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This information was compiled by the Organization and Structure Committee which was formed by Rev. Wayne Shuttee in October, 1993.
The purpose is to educate the Congregation about the long and honored histories of the two individual Societies and gain a better understanding and appreciation of how and why the societies decided to consolidate.
Members of the committee were Rev. Wayne Shuttee, Dean Huggins, Joe Taylor, Arthur Wheelock, Pam Spencer, Julie Noonan and Tom Hunt.

 

 Church History (1668—1994)

Mendon Society: The Early Years

Mendon Church1668—Town of Mendon, for more than 150 years, consisted of a few families living in the clearing surrounded by hostile Native Americans.

John Rayner, First Minister, 1667

The First Meeting House—1668

January 1668, the town meeting ordered selectmen to have a meeting house erected, "upon the cheapest terms they can for the good of the town."

Joseph Emerson, Second Minister, 1669

The first 3 meeting houses were believed to have been built on "Founder's Park," a short distance from our present church at the intersection of Main Street and Milford Street. Joseph Emerson, who became the first minister of the town, received his ordination in the autumn of 1669. His salary was 20 pounds a year, but the people also erected a house for him, 40 acres of uncleared land, and 2 pounds of butter annually for every cow kept in place.

1675—the settlement of Mendon numbered about 25 families. Within a few years (1676) the settlement was destroyed by the Nipmuc tribe of Indians. Their dwellings and their meeting house were burned. Gradually the old settlers came back in considerable numbers around 1678. Rev. Emerson never returned; he died in Concord.

The Second Meeting House—1680

This meeting house probably stood on the location of the earlier one. It contained only rough seats.

Rev. Grindal Rawson was called to be their minister in 1684 at a salary of 20 pounds and board, with a horse to be kept for his use. He remained the minister of this church for 35 years until his death. The population increased rapidly after the re-establishment of the settlement. In 1690, the town had outgrown its meeting house, and voted to build a new one.

The Third Meeting House—1690

The Indians for the most part had been driven off and those that remained had become sufficiently civilized or demoralized to no longer constitute a menace. In 1709, the building was enlarged 10 feet in each direction.

The Rev. Joseph Dorr, the fourth minister, was settled in 1716 and remained here until his death in 1767—more than fifty years. It was a long, peaceful and prosperous ministry.

Joseph Willard, Fifth Minister, 1769

The Fourth Meeting House—1728

In 1728, talk of a fourth meeting house was begun. However it was not until 1737 that it was finally completed. There was a long controversy over its building, particularly its location. There were many town meetings and many votes and the controversy was bitter. At one meeting it was moved to build 2 meeting houses and let the minister preach in whichever one he wished. This vote was not carried.

Although the location had been determined after a long struggle, not everybody was satisfied. The dissatisfied element undertook to chop it down on the night after is was raised. Upon its completion pews were built and sold to individuals with "the elderly men who bore the greatest charge in the Town" having the first choice of space.

Caleb Alexander, Sixth Minister, 1786
Preserved Smith, Seventh Minister, 1805
Simon Doggett, Eighth Minister, 1816

 In 1820, the meeting house had become old-fashioned and unsuited to the people of a town like Mendon. It was out of repair. Its architecture was behind the times. It had no bell. It had no spire. Mendon was a community of exceedingly well-to-do citizens. They compared most favorable with those of any town in the county in refinement, intelligence, wealth and social standing.

The Fifth Meeting House—1819

The community had changed religiously too. The "learned Orthodox minister of good conversation" was becoming a Unitarian and in the latter part of 1819 they had definitely decided to build a new meeting house.

This was the 1st meeting house that was built by the parish as distinguished from the town. The money for the support of the minister and meeting house was raised by general taxation.

Two locations were considered. Elm Street, which runs by the church on the east had not been laid out. The lot had to be leveled, as we find in 1820, and bids were solicited for leveling the meeting house lot. The best bid that was received was $159. They voted to limit the sum to $130, so it is supposed that is what it cost. Undoubtedly the great elms now on the lot were set out at that time.

 A building committee was immediately selected. Elias Carter, a renowned architect, was chosen to design the church. A very carefully drawn subscription paper was prepared and subscriptions solicited from the members of the Parish. The response was prompt and the amounts subscribed were generous.

There were 43 subscribers totaling $6,460. Foundations having been laid, the lumber drawn and made into the frame, they were ready for the raising in May. The work progressed to completion during the summer. Undoubtedly the interior is practically as it was 100 years ago.

On November 29, 1820, it was voted to accept the meeting house as completed. The entire cost, including the bell, was $7,619.16. The bills were all paid from the subscriptions with a surplus left of $51.09.

The committee of the Parish had charge of the selling the old meeting house according to an extensive written report of their doings, dated October 9, 1843. And so passed the fourth meeting house about 1845.

