First Parish Church Congregational, Dover, New Hampshire

Founded in 1633, First Parish Church is the oldest congregation in the state of New Hampshire. The church’s fifth home, is a Federal style brick structure, with steeple modeled after that of The First Religious Society of Newburyport, Massachusetts, was designed and built by Captain James Davis in 1829. The interior has undergone extensive changes since the building’s construction, the first in 1878 when the organ was moved to the front of the sanctuary, the box-style pews were removed, and the current arced slip pews were installed. In 1945, the side galleries were removed, a colonial-style chancel area built, and the pews and walls painted white. The exterior has undergone few changes since its construction. Donald Bryant, the author of The History of the First Parish Church, wrote that with all of the significant changes to the city of Dover since the church’s founding, “no buildings and no institutions [remain] except the First Parish Church. In the fabric of Dover’s history it continues as the single living thread that runs from the beginning to the present and will run unbroken into the future.”

First Unitarian Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

Gathered in 1785, the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, Massachusetts was formed by a group of 54 “free thinkers” who left Worcester-based First Parish Church under the leadership of their pastor, Dr. Aaron Bancroft, in a quest to celebrate freedom of belief and religious expression that would help define Unitarian doctrine in the United States. The Church’s current Federal style structure, built in 1850, was designed by Sidney Mason Stone and was inspired by the Center Church on-the-Green in New Haven, Connecticut. Following in the footsteps of its founders, the First Unitarian Church continues, “to preserve the freedom of each of us to determine for ourselves what we believe and how we should live. We are open to the wisdom of world religions. We welcome and honor diversity of belief, culture, lifestyle, and political view as a source of strength.”

Church of the Redeemer UCC, New Haven, Connecticut

Organized in 1838, Church of the Redeemer, United Church of Christ is the fourth congregational church in New Haven. Originally named Chapel Street Congregational Church, it was formed after there was dissent at the Third Congregational Church when a new minister would not accept the “New Haven Theology” of Nathaniel Taylor who founded the church. Taylor rejected the idea of determinism in which God alone was responsible for all activities in the universe. He felt this was immoral because it contradicts the notions of freedom and choice, and thought God not immoral. In 1920, the church moved to its present location and its Federal style main sanctuary was added in 1951—appropriately reflecting Taylor’s ideas. Building upon the philosophical tenets of Nathaniel Taylor, the Church of the Redeemer strives to be an, “inclusive community committed to the worship of God, the work of justice, and the recognition of our common humanity in the struggles of life.”

First Parish Church, Portland, Maine

With roots dating back to 1674, First Parish Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, is the oldest house of worship in Portland. The current structure, designed by shipbuilder and architect John Mussey, was completed in 1826 of granite from nearby Freeport and is built in the Federalist style. The church has gone to great lengths to keep the original design intact and using only replacements that are as close to the originals as possible. Much like the congregation’s careful attention to maintaining Mussey’s design, the First Parish Church continues its mission to: “nurture the spirit, grow in community and help heal the world.”

Round Church, Richmond, Vermont

Completed in 1813 under the leadership of local craftsman William Rhodes, the Federal style Round Church is a sixteen-sided meetinghouse that was built to serve the community as a meeting place and a church for the area’s five Protestant congregations. Nevertheless, shortly after the building was constructed, several of the individual congregations built their own churches and the structure reverted to the Town of Richmond to become exclusively a meetinghouse beginning in 1880. In 1973, the Round Church closed due to safety concerns. As a result, the Richmond Historical Society was formed and with the generosity of the community’s time and money as well as its ability to secure grants, the Round Church remains today—serving as a testament to the now rare traditional New England sixteen-sided meetinghouse.

The Cathedral of St. John, Providence, Rhode Island

Sunday worship services at The Cathedral of St. John were suspended in spring 2012 due to surmounting repairs and a decreasing parishioner base. Protective plastic now wraps its windows, pews and lectern where sermons had been delivered since the Federal style structure with Gothic details was built over 200 years ago in 1810. Silence now replaces the voices of the choir. The Waterford chandelier no longer shines upon the congregation. Named the official seat for the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island in 1929, The Cathedral of St. John has deep roots in Providence. Originally organized in 1722 as King’s Church, nearly three centuries ago, its future is now uncertain.

Center Church on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut

Organized by Puritans in 1639 as the First Society of New Haven, Center Church on the Green is the congregation’s fourth meeting house site. Commonly referred to as Center Church, The First Church of Christ in New Haven was designed in the Federal style by renowned architect Ithiel Town and built between 1812-1814. Refined woodwork and historic enclosed pews are washed in light from the two rows of large windows flanking the sanctuary, which added warmth to the previously unheated space. The distinctive Tiffany stained glass window illustrates New Haven founder Rev. John Davenport preaching his first sermon to the first English settlers, who viewed the locale as the New Jerusalem on Long Island Sound.

B.C. Jordan Memorial Hall, Ocean Park, Maine

Primarily an assembly center for theatrical presentation, concerts, and community meetings, the B.C. Jordan Memorial Hall sits beside The Temple, Porter Hall, and the Bell Tower on a small parcel of land called Temple Square in Old Orchard Beach. Jordan Hall’s exterior with its commanding Federal Style facade, contrasts sharply with its warm and unembellished interior. Natural wood planking and exposed structural elements pervade Jordan Hall’s interior from floor to ceiling, embodying its camp meeting movement intent—popular in the late 19th century—focusing on self-improvement in a natural setting.

North Guilford Congregational Church, Guilford, Connecticut

Established in 1719, the North Guilford Congregational Church is the oldest continually used church in the town of Guilford. Considered to be one of Connecticut’s outstanding Federal style churches, its present structure was designed and built by local architect Abraham Coan between 1812 and 1814. The church was among the first to adopt a “square body” meetinghouse layout versus the traditional axial design with an elongated nave. Ornamented by a single Palladian window, its evenly-lit subdued interior embodies the nature of endeavoring equality sought within Congregational worship.

St. Patrick’s Church, Newcastle, Maine

Perched on a hill near the Damariscotta River resides St. Patrick’s Church, the oldest Catholic church in continual use in New England. Completed in 1808, St. Patrick’s was designed by Irish architect Nicholas Codd in the Federal style and houses a bell forged by Paul Revere himself.

Much like the turmoil that occurred during the Revolutionary War, the township of Newcastle fought its own battle when an anti-Catholic sentiment swept the United States in the mid-19th century. Friendship between Newcastle’s Catholics and Protestants saved the church from arson in 1854. The community staved off the mob; no lives were lost and St. Patrick’s survived.

The church, which is constructed of eighteen inch thick brick walls, achieved its founders’ goal of constructing “a good brick church”—unintentionally emblematic of the strong community which it has served for over 200 years.