Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Early Years 1842 to 1892: History of The Mount Vernon Church of Boston...Part One

This is part one of a brief history of the church lecture as prepared for the 125th anniversary celebrations held in May of 1967. The lecture was written and delivered by Mrs. Marjorie H. Gillette, the church historian for many years.


Mount Vernon Church has a wonderful heritage and through the years has spread its influence throughout the world.
At the time of our hundredth anniversary in 1942, there had been only six ministers of the church, When the church was founded in 1842, (125 years ago), Boston was a small city with a population of less than 124,000 inhabitants. Boston had long been distinguished as a center of culture and erudition. Charles Dickens who made his first visit to the city in 1842 wrote that Boston was what he would like "the whole United States to be". This period was spoken of as "The Flowering of New England." At this time such men as James Freeman Clark, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James T. Fields, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and John Greenleaf Whittier were all contributing to the educational uplift of this Boston area. Where our church now stands was a marshland. Beacon Hill was the fashionable, residential center.
At this time, the Reverend Edward Norris Kirk was a prominent evangelist and had conducted revivals in New York, Philadelphia, New Haven, and Boston. There was conflict in Boston between the Unitarian and old Congregational Trinitarian doctrines. Dr. Kirk came to Boston to preach at the Park Street Church. The religious people of greater Boston all came to hear him, and he preached to packed houses. Those who came to hear him said that he should have a church of his own. As a result of this idea, on December 16, 1841, a meeting of pastors and several lay brethren from the Orthodox Congregational Churches in this city was held at the house of Daniel Safford to consider the expediency of forming a new Orthodox Congregational Church, and Reverend Edward N. Kirk was invited to become its pastor. A committee of nine was appointed to discuss this plan from all angles. As a result of their meetings, the official call was sent to Dr. Kirk with persuasive eloquence. The committee emphasized the advantages of settling in Boston, "a city of such intelligence and wealth" that might be brought to the foot of the Cross and enlisted in the whole work of restoring a pure Gospel to the Old World"
This persuasion was effective and on May lst, 1842 it was announced, with great rejoicing, that Dr. Kirk had accepted the call. An Ecclesiastical Council was called. It sat in the vestry of Park Street Church on the morning of Wednesday, June 1, l842 when 47 members - 25 men including Dr. Kirk and 22 women were regularly organized into a church. At their own request, they had been dismissed from their respective churches.
The church held its first public religious service on June 5, 1842 in the Old South Chapel in Spring Lane, which was generously tendered for their use by the Old South Society. In June they started worshipping in the Lecture Roman of the Masonic Temple on Tremont Street. Here they held their services until December 31, 1843. The church building on Somerset Court (named Ashburton Place in 1845) was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God on January 4, 1844, just six months from the day the corner stone was laid, and Dr. Kirk preached the
dedication sermon an "The Unrivalled Glory of the Cross".
The Church was called the "New Congregational Church", until June 23, 1843 when the church voted to assume the name of “Mount Vernon Congregational Church”.
On September 7, 1843, the proprietors of the new church voted to organize them-
selves as a corporation under the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by the name of “The Mount Vernon Congregational Society”.
Dr. Kirk was minister of Mount Vernon Church from 1842 to 1874.

Part two will follow soon!

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