Oxford’s First Congregational Church celebrates 300th anniversaryFeb 09, 2021 10:03AM ● By Janet Stoica
Oxford Congregational Church’s bell tower lit up.
The history of our country is always fascinating, and it becomes more captivating when reading about our local area and how institutions came to be. Oxford’s First Congregational Church has the distinctive honor of being the first place of worship in this area.
On the evening of Sunday, January 17, members of the church celebrated a very special milestone: three centuries of continuous parish life and for the first time in its history, the church’s bell tower was illuminated. “Oxford has always done a great job of maintaining the town center and town common,” said church historian Todd Sauter, “and now with the lighting of our bell tower, this serves to add even more attractiveness to the surrounding area. We’ve never had lighting in our bell tower and its beauty will be inspirational.” The serenity and graciousness that the lit bell tower will add to Oxford’s handsome Main Street is immeasurable.
The 20-minute ceremony was attended by 50 members, all socially distanced, in an outdoor setting with others enjoying the formality from the safety of their cars as they parked along Main Street. After a welcome by Reverend Karen D. Fournier, an original hymn followed that was composed by Corbin and Alaina Calloway Bolton. The new steeple light was then dedicated and lit, and an historical proclamation given by Todd Sauter. The steeple bell was rung 30 times with one ring for each decade of the church’s life. A very proud and most enjoyable evening. A more extensive ceremony will, hopefully, be held in June.
If the church’s first pastor, Reverend John Campbell, could see how his church has fared since 1720 he would be very pleased. In the early 1700s English settlers in the area looked avidly for a pastor for their church. The Massachusetts’ Colony did not allow a town to be established unless four requirements had been met in the area: a grist mill, a sawmill, a minister, and a meeting house. The meeting house members began their search for a pastor in 1713 in the undeveloped frontier of New Oxford and it was no small task to find someone who wanted to establish themselves in this unfamiliar territory. Reverend Campbell served for 40 years until his death in 1761. Due to his privileged upbringing and education, he served as the de facto physician, judge, counselor, and leader of the town militia. His grave is behind the church in south cemetery.
Many changes and anniversaries have been celebrated at the First Congregational, including the installation of their current and first female pastor, Reverend Karen Fournier. The first 32 pastors were men. “Church life was always essential to life in the colonies,” stated Mr. Sauter. “It was intertwined with the town and supported by the town’s tax dollars for the upkeep of the meeting house as well as to pay the pastor’s salary. It was the same for all churches at the time. Oxford now has 12 Christian churches.” Mr. Sauter enjoys history and has taken a special interest as his church’s historian. “My job was made so much easier by those who served before me,” he said. “There was Dorothy Barrie and also Janice Moore. They were great historians for the church.” Mr. Sauter owns his own business in the Worcester area, Audiology Associates, and is an avid student of history.
A video of the church’s steeple lighting can be found on Facebook at “Facebook.com/firstcongregationaloxfordma/.”
Their website is www.oxfordfirstucc.org, where a contributions link can be found for the additional and upcoming celebrations that will be held later in the year. Traditional worship services can be viewed every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on their website. Church offices may be reached at (508) 987-2211. Email: [email protected].
Contact Janet at [email protected]