Sturbridge, Mass. Congregational Church
The Congregational Church of Sturbridge (then New Medfield) was founded in 1736. It took a group of parishioners from Medfield three attempts to convince the General Court of Massachusetts to grant permission to settle on the land because it was deemed too inhospitable. After the Court's conditions were met, the town was officially incorporated in 1738, and its name was changed to Sturbridge.
In 1749, a group of fifteen "Separates" left the church and established the Baptist Church of Sturbridge. Both churches continue to serve the community today as part of the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale.
The digital materials below include four bound volumes of early church records spanning 1736-1831, a volume of marriage and death records (1819-1831), a number of letters written to the church's Female Society, and a number of personal relations of faith and disciplinary case documents, both of which are ennumerated on separate sub-pages.
This volume is a copy of the original records, transcribed by the clerk in 1896. It contains minutes and votes of meetings, baptisms, marriages, admissions, dismissions, disciplinary cases, confessions, and the original church covenant.
This volume contains minutes of meetings, baptisms (including some "whose record was lost during the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Paine" recreated by the scribe at the time), admissions, dismissions, and marriages.
This volume was kept by Rev. Otis Lane and begins with the ecclesiastical council to arrange his ordination as the new pastor. It contains minutes of meetings, procedures for disciplinary cases, admissions, dismissions, baptisms, deaths, transcribed correspondence, the eventual dismission of Rev. Lane at his request, and his replacement by Rev. Alvan Bond.
This volume was kept by Rev. Alvan Bond and begins with the ecclesiastical council to arrange his ordination as the new pastor. Its contents include minutes of meetings, the articles of faith adopted in 1826, admissions, dismissions, deaths, baptisms, the rules of church discipline, and several individual disciplinary cases.
Although such information is also included in the general church records, Rev. Bond also kept a separate book of the marriages and deaths of church members during his time in Sturbridge. In some cases, it may provide more detail.
This material contains correspondence to the Female Society in Sturbridge. Topics include faith, friendship, missionary work, and charitable donations. Many of the letters appear to have been intended to be read aloud at meetings.
|1813 January 19||by Patty Johnson||epistle on "the awful realities of eternity"|
|1815 April 9||by Apama Chapin||letter of encouragement|
|1816 January 7||by Apama Chapin||thoughts on time, privilege, and mortality|
|1817 May 12||by P[olly] Goodell||report of church activities in another parish|
|1818 February||by Apama Chapin||thoughts on the society|
|1818 February 23||by unsigned||request to join the society|
|1818 April 4||by T. S. [probably Tryphena Stedman]||expression of devotion and service to God|
|1818 October 24||by Tryphena Stedman||exhortation to increase the society's efforts in the community|
|1818 December 7||by Tryphena Stedman||thanks for support during her struggles & recounting of a Miss Holbrook's newfound faith|
|1819 April 18||by P[atty] Johnson||recounting of renewed faith following her daughter's recovery from a severe illness|
|1819 November 2||by Tryphena Stedman||comments on supporting foreign missions|
|1819 November 9||by Nancy Coburn||thanks for the society's friendship during her residence in Sturbridge|
|1819 November 11||by Patty Johnson||encouragement to remain strong during difficult times|
|1820 March||by unsigned||message of continued friendship, probably from Patty Johnson|
|1821 February 12||by Otis Lane||thanks for a donation to the Domestic Missionary Society of Massachusetts|
|1821 September 2||by Tryphena Stedman||thoughts on domestic missionaries|
|1821 October 21||by Tryphena Stedman||update on missionary Polly Goodell|
|1824 January||by Otis Lane||thanks for the society's support for his son|
|1825 January 4||by Otis Lane||thanks for the society's support for his son|
|1826 May 1||by Otis Lane||thanks for the society's support for his son|
|1827 January 15||by P[olly] Goodell||update from the mission at Homer & request for dismission from Sturbridge|
|1827 April 14||by Martha Parsons||update on personal matters|
|1829 January||by Potter, Tryphena S[tedman]||proposal to arrange a relationship between the society and its counterpart group in Southbridge|
During the colonial period, the local church often functioned as the legal authority in matters of morality. Punishment in such cases usually consisted of admonition (a written reprimand) or censure (a temporary restriction from attending services and participating in church business) until the guilty party made a formal confession or request for forgiveness.
These documents include individual congregants' relations, confessions, and requests for dismissions. Relations are written accounts of individuals' religious experiences, often mandatory for full membership in the church. The materials are listed alphabetically by last name.
Full transcriptions of the relations documents are available.
These digital resources have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.