Adin Ballou, Ninth Minister, 1831

Church Struck by Lightning—1936

On the evening of May 18, 1936, the Unitarian Church of Mendon was struck by lightning, and only by a seeming miracle was saved from being entirely destroyed by fire. Fortunately, with the exception of the ceiling, the interior of the main church was not seriously damaged. It is estimated that restoration cost $12,000. Funds in the amount of $4,550 were received from insurance. The townspeople also donated much to the rebuilding fund, even though the church was no longer part of the town government.

Uxbridge Society: The Early Years

Uxbridge ChurchThe town of Uxbridge, originally part of Mendon, incorporated June 27, 1727. The 1st church was gathered by the Rev. Joseph Dorr, Pastor of the Church of Christ in Mendon on January 6, 1730. It was a town church and the ministry was engaged and paid for by local government. It was situated on the common between the present Unitarian Church and the Congregational Church. Its 1st settled minister was Rev. Nathan Webb (1731—1772). It incorporated June 23, 1979, as the First Congregational Society.

During Rev. Samuel Judson's pastorate (1792—1832) the religious controversies of the early Nineteenth Century came to a head. In 1832, during the Unitarian controversy which split New England Congregationalism into 2 denominations, the conservative faction lead by Rev. Judson withdrew and organized the Evangelical Congregational Church.

The liberal group retained the church organization and property and called their 1st Unitarian minister, the Rev. Samuel Clark (1833—1859). It became necessary to remove the old meeting house and build a new house for public worship. Modeled after Gothic architecture of the Unitarian Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the present edifice was erected in 1834 on the same site occupied by the town's 1st meeting house, which was erected in 1729.

The new church (our present church) was dedicated on January 13, 1835. Major renovations were made in 1926, 1942, 1990 and again in 1992. The original building had balconies on 3 sides and had no center isle or box pews. The side balconies were removed and pews arranged as they are now. The Hook-Hastings electric organ was installed in 1926, given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Root in memory of her father, the Hon. Charles A. Wheelock.

The Unitarian Church developed a diversified congregation of whom many were brought in by Rev. Roy Wintersteen between 1922-1946. Most of the mill owners and bankers belonged to the church and gave much support. The high points of church activity were in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Membership grew up to 140 people and had large Sunday school enrollment. However, most of the mills had gone out of business by 1961 and families moved away, impacting the size of the Congregation. 

The Uxbridge church maintained a parsonage on North Main Street until 1977, at which time it was sold.

Uxbridge Church Chronology

April 1926

The Hook and Hastings organ was donated. $1,200 was given for pulpit furnishing.

December 1935

Treasurer reported a deficit of $1,000 and a list of members were divided among the members and "to approach the members of the church personally and to beg for money.

January 1948

Installed church heating system which cost $11,276.12. Church paid $5,000 and the other was contributed by an anonymous donor.

April 1950

Reported that there were 136 pledges.

January 1961

Reported that within 6 years time, 25 families had left town, 46 members had died, 30 members were added and 90 pledges were received.

March 1962

Fire alarm system was installed.

November 1962

Church was appraised at $124,402 including organ, windows and carpet.

1964

Reported 126 members and 85 pledges.

April 1966

New by-laws were adopted.

1988

New Furnace installed.

1990

Renovation of vestry and kitchen at a cost of $104,000.

1991

Reroofed southside of church

Recent History (through 1993) of the
Unitarian Congregation of Mendon and Uxbridge

By the 1970s these congregations were typical in a particular way. Having shared ministers for over fifty years, the 2 churches were slowly declining in membership. Sustainability became a serious question in both churches. Yet within both congregations was a desire not only to survive, but to seek growth. It was at this point that they took an unusual step into the future.

In 1978, the churches appointed an interim minister, Peter Denny, to help sort out the complex issues facing them. By agreement, the 2 congregations began meeting a single service on Sunday morning. For the previous 50 years, the shared ministers had held 2 Sunday services, 1st in Uxbridge, then in Mendon. The new combined services with attendant coffee hours and the dynamic work of the interim minister proved to be the single most important impetus to reviving these small churches. By the time the churches settled a permanent minister, John Gibbons, in 1980, the 2 parishes were beginning to function as a single congregation.

Early in the ministry of John Gibbons, a committee was formed by the 2 parish governing bodies charged with the task of examining the possibility of forming a single congregation. After months of discussion and intense debate that committee presented its recommendations to a special meeting of the 2 congregations.

Those recommendations were that 1) a consolidated congregation be formed out of the two existing ones, 2) that a new set of by-laws be drawn establishing a single entity with a singles set of committees including a new governing board, and 3) that both church building and charters be retained under the old parish structure.

At a combined annual meeting of both congregations in 1985 a plan was submitted and accepted which formed the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Mendon and Uxbridge. A tripartite structure was established consisting of the Congregation and 2 Societies.

The Congregation had responsibility for all church functions other than the buildings themselves. The 2 Societies had responsibility for the 2 buildings and for any endowed funds that had built up over the past.. In addition, there were certain financial arrangements agreed:

  1. All money presently pledged to either society shall automatically be pledged to the consolidated church.

  2. All money presently derived from fund raising by either society shall be assigned to the consolidated church.

  3. In an effort to have each Society responsible for 50% of the consolidated budget, the Uxbridge Society shall contribute 75% of the net income of their invested funds, paid quarterly to the church treasurer.

