborgian views.

 

Singing controversy, 1804-1807

This volume contains the records of a lengthy debate about choral singing in the church. The dispute was instigated when two choirs, hired by the church and the town respectively, both claimed the right to lead the singing. Each choir sang hymns to different tunes simultaneously, doubtless creating a discordant cacophany during the service. Debate continued for three years following the incident.

 

Special Thanks

The digital resource has been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

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January 24, 2019
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