At the time New England was colonized in the 17th and 18th centuries, you couldn’t have a town without a church. Traders, missionaries, farmers and entrepreneurs were pouring into New England to stake out claims. However, a settlement could earn the status of a town only if it had a church and a “settled minister.” So the First Parish church was established in Brunswick, Maine, in 1717 and all who lived in Brunswick were automatically members of the parish. Taxes supported the church and parish business was town business. As the town grew, other churches were established but the First Parish continued to maintain its importance in the community, taking leadership in social and economic issues and acting as an anchor as Brunswick evolved from a sleepy estuary village to a busy manufacturing own. A rich relationship developed between Bowdoin College and the First Parish Church.

The Abolitionist Movement attracted many ardent supporters in the congregation. Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose husband was a professor at Bowdoin, was sitting in Pew 23 during a communion service when she had a vision of the death of a slave which became the pivotal element in her book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She was affected so deeply that she wept.

Joshua Chamberlain married Fanny Adams, the adopted daughter of First Parish minister Dr. Adams,s in the new meeting house. He was a faithful member of the church for much of his life, serving on various committees, moderating meetings and eventually donating the East Window behind the pulpit in memory of his fatherin law, Dr. Adams.

Many notables have been members or spoken at this church, including Dr. Lyman Beecher and Dr. Henry Ward Beecher. General Ulysses S. Grant was awarded an honorary degree here shortly after the Civil War. The Bowdoin Class of 1825 held its 50th reunion here in 1875 and class member Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was asked to read one of his poems. Disfigured by the fire which had killed his wife, he was reluctant at first to appear in public. When it was explained to him that he would be partially hidden by the pulpit,he delivered his Morituri Salutamus (Salute to Death) to a packed house.

Later came President William Howard Taft, Ralph Waldo Emerson, England’s Poet Laureate John Masefield, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the mid 20th Century, when the four denominations decided to merge into one, The United Church of Christ, the First Parish Church was an early supporter. Two of its members were delegates to the conference that established the United Church of Christ. Today the First Parish Church is one of the largest UCC congegations n the state of Maine.


Photograph and information : First Parish Church and Wikipedia websites.

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