• HPC acquires Witness Wood® from Boston's Old South Church

    HPC has secure a small piece of original 1875 construction Witness Wood® from Old South Church in Boston from the estate of a private collection.

    Standing at the northwest corner of Copley Square, Old South Church is an outstanding and colorful example of Northern Italian Gothic architecture, advocated in the 1850s by the English architectural critic John Ruskin. This National Historic Landmark building is an unusually ornate design for a New England Congregational church. It radiates the opulent taste and the sense of optimism and progress of the Industrial Revolution following the Civil War. The building, formally known as the “New” Old South Church, is the third home of the congregation, which was gathered in 1669. The building was completed in 1875, and is distinguished by its tall bell tower; brown, pink and grey stonework; walls of Roxbury puddingstone; decorative carvings; its polychromatic roof of red and black slate tiles; and its copper cupola or lantern.

    Famous personages related to Old South Church include the following: Our first minister, Rev. Thomas Thacher who, during an outbreak of the small pox and measles, published in 1677 a useful medical broadside, said to be the first “patient information brochure” in the colonies. Samuel Sewall was a  judge and diarist. In 1697 at the Cedar Meeting House (Old South’s first building), Sewall publicly recanted the error of his rulings as one of the nine Salem witch trial judges who in 1692 condemned so-called witches to death. Sewall went on to publish in 1700 the first anti-slavery tract on this soil, The Selling of Joseph. In this work he argued strongly against slavery making him one of the earliest colonial abolitionists. Moreover, his 1725 essay, “Talitha Cumi” refers to the right of women. In 1717, Sewall was appointed chief justice of Massachusetts. The Old South congregation baptized Benjamin Franklin on the day he was born in 1706 and his family members were prominent leaders. Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published black poetess, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step ashore at Plymouth in 1620, were members of this church. So, too, were Samuel Adams, revolutionary and patriot, William Dawes who rode with Paul Revere, and Thomas Prince, book collector.

    Origins of the Congregation

    The Old South Church congregation is a descendant of the fusion between separatist and dissenting Pilgrims, Puritan reformers, and Bay Colony merchant adventurers, who left England in the 17th century, some to escape persecution, and others to forge a more  prosperous life in the New World. The congregation (initially called the Third Church in Boston) was born in controversy in 1669 over the question of baptism. Both the First and the Second Church in Boston were headed by ministers who opposed the “Halfway Covenant” of 1662. These ministers required that baptized adults have a regeneration experience of God (a born again experience) before they could have their own children baptized.

    Twenty-eight lay members of the First Church seceded and founded this congregation in the belief, consistent with the Halfway Covenant, that childhood baptism should assure young adults that they would be full members and could baptize their children, who in turn should automatically be members as adults.

    The founders of Old South understood themselves to be a priesthood of all believers, related to God solely through Christ and justified by grace through faith. Their covenant stated “We…being called of God to join together into a Church…do in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, trusting only in his grace and help, solemnly bind ourselves together as in the presence of God, constantly to walk together as a Church of Christ…. We give up ourselves and our offspring…unto our Lord Jesus Christ as the only mediator, our only spiritual head.” In the early 19th century, this congregation, under the leadership of ministers Joseph Eckley, Joshua Huntington and Benjamin Wisner, again went against the prevailing congregational theology of the day, and resisted becoming Unitarian. Old South Church was in fact the only congregational church in Boston to remain Trinitarian during the Unitarian movement, and to continue worshiping God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today this Trinity is expressed as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

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