First Parish Church in Plymouth
|First Parish Church in Plymouth|
The current First Parish Church building, built in 1899, in Plymouth is located downtown on Town Square at the base of Burial Hill (on the right)
|Location||19 Town Sq., Plymouth, Massachusetts|
|Heritage designation||National Register of Historic Places|
|Pastor(s)||Rev. Ed Hardy|
First Parish Church in Plymouth is a historic Unitarian Universalist church at the base of Burial Hill on the town square off Leyden Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims in Plymouth, it is the oldest church congregation in the United States in continuous operation.
The congregation was founded in the English community of Scrooby in 1606 by the Pilgrims, a group of Protestant Christians. After they emigrated to North America in 1620, the Separatist congregation established a church in Plymouth which became a parish church of Massachusetts' Congregationalist state church. Eventually, a schism developed at the turn of the 19th century, when much of the congregation adopted Unitarianism along with many of the other state churches in Massachusetts. All state churches were disaffiliated with the government by 1834. The congregation is currently affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and has 64 members as of 2016.
Originally, the congregation held Christian services on the Mayflower and then at a fort on Burial Hill from 1621 until 1648. The fort was also used for other colony events including meetings of the Plymouth General Court. In 1648 the first of four church buildings on the town square was constructed. Later churches were built in 1684, 1744, and 1831. Hartwell, Richardson & Driver designed the current Romanesque-style building, completed 1899, which replaced the 1831 wooden Gothic structure. The 1899 building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. It has Tiffany stained glass windows illustrating the Pilgrim story. The sanctuary features carved quarter-sawn oak and is one of the finest examples of hammer beam construction in the United States.
Burial Hill Fort, ca. 1621, housed the original church in Plymouth
William Harlow House, built in 1677 in Plymouth, made of timbers from the Burial Hill Fort, (meeting place of First Parish Church)
recreation of Plymouth's fort/first church meeting house at Plimoth Plantation
- First Parish Church (Duxbury, Massachusetts)
- Oldest churches in the United States
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Plymouth County, Massachusetts
- Paul Erasmus Lauer, Church and state in New England (Johns Hopkins Press, 1892) pp. 105–107  (accessed September 20, 2009)
- "Search Congregations". Unitarian Universalist Association. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
- Baker, James. A Guide to Historic Plymouth. Charleston: History, 2008. ISBN 1-59629-228-8, ISBN 978-1-59629-228-4.
- First Parish website
- The historical records for the First Parish Church in Plymouth are in the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.