UUAC Parish History

On Sunday, March 21, 2010, we celebrated our 325th Anniversary. Leading up to the celebration, we researched and revisited our history in the “Roots that Hold Us” Series (pdf) for an interesting historical perspective.

First Parish in Sherborn - Praying Indians

Worshippers have met on this spot continuously since 1685, when the First Parish in Sherborn was founded with the Reverend Daniel Gookin called as first minister. Reverend Gookin’s gravestone, recently discovered and restored, is now housed and displayed within the sanctuary. Along with John Eliot of Natick, Reverend Gookin also ministered to the local Natick Praying Indians, especially during the Nipmucs’ exile to Deer Island in the 17th Century during King Philips War.

UUAC - Sherborn's Minister Nathan Detering
UUAC-Sherborn’s Minister Nathan Detering reenacts a prayer service for the Minutemen in Lincoln, MA.

The present structure, the third on this site, was built in 1830 and is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Built in Greek Revival style, its dominant feature is its octagonal steeple, which blew off during a 1938 hurricane and was replaced as faithfully as possible in 1940.

When Unitarianism flowered in 19th century New England, the First Parish congregation claimed that faith in 1830, and a Trinitarian faction split away. In 1897, in nearby Natick, the Natick Unity Church was founded by Sarah Allen Cooney, its principal advocate of Unitarianism.

In 1967, the Natick church building was destroyed by fire. The Sherborn and Natick Unitarian Universalist churches merged in 1977, creating the church as we know it today.

Today, residents of area towns including Ashland, Dover, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, Natick and Sherborn come together to make a community. Our geographical distances shrink with the sharing of our faith.

Listen to an audio history of the First Parish UUAC in Sherborn, Mass. and the Eliot Church in Natick, Mass. and the Natick Praying Indian congregations, written and delivered by Don Peters.


Ministers of the First Parish in Sherborn

1685-1712 Daniel Gookin
1712-1731 Daniel Baker
1734-1758 Samuel Porter
1759-1770 Samuel Locke
1770-1816 Elijah Brown
1817-1830 Shearjashub Townsend
1830-1842 Amos Clarke
1842-1848 Richard Stone
1850-1853 John Fleming
1854-1863 Theodore Dorr
1863-1872 William Brown
1874-1875 Alfred E. Mullett
1876-1890 Eugene De Normandie
1890-1892 Francis P. S. Lamb
1893-1903 Leverett R. Daniels (also served in S. Natick)
1903-1914 Isaac F. Porter
1915-1917 William Ichabod Nichols
1917-1919 Isaac F. Porter
1919-1927 William D. Wilkie (also served in S. Natick)
1927-1930 Cicero Adolphus Henderson
1930-1931 Marshall Jones
1936-1938 William Billingham and Howard Matson (also served in S. Natick)
1938-1942 Marius McKarl Nielson (also served in S. Natick)
1942-1944 Waldemar Argow (also served in S. Natick)
First Parish and Pilgrim Church joined as The Federated Church of Sherborn
1945-1947 John K. Hammon
1947-1951 Verne Smith
1951-1953 Tristan Paul Knight
1953-1960 Gustave Leining
1960-1961 James Turner
Unitarian Church
1961-1962 James Hutchinson (interim)
1962-1967 John Skeirik
1967-1972 Joyce Smith
1972-1976 Glenn H. Turner (began sharing with Natick)
1976-1977 John Wood, interim, made Minister Emeritus
Unitarian Universalist Area Church
1977-1982 Deane Starr (consolidated with Natick, 1977)
1982 James Hobart (interim)
1983-1988 Patricia Bowen
1988 Robert Payson
1988-1989 Ray Baughan (interim)
1989-1990 Phyllis O’Connell (interim)
1991-2001 Rosemarie Smurzynski
2001-2003 Deborah Pope Lance (interim)
2003- Nathan Detering
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