Old North Church, formally the First Church of Christ Marblehead, was organized in 1635 by fishermen and mariners who sought permission to form an ecclesiastical society in order to relieve them of the burden of travel to Salem in order to receive church sacraments and participate in civil affairs. They met in homes until 1638 when a barn-like meeting house was constructed upon a rocky hill overlooking the ocean.
Lay-led Sabbath services were held every Sabbath until the Rev. Samuel Cheever, an ordained clergyman was called and settled in 1668 (the first pastor, the Rev. John Avery, was called in 1635, but perished, along with his family, in a shipwreck off Gloucester on his way to take up his call.
In 1684, under the guidance of the Rev. Cheever the settlers received permission from the First Church in Salem to become a separate ecclesiastical society. In 1695 the First Church of Christ in Marblehead moved into a new structure on Franklin Street. This structure also served as a meeting place for townspeople. A schoolhouse was built with materials from the old structure. The Rev. John Barnard served the First Church from 1715-1770, a period that encompasses a time improving fortunes for townspeople from cod fishing and overseas merchant trade. Parson Barnard was a widely influential preacher whose pulpit Bible, a gift from his brother, remains on the Old North Church pulpit to this day.
Fifty years later, with a gift from the Honorable William Reed the congregation purchased a lot of land on Washington Street and in 1824 dedicated a newly completed meetinghouse where we have worshipped ever since. From its very beginning, Old North Church has been at the ready to serve the community of Marblehead and the wider world in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ. In 1943 the congregation formally incorporated and adopted bylaws, and in 1964 affiliated with the United Church of Christ. In 2008, the congregation voted to become an Open and Affirming congregation, bearing witness to our determination to welcome all who would come to join us in our effort to offer the radical hospitality Jesus offered.
For more about the history of Old North Church and its role in Marblehead, please see UNDER THE GOLDEN COD: A SHARED HISTORY OF OLD NORTH CHURCH AND THE TOWN OF MARBLEHEAD, MASSACHUSETTS, 1635-1985, Phoenix Publishing, Canaan, New Hampshire, 1984.
To learn more about the United Church of Christ, its history and traditions, and view its Statement of Faith please visit its web site at http://www.ucc.org.