The First Congregational Parish in Kingston, Unitarian Universalist is the oldest congregation in Kingston. It is a direct branch of the church of the Pilgrims who arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower, December 21, 1620. It had its beginning in 1606 in the gathering at Scrooby in England of the Pilgrims who later moved to Amsterdam and settled in Leyden, Holland.
In the early history of the Plymouth Colony, the town and parish were one, and were a part of the Plymouth Parish. As time went on different parts of the original territorial parish were set off as separate precincts and parishes. Kingston, being the fifth such, set off under the name of the Jones River Parish in 1717, and continued under this name until 1726 when it became the Town of Kingston. In 1802 the first secession from the parish in Kingston was made, and in order to distinguish the old parish from the new, it became the First Parish. This congregation, as did most colonial churches, adopted the Unitarian faith between 1825 and 1845. Since 1836, it has been a corporation by virtue of the General Court (Chapter 183, Acts 1834. Revised Statues, 1836, Chapter Section I). Our legal name is the First Congregational Parish in Kingston, Unitarian Universalist. The term “Congregational” in our title is congregational with a small “c” and refers to our system of governance.
In 1717, Major John Bradford made a gift of land at the center of the Parish (town) for a Meeting House, Burying Ground and a plot for training the militia. The original meetinghouse faced Green Street with the east door opening onto the Training Field and in 1746 a bell tower was erected. Seating in the meetinghouse different from today with the men were on one side, and the women on the other. Permission was needed to have a private pew and wealth played a big part of where one might sit in the church. The young men sat together, the young ladies in corresponding pews on the other side.
In 1798 the town voted to raise the first meetinghouse and build a new larger structure. Funds were raised for the construction of the new meetinghouse through sale of the pews. The Second Meeting house consisted of large white pillars in the front, and a Palladian window on the upper floor which now resides in a town building. Inside the singing gallery upstairs were two small galleries where colored people attended service.
The current First Parish Meetinghouse, constructed in 1851, is the third building to be constructed on the site at 222 Main Street.