Come see Rev. Ralph Waldo Emerson's pulpit.
A Brief History of Our Church
Read exciting details about the founding of Billerica in this recently rediscovered and scanned copy of:
An Historical Memoir of Billerica, in Massachusetts Containing Notices of the Principle Events in the Civil and Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Town, From it's First Settlement to 1816.
The "Shawshin Wilderness" was first settled in 1653, and its inhabitants recognized as the Town of Billerica in 1655.
1658 - 1663
Samuel Whiting, Jr., was called as their first minister in 1658. The first meeting house was built in 1659. But the church could not be formally organized and its minister ordained until approval of the "Half-Way Covenant" in 1663. "Unity or diversity" characterized our beginning.
Separation of church and state was guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution.
George Washington was President - the country grew, and so did families in the meeting house. In 1797, "a new and more commodious meeting house was found necessary and was erected." The fourth meeting house was built. At that time, Dr. Henry Cumings was pastor.
The American Unitarian Association was founded.
The "First Church" existed alone in the Town of Billerica for 165 years.
The meeting house was renovated by adding the Greek Portico and interior fittings, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson's pulpit; and the house was turned 90 degrees to face the east (this was done by jacking up the building, setting it gently on a large cannon ball, and carefully pivoting it until it faced east).
1967 - 1970
Our First Parish Church was destroyed by fire two days after Christmas. Many Billerica and area residents and businesses contributed generously to the rebuilding of our church, and on November 22, 1970, the fifth and present church building was dedicated.
May 18, 1997
A Tree Planting Dedication Ceremony was held by the First Parish Church to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the erection of the fourth Meeting House on the current site of the church.
First Parish Church is recognized as a Welcoming Congregation.
The Meeting House becomes accessible to all people with a new lift. First Parish celebrates its 350th anniversary in Billerica.
The lift is upgraded to keyless operation.
Key Dates in the History of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Geneva, Switzerland - Michael Servetus is burned at the stake for his heretical belief in the oneness of God.
Torda, Transylvania - Unitarian king Sigismund decrees a law granting people greater freedom of religion. Francis David organizes Unitarian congregations.
London, England - James Relly organizes a Universalist Church based on salvation for all people, instead of heaven for some and hell for others.
Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey - John Murray preaches his message of Universalism on the shores of North America -- that people must live in harmony, in the example set by Jesus.
Northumberland, Pennsylvania - English chemist Joseph Priestley, his laboratory burned because of his religious beliefs, comes to the New World and founds a Unitarian Church in Pennsylvania.
Montreal, Canada - The first Unitarian Church in Canada is founded.
North America (U.S. and Canada) - Unitarians and Universalists merge to form a liberal religious association.