  4. Current church budgets voted at the annual meetings of both Societies for fiscal 1984-1985 and projected sources of income.

In addition, the Uxbridge church, having the larger endowment and numerically smaller congregation, agreed to provide a portion of its annual endowment income to support the annual budget of the newly formed Congregation.

These efforts over several years set the stage for the growth of the Mendon and Uxbridge congregation enjoyed over the past decade. They were no longer 2 small local parishes, but had reached out to the larger community of the Blackstone Valley. The Congregation was now drawing from all the surrounding communities: Milford, Hopedale, Upton, Sutton, Blackstone, Whitinsville/Northbridge and Woonsocket, RI.

As the Congregation increased in numbers, it became more active, both within itself and in the larger community. For the 1st rime, a minister (John Gibbons) was given sabbatical. More committees were formed. Among these was the Social Action Forum which as a product of their activities created the Adin Ballou Lectureship on Peace and Justice.

The Lectureship was an annual event in which a prominent person was invited to speak. The speakers have included Daniel Berrigan, Prof. Howard Zinn and Bernie Sanders. Members of our Congregation were among the 1st in the UUA to use the "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" curriculum. Two members of this women's group participated in the national training to help others to use this material. Active musicians among us have held coffeehouse evenings in the Uxbridge vestry. Renovations have been undertaken in both church buildings, providing handicap access in Mendon and making the Uxbridge vestry a more usable modern space.

In addition to congregational activities, our buildings are used for community activities. Among these, some are notable: support group meetings such as ACOA, young peoples AA, unemployed people, lesbian support, AIDS outreach, feminist lecture series, antinuclear activities a food co-op, a movement and music series; a handicap discussion series. We have also held UU district meetings and UU youth group activities.

Thus, in recent years these 2 small churches have transformed themselves. What was once small and homogeneous is now growing and diverse.

And in this diversity that both marvel and encourage us as a Congregation. We have been willing to grow. We have been willing to accept many new members and friends who represent differences. Our willingness to accept diversity has become our greatest asset from our recent history for it waas ensured a future that will be complex and challenging.

In June of 1990, John Gibbons announced that he was leaving to pursue a ministry in Bedford, Massachusetts. This was a serious blow to the Congregation as John had come to represent comfort and stability to the Congregation. He was popular both with the elder members as well as the newer members.

An interim minister, Marilyn Magnussen, was brought in while a search committee began the task of finding a replacement for John.In September, 1991, Rev. Cynthia Chetwynd was hired as the new minister.

Rev. Wayne Shuttee was hired during the summer of 1993 and he began the task of rebuilding a congregation which had endured hardship during the previous years.

In May of 2013 the Uxbridge building was sold.

 

The Ministers

Mendon
 

1667

John Rayner

1669

Joseph Emerson

1684

Grindal Rawson

1716

Joseph Dorr

1769

Joseph Willard

1786

Caleb Alexander

1805

Preserved Smith

1816

Simon Doggett

1831

Adin Ballou

1843

Linus H. Shaw

1848

George M. Rice

1850

George C. Channing

1851

William N. Kinsley

1853

Robert Hassall

1856

Stillman Barber

1863

William Tate Phelan

1866

Richard Coleman

1868

David P. Lindsey

1871

George F. Clarke

1884

Aaron Porter

1885

James Sallaway

1888

Walter Pierce

1889

C.A. Young

1890

Lewis G. Wilson

1898

J. Frederick Meyer

1900

Napolean S. Hoalgland

1903-1920

Supply Ministers

1920-1945

Combined Ministers

1945

Raymond Sabin

1949

Truman Hayes

1953

John Agnew

   
Uxbridge
 

1730

Nathan Webb

1774

Hezekiah Chapman

1783

Josiah Spaulding

1792

Samuel Judson

1833

Samuel Clark

1860

C.T. Canfield

1862

Rushton D. Burr

1869

Samuel R. Priest

1872

James T. Lusk

1875

George Bremner

1884

L.M. Burrington

1887

W.G.R. Mellon

1891

Pitt Killingham

1983

Cyrus R. Roys

1911

A. Foster

1920-1945

Combined Ministers

1945

Howard Smith

   
Mendon-Uxbridge Ministers

1920

John Nichol Mark

1922

Roy B. Wintersteen

1945-1955

Separate Ministers

1955

Hvezdon Kafka

1961

William Killam

1966

Henry G. Cooper

1978

Peter W. Denny

1980

John E. Gibbons

1990-1991

Marilyn Magnussen

1991-1993

Cynthia Frado Chetwynd

1993-1995

Wayne Shuttee

1995-1996

John C. Agnew

1996-2000

Judith Brown Osgood

2000-2003

Ralph Galen

2005-Present

Ralph T. Clarke

   

Page last updated: 12/9/13


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