The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 16, 2008


Exhibit celebrates 250th year of town’s Meeting House

Reverend Paul Litchfield used this mid-18th century pewter communion set in FRS services. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

A gift of land by Carlisle resident Timothy Wilkins in 1758 enabled his fellow residents of the district of Carlisle (founded in 1751) to build their own Meeting House “for the Public worship of God and other public uses.” It became known as the First Religious Society (FRS), and it enabled residents who had previously traveled to Concord to attend church services to remain in Carlisle.

The first settled minister, Reverend Paul Litchfield, arrived in 1781 and was paid by the town at the beginning of his ministry. He remained in his pulpit until his death in 1827.

“In fact if you want to be correct about it, the Congregational Church should be celebrating 250 years too,” says Ellen Huber, a contributor to the First Religious Society history exhibition on display at the Gleason Library for the month of May. “It’s not at the same site, but they’ve been here 250 years also.”

The first minister at the First Religious Society was not a Unitarian, explained Huber, because the FRS congregation did not begin contributing to the Unitarian Association until 1875. The congregation split into two churches in 1828 due to a disagreement over FRS’s hiring of a minister described as “liberal” by Huber.

A wide vaiety of displays

In addition to Huber, contributors to the FRS 250th exhibition include Alan Cameron, Roger Goulet, Susan Emmons, Eva and Terry Herndon, and Helen Lyons. The displays contain the following:

• Oil painting of the church by Clara Straight (donated to the FRS by Janet Lovejoy)
• Watercolor by Roger Goulet (on loan from Marianne Morsilli McCarthy)
• Framed photographs of the FRS building, Town Common celebrations, and personalities
• Artifacts, including chalices, record books, t-shirts, and recent photographs
• Pewter beaker and communion set
• Foot warmer
• List of ministers and portraits by Tim Morse of four recent ministers
• Scrapbook of past Mosquito articles about FRS activity (1972-1983)
• Banner created for parade at national UU annual meeting celebrated in Boston in 2003
• Photos of award-winning quilt designed and made by FRS women
• Melodeon, a reed instrument (on loan from the Carlisle Historical Society)

A town-wide celebration

The FRS has celebrated the 250th anniversary all year and all residents received an announcement and invitation to the events. Each week at the FRS the Sunday service features a “250th minute” when people share various aspects of the church over the 250 years, including such things as the color (a straw shade) of the building in 1811, the Laymen’s League men’s group founded in 1924, and historical tidbits about the Reverend Litchfield. The FRS celebration will culminate with a reunion weekend in June attended by former ministers and church members. After the service on Sunday, June 8, the FRS will host a celebration at the church, open to the entire community. The church bell will ring 250 times.

“Over the past 15 or 20 years, our association with the Unitarian Universalist Association has grown stronger,” says Huber, “but we still very much view ourselves as a church that wants to be an active part of this community.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito