History of First Church
First Church was the first church in Jamaica Plain. Our religious society was organized in the colonial town of Roxbury to meet the needs of the growing settlement on the “Pond Plain.” Roxbury at the time extended to the Dedham line, and this new “Third Parish in Roxbury” was carved out of the two existing parishes, Second Parish to the west and the original First Parish to the east, with its church on Fort Hill.
Parish boundaries defined precincts
In colonial Massachusetts (which had been founded as a Puritan theocracy), setting parish boundaries also defined the precinct that became known as the community of Jamaica Plain. Even the Jamaica Plain minutemen who fought in the Revolutionary War are commemorated as the soldiers of the “Third Parish in Roxbury” on the plaque by the monument.
Our church was the only church in Jamaica Plain until 1841. During this time, especially during the able pastorate of The Reverend Thomas Gray (who served 50 years), the congregation grew and was not disturbed by the Unitarian controversy that split so many congregations descended from the old Puritan order. By the end of his ministry, The Reverend Gray was referring to his church as “the Unitarian Church in Jamaica Plain.”
Photo courtesy of Troy B Thompson Photography:
Present building erected in 1853
In 1851, upper Roxbury seceded to form the Town of West Roxbury with its downtown in the more populous Jamaica Plain, and in 1853, the wooden church building was replaced by today’s stone church facing Town Hall (Curtis Hall).
The congregation was large and active for another hundred years, but during the late 1960′s, it dwindled and for 14 years went without a minister. The pulpit was filled by visiting ministers and students. Then a group of younger people started coming, and by 1983 the congregation of a few old-timers and the newcomers were able to bring in The Reverend Terry Burke, who was our minister until June of 2014. Since then we have grown to our current membership of about 110.