First Parish in Cambridge - First Church Unitarian-Universalist
The First Parish in Cambridge is a Unitarian Universalist church located in Harvard Square. The church is notable for its almost 400-year history, which includes pivotal roles in the development of the early Massachusetts government, the creation of Harvard College, and the refinement of current liberal religious thought.The original First Parish, called at the time the first Meeting House, was built near the corner of Dunster and Mount Auburn Streets in 1633. The Meeting House's first minister, Thomas Hooker, stayed only a handful of years; he and most of his flock moved to Connecticut to escape religious persecution in 1636. Reverend Thomas Shepard, a significant leader of the great Puritan migration to New England at the time, gathered a new church, the First Church in Cambridge on February 1, 1636. One year later, Reverend Shepard used his influence with the General Court of Massachusetts to move Harvard College to Newtowne (later called Cambridge), a short distance away from his newly established church, so that the Harvard college students might 'benefit from proximity' to his evangelical preaching. The Harvard College Yard became the site for the second Meeting House, built in 1652, and the third, in 1706, and the fourth, 1756, all located in the corner now occupied by the college’s Lehman Hall.
In 1833, the congregation built the fifth and final Meeting House, which stands adjacent to present-day Harvard Yard. Harvard College held its annual commencement ceremonies therein for the next forty years. Five Harvard College Presidents---Everett, Sparks, Walker, Felton, Hill, and Eliot---began their inaugural terms there as well. The Parish House was built in 1902, and the interior of the Meeting House remodeled in 1914. The Crothers chapel was dedicated in 1941.