First Church, Unitarian

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  • The First Church Unitarian, considered the oldest continuous Protestant congregation in America, was established in 1629.
  • Between 1635-1673 the First Church congregation gathered for worship in a succession of meeting houses on or near the former Daniel Low building in Town House Square.
  • The church was organized after the arrival of Rev. Francis Higginson & Rev. Samuel Skelton with about 80 followers in 1629.
  • The present church edifice at 316 Essex Street built in 1836, was designed by Boston architect Gridley J.F. Bryant.
  • The church celebrated its 375th anniversary Aug. 7, 2004.
  • Some of its famous past church members include: Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey, Elizabeth Peabody (opened America's first Kindergarten), Leverett Saltonstall (first mayor of Salem), George Parker (Parker Brother's Games founder).
  • The pipe organ of the church was made by Hook and Hastings of Boston and set up in 1882.
  • The church is known for its many beautiful stained glass windows. The two windows in the back of the Sanctuary are from the Childrens' Chapel of the Second Church in Salem, which merged with the First Church. The symbols depict the writers of the first four gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. "Christ the Teacher" is a contemporary window by Reynolds given by the Parker family (of Parker Games fame.)
  • The First Church sold some of its silver pieces through Christie's auction house in January of 2007, netting funds for needed church repairs.
  • The church reopened in the summer of 2012 with a new addition, featuring an elevator and many new renovations to the existing space.
  • The long-time minister Jeff Barz-Snell has announced he is leaving for a church in Weston summer of 2018.
  • In May 2019, the First Church has hired Elizabeth Ide, a 37 year old minister from Charlottesville, Virginia, their first female pastor.

See Also

  • Vertical File in Salem Collection - Churches
  • Records of the First Church Salem, Massachusetts, 1629-1736 Essex Institute, 1974.
  • "Saga a reflection of religious turmoil in pre-Revolution Salem"Salem News, May 7, 2007, p.C7
  • "Salem church, oldest in America, turns 375" Salem News, Aug. 7, 2004, p.1
  • First Church Unitarian Church website
  • Architecture in Salem by Bryan F. Tolles Jr., p.178-9
  • First Meeting House Erected in Salem Historical Markers Database
  • "Bidders take shine to First Church silver" Salem News, Jan. 19, 2007.
  • Historical Sketch of Salem by Charles S. Osgood, p. 79-84.
  • "A dramatic new look for an old church; Salem parish reopens after $1.8 M face lift" Salem News, May 18, 2012, p. 1
  • "A spiritual transformation; First Church gets face-lift with paint job, new lighting" Salem News, Aug. 29, 2012, p. 1
  • "First Church minister tapped to lead Weston parish." Salem News, June 26, 2018, p. 1
  • "Congregation elects its first female pastor" Salem News, May 22, 2019, p. ?