First Congregational Church
 Gardner, MA 
 

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First Congregational Church's History

1785 Town of Gardner incorporated. The land was given to descendants of participants in “King Philip’s War”. It was required by state law to have a meetinghouse with a pulpit and a minister paid by town taxes.

1786 Eight months after town of Gardner was incorporated, The First Congregational Church was founded during the third town meeting.

1787 The first meeting-house was begun. The building served as a dual function; as a place of public worship and as a town hall.

1791 The first minister was called, The Reverend Jonathan Osgood. He also was Dr. Osgood, town physician. During his tenure the parsonage was built, which still stands on Elm Street.

1822 Rev. Osgood died; having served the church and town faithfully for 31 years. His grave is in the cemetery behind the present church building.

1827 The Town of Gardner stops paying the minister’s salary and the parish and town formally separate.

1830 Rev. Increase Lincoln, leaves to form the Evangelical Congregational Church. He is involved in temperance and abolitionist movements.

1864 - 1868 William D. Herrick is minister. The Evangelical and Congregational Church combine.

1874 - 1868 William D. Herrick is minister again. Rev. Herrick wrote a History of Gardner.

1878 The present sanctuary and tower were built as Victorian gothic for $30,000.

1880’s The Young Ladies Society of the church established the first night school for immigrants. The program was taken over by the town and grew to as many as 350 students.

1883 - 1891  Lawrence Phelps is minister. He also served as the first President of the Levi Heywood Library (1886).

1891 Under the ministry of the Rev. Frank E. Ramsdell, (1891-1896), the vestries, parlor, kitchen, and dining room were added. Organ is donated by Mrs. Henry Heywood.

1897 - 1920 Burton S. Gilman served as minister.

1923  Gardner became a city.

1929 – 1949 Baldwin W. Callahan served as minister. Under his leadership the Women’s Association, the Men’s Club, the Married Couples Group, the Evening Guild, and the Young People’s Society were formed.

1940 - 1945 The First Congregational Church had seven (7) Gold Star Mothers (their sons were killed in the War) and 119 members who served in the military.

1956 - 1962  Rev. Daniel Leavitt served as minister. The Tower Times was started.  The church joined the United Church of Christ.

1958 The kitchen was relocated to the first floor, all classrooms were centralized on the second floor, and rest room facilities for men and women were put on both floors.

1962-1972 Edward A. Berry served as pastor.

1967 Worcester North Association, of which this church was a member, dissolved.

1968 Church joined the Middlesex Union Association.

1970 Middlesex Union Association was eliminated.

1970 The church became a member of the Central Association of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC.

1972 - 1987 John Condon served as minister.

1972 With Rev. Berry as minister, the church membership voted to withdraw from the UCC.

1977 With Rev. Condon as minister, the church membership voted to again affiliate with the UCC.

1986 The church celebrated its bicentennial year.

1992 - 2001 The Rev. Charles B. Mansfield served as the church's minister.

1994 Serious renovations to the church began. Over the next several years, the steeple, roof, stained glass windows, and Rose Window would be repaired.

1998 The Gardner Historical Society undertook the restoration of the Old Cemetery behind the church. This included repairing the table stone on the grave of the Rev. J. Osgood.

1999 The church joined in the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the United Church of Christ. The first Congregational Church of Gardner predates the UCC by 13 years.

2001 - 2003 Rev. Virginia Evans served as interim minister.

2003 - 2006 Rev. Janet V. Skagerlind served as minister.

2007-2010 Rev. Duke Gray served as interim minister.

2008  Renovations on the kitchen, a new church sign installed, driveway repaved, and new pew cushions.

2010-2015 Rev. Frank McKenzie served as minister.

2016 Rev. Andrew Burr is serving as interim minister.