of Scituate, Massachusetts
First Parish
Unitarian Universalist Church
Our Historic Building

The Meetinghouse History

Scituate's first meeting house was located on a rise slightly inland from the harbor on Meeting House Lane. Two successive larger meeting houses were located on the same site. A fourth meetinghouse was built farther to the west (on the western edge of what is now Lawson Park).

The fifth meeting house was built in 1774 on the site of the present church. It was a large, two-story building with galleries on three sides. Its high, graceful steeple was a landmark for sailors at sea and the church became known as the Old Sloop because of the spire's resemblance to the white sails of a sloop.

On July 4, 1879, children playing with firecrackers on the front steps set fire to the church and it burned to the ground. The only items saved were the heavy mahogony pulpit, the settee, and the communion table that are used in the church today.
Chunks of metal from the Paul Revere bell that melted in the fire were made into miniature bells which were sold to raise funds for the present ediface. While the present church was being built, services were held in the still-standing Cudworth House (rebuilt in 1797), located across from the church.

The present ediface was dedicated in 1881.

The church stands in the shadow of another famous Scituate landmark, the Lawson Tower. This Norman-like tower housed a water tower that served the town. Thomas Lawson, the copper magnate, had the structure built to hide the unsightly water tower and installed a carillon that is still played on the occasion of historic celebrations.

                                                                            Photo: © Above It All Images 2015

Interior Features

The tall, pointed stained glass panel, located to the left of the pulpit, was donated by the Waterman family in memory of Andrew and Lucia D. Waterman. It depicts a three-masted sailing vessel of the type built in the shipyards of the nearby North River during the 19th century.

The window celebrates the extensive involvement of parishioners with seafaring and carries this verse:

"They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters: these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep."
The present mahogany pulpit, settee, and communion table were the only items saved from the fire that destroyed the church (the one that existed from 1774 to 1879 on the site of the present building). When the present church was built, the parishioners desired new furniture; they placed two oak chairs, presently in the rear of the auditorium, on either side of a small, oak pulpit. When the interior of the church was redecorated in 1924, someone remembered that the mahogany furniture was stored in the basement of a parishioner, and they were refinished and restored to their present places in the church.
The pipe organ was built specifically for the First Parish sanctuary by Hook & Hastings; it was a gift from Cornelia and George Allen in 1907, in memory of George's wife, Deborah. Originally pumped by hand bellows, it was electrified in 1928.
A bass viol, which was the first instrument used in the church, stands in a case in the rear of the church. It was made in 1823 by the Asa and Shadrach Merritt who lived in Scituate. A companion instrument was made for the Trinitarian Church after it separated from First Parish in 1825.
Two oil paintings of the Old Sloop Church hang in the Sloop Room. The earlier was done by Mary Ann Cole circa. 1840; a newer oil (on right) was done by parishioner Kay Shaw on the occasion of First Parish's 375th anniversary.

Pictures of the churches that had their origins in First Parish, Scituate, hang in the vestibule. They were created by parishioner Clara Clement.
Mounted in the entrance foyer is a large wooden ship's steering wheel, which came from a merchant sailing vessel that plied the waters of the Great Lakes. It was given to the Church by Barbara Geyer to enhance the nautical tradition of "Old Sloop," and mounted by Gilman Wilder.

A Meetinghouse for the Future

A power-ful gift to First Parish:
In 2011, solar panels were gifted to First Parish by long-time members Frank and Leslie Kilduff.
Forty-four photovoltaic solar cells were installed on the roof of the church. These cells will provide approximately 70% of the annual electricity needs of the church.
The panels and current inverters were made in the USA, and installed by local workers through Munro Solar. The system ties in through National Grid.

The gift was purchased through the Solarize Massachusetts initiative offered to the town through the efforts of Sustainable Scituate to promote local alternative energy. Scituate was one of four towns in Massachusetts to use this program.

By installing these solar panels, First Parish is promoting solar energy as a safe and environmentally friendly power source, reducing our reliance on nonrenewable fossil fuels, endorsing our UU principal of taking care of the earth, being environmentally responsible, providing employment opportunities for local workers and reducing electrical costs for our church. It will also reduce the greenhouse gases produced by First Parish by 172 tons of CO2, the equivalent of a medium car driving 312,000 miles!!