This data was last updated on 3 July 2018.
History: The First Church in Boston has historically been committed to diversity, no matter race, age, economic status, class, creedal lines, and is committed to fostering independent spirits and a friendly community. It was established on July 30, 1630 by John Winthrop and others. It was originally a manifestation of the Protestant Reformation, and didn’t conform to the authoritarian control of the Anglican church. In the mid 19th century, it became a Unitarian church as the result of the Transcendentalist movement. During the mid 20th century, it became a Unitarian Universalist church when the denominations joined together. After a devastating fire in 1968, it was rebuilt into the building that now stands today. Throughout the past 375 years, six different congregations have joined the church. More information on the history of the First Church of Boston can be found on their website.
Demographics: There are approximately 300 members of the First Church in Boston. Ages of members range from young children and infants to adults in their nineties. Members are predominantly from downtown Boston and surrounding suburbs. They have a diverse congregation, but like my Unitarian Universalist congregations, they historically and demographically draw from white upper middle class populations. Reflecting their long history of support for LGBTQ rights, they have a strong LGBTQ community within the church. The congregation is made up of people from many different religious backgrounds, including Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Humanist faiths.
Description: Designed by architect Paul Rudolph, the church has a distinctive architecture and looks unlike any church in the downtown Boston area. It was built in the 1970s, and therefore reflects that distinctive history with a modernist look.
Activities and Schedule: They regularly meet every Sunday morning at 11:00 AM for services. Live services are aired on Emerson Radio WERS 88.9 FM. They have a music director and a professional 12-voice ensemble who provide the music for the services. They welcome a wide range of visiting musicians, including jazz, Celtic, folk, blues, authentic Chinese, Turkish Sufi, and Native American flute music. The church hosts many concerts throughout the year. The Sanctuary Boston, which is a new spiritual community grounded in Unitarian Universalism and shaped by the diverse traditions and backgrounds of the members, meets at the First Church in Boston. Sanctuary workshops and sanctuary small groups meet twice monthly to discuss difficult decisions, work life, and other topics. These small groups exist to help create community and aim to create environments where people feel comfortable to share their everyday experiences. In addition to Sanctuary small groups, there are also other small groups including the Learning Community Speaker Series, Artist’s Talk, Book Group, Soul Matters Sharing Circles. Soul Matters Sharing Circle occurs monthly, in which members of the congregation gather to share stories from their daily lives. This group aims to create a circle of trust among members of the congregation, and to create a space in which members listen to each other and create a sense of mutual support and understanding. Additionally, they have the World of Wonder program for children ages 4-8 during the second half of every service.
Outreach, Social Justice, and Interfaith Activity: A committee called the Social Justice Community organizes events and efforts to build community as well as work on social justice issues. They are partnered with many organizations including the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, the UU Urban Ministry, Jericho Road Roxbury, UUMass Action, the Boston New Sanctuary Movement, and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. They are heavily involved with LGBTQ rights activism in the Boston area. Additionally, they hold classes focusing on Non-Violent Communication. In addition to being a faith community, they serve as a community arts center in downtown Boston. They support many community arts, theater and music groups by providing space for theater productions and musical performances.
Leadership: The Standing Committee is comprised of twelve members. Each member is elected for a three year term by the congregation. The elections are staggered; four members are elected each year. Additionally, the church is led by the Treasurer of the Society, the Senior Minister, the Consulting Minister, the Director of Operations, and the Chairperson of the Trustees. The Standing Committee is in charge of overseeing outreach and worship policies and operations of the church.