The Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford traces its beginning directly to the Puritans. When they settled in Medford in 1630, the immigrants immediately established their religious practice, making the decision in 1663 to build their first meeting house. They called their first regular minister in 1712. Along with his annual salary, he was provided with an annual supply of firewood.
Now in its fifth building, which went up in 1894, the church has changed dramatically in the last three and a half centuries. In the 1700s, the Puritan church, which was also in many ways the government of Medford, evolved into a Congregational Church. Then in the early 1800s, when Unitarianism began to flourish, the majority of the congregation embraced the new religion and formed a separate church. In 1824 the new Unitarian Church officially separated itself from town government. In 1961, when the Unitarian Universalist Association voted to merge with Universalist churches, the Unitarian congregation in Medford absorbed two Universalist churches into its congregation—hence its identity today as Unitarian Universalist.
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Medford has a long history of social justice activism. Lydia Maria Child, the famous author, abolitionist, women’s rights advocate, and Indian policy reformer, grew up in the church. The courageous abolitionist George Luther Stearns, one of the “Secret Six” who funded John Brown in his militant opposition to slavery, was a lifelong member of the congregation. Ralph Waldo Emerson preached Stearns’ funeral sermon in the Medford church. In the middle of the 20th century the Reverend Eugene Adams, who became the minister for many years, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma and was well known for decades in Medford and surrounding areas for his outspoken, indefatigable championing of human rights and world peace.
The church’s long history of being an important witness for justice continues today in its active support of the Community Cupboard Food Pantry, housed in the church; its strong endorsement of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights; and its many social justice initiatives. The congregation is proud to embrace the best of its history and to look forward to its next centuries of witness and ministry in Medford and surrounding communities.