Our History

Here you will find some articles about the history of our church.

April 2013 - Music in the Air

Music has been an important part of the history of the First Universalist Society, now known as the Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield. Hymns, anthems, concerts, sing-a-longs and musical fundraisers have all filled the church with music.

In May of 1938, the First Universalist Society of Wakefield celebrated its 125th anniversary. Shortly thereafter, the minister of the congregation, the Reverend John Ratcliff, left to take another position.

The next fall, the Hurricane of 1938 swept through eastern Massachusetts. The 99 year old Universalist Church fortunately was not damaged by the hurricane. The Wakefield Methodist church was not so lucky, however. Their church, then located on Albion Street, suffered major damage when its chimney fell on it, weakening it enough that it was condemned.

February 2013 - Steeple Views

A steeple was added to the Universalist Church in Wakefield twenty years after the church was built. When the church was built in 1839 it was in the style of a Greek temple, with a plain pitched roof. The steeple, consisting of a tower, belfry and spire was added when the church was moved, enlarged and renovated in 1859.

January 2013 - Launching New Ministers

Over the past 200 years, the First Universalist Society of Wakefield (which is still the formal name of the Wakefield Unitarian Universalist Church) has had 41 ministers. Most of them served the church for a term of 2 to 5 years. There are many reasons for the number of short term ministers, including the tendency of Unitarian Universalist ministers to change churches regularly.

This undated picture is believed to be the sanctuary of the Universalist Church in Wakefield, taken sometime before 1876. Clearly it was taken at Christmas time as it was decorated with greenery and flowers as churches did in the Victorian era. Since that time many changes have taken place in this sanctuary. In the late 19th Century the box pews were replaced by bench pews with a central aisle.

In 1913, the First Universalist Society, more commonly known as the Universalist Church of Wakefield, celebrated its first 100 years of existence.

153 years ago when the congregation of the Universalist Church remodeled their building and added a steeple, they topped it off with a weathervane. They chose a scroll vane, which was a popular, readily available and not too expensive style of weathervane. The particular vane chosen featured a lyre and a star as well as delicate scroll work.

By the 1880's the Universalist Society in Wakefield was a busy church with an active Sunday school. In 1963, for the 150th anniversary of the church, Miss Clara Brownell reminisced about her childhood in the church in the late 1800's. Between 1876 and 1908 seven ministers served the church. Then as now, it was volunteers from the congregation who kept the church going steadily.

In 1860 The First Universalist Society in Wakefield needed funds to finish paying for the expansion and renovation of their church building. A year earlier they had removed the Greek Revival facade, added a steeple and weathervane, and moved the building back on its lot. As all renovations do, the improvements cost a little more than expected.

To raise the last $300, the church put on a May Day Celebration on the Common. This was an all-day affair with breakfast lunch and dinner, music, speeches, “surprises” and “curious entertainments”. Flowers, ice cream and confections were sold. Admission was 25 cents.

A new church needs a new building. But for the First Universalist Society in South Reading, as for many churches, it took some time to grow large enough to have the resources to build a church.