Published in the November 11, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — First Parish Congregational Church on Church Street, affectionately known as “the stone church by the Lake,” is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year, and on Sunday, Nov. 10 a special service commemorating the event was held.

The building has been at its current lakeside location for 330 years.

A combined 180 people attended the two morning services, five of whom became members during the 11 a.m. service. A pot luck lunch was served at noon to the congregation.

Reverend John T. Dale, 23rd pastor of the church; Rev. Dr. Richard Weisenbach, pastor emeritus and Rev. Terry Shanahan, regional area minister of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference presided over the worship service. Pastor Dale delivered the sermon based on John 2:1-12, the New Testament story about Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding he attended with his mother and disciples.

“When we look at the world today, there isn’t much that lasts,” said Rev. Shanahan during his opening remarks about a church that has endured for nearly four centuries. “Not many can say they’ve been around for that length of time.”

During a portion of the service, a Power Point presentation projected the church’s history onto an overhead screen, and the following text was included in the bulletin:

“It was on Nov. 5, 1644 that 41 men and women from Lynn and Old England gathered themselves into a Christian congregation.

“They built their first meeting house near the present corner of Main and Albion streets and ordained their first pastor Henry Green. God blessed this young congregation and in 1689, despite the death of their third pastor, the Rev. John Brock, they voted to sell their building and move to Hart’s Corner, our present location.”

Pastor Weisenbach, who retired in 2015 after serving the church for 30 years, became emotional when he spoke about First Parish.

“Pat (my wife) and I are happy — I’ll leave it at that,” he said, his voice quivering.

Pastor Dale said that First Parish is one of the oldest churches in the United States.

“First Parish is among the only ones who preach the Gospel,” he commented.

A recognition of veterans who attend First Parish and the Pledge of Allegiance were also a part of the service. Serving in the U.S. Air Force: Becky Fosnock, Dr. David Frey, Stephen Gates, Richard B. Pratt, Peter Rearick and Allan R. Wilkins.

U.S. Army: Richard Bardet, Stephen Brennan, Joseph D’Agostino, James Donovan, Thomas P. Gordon, Mark Hatheway (Desert Storm), Chaplain (LTC) Robert Leroe (Desert Storm), John McKeon, Dexter Wheeler and Kenneth J. Wood.

U.S. Marine Corps: James Fosnock, Alexander Hurren and Ismael Laboy III.

U.S. Navy: Herold Doherty (Korean War), Frederick Howland (WW II), Nicholas Mercurio, Robert O’Donnell and Gregg S. Whitney (WW II).

The church’s Cornerstone band provided uplifting music, combining the old and the new, throughout the service.

First Parish serves the Wakefield community by hosting Clothing Closet for the needy once a month. There are several Bible studies for women, a youth group, prayer time and a healthy weight program.

A community Thanksgiving dinner is also planned for 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24.