Historical Sketches of the First Congregational Church, Bristol, RI by J. P. Lane, 1872
The more I read about the history of First Congregational Church, the more I am impressed with how deeply we have made our “mark” in Bristol and New England. See all the names in this book: Bosworth, Byfield, Walley, etc. They were all founders and members of our church and Bristol itself.
I am so excited to share this with all of you. In 1862, Rev. J.P. Lane, the 12th pastor of our church, compiled and wrote the history of our congregation from 1687-1872. Wonderful details of our early congregation are included, along with the building of our buildings.
Entered into our national library as an Act of Congress, this book is also a very important American document. I encourage you to “check it out” and see the rich history that you are all part of. Several copies are contained in our historical documents, but we don’t lend those out so as to conserve them.
Knowing where we have been is important. It informs us. It gives us roots. It shows our place in history and the remarkable journey of this 330+ year old congregation’s history.
We have included the historical sketch about Rev. Henry Wight in this post, but you can read the whole book online by clicking here.
Summer reading will never be the same!
From Historical Sketches of the First Congregational Church, Bristol, RI by J. P. Lane, 1872, pp 90-93
Henry Wight, D. D. – Sixth Pastor
The REV. HENRY WIGHT, born in Medfield, Mass., in 1753, graduated at Harvard College in 1782, began to preach here 1784, March 14th, and being unanimously chosen to the Pastoral office with the hearty concurrence of the newly formed Catholic Society, he was ordained 1785, January 5th, in connection with the interesting services of dedicating the new house of worship. The sermon on this occasion was by the REV. THOMAS PRENTISS, Pastor of the Church in Medfield, Mass., in which Mr. Wight was baptized in infancy and had passed his early years, from the text 2 Corinthians, vi. 3,4. The ordaining prayer and charge to the Pastor were by the REV. SOLOMON TOWNSEND, of Barrington, and the Right-hand of Fellowship by the REV. ROBERT ROGERSON, of Rehoboth, Mass.
Very soon after the installation of Mr. Wight, the list of Church members was revised, and was found to contain thirty-six names of persons then living, of whom seven were males and twenty-nine were females. On the 21st of March, 1785, the custom of “owning Covenant” which had previously prevailed was abolished by the following votes:
“Voter, that the half-way Covenant is not consistent with the spirit of the Gospel and a hindrance to vital piety.”
“Voted, that hereafter this Church will have but one Covenant for admission of members to their body.”
Dr. Wight continued in the sole pastorate of the Church until 1815, November 13th, when the REV. JOEL MANN was ordained as Colleague Pastor. On the 11th of November, 1828, at his own request, he was dismissed by an Ecclesiastical Council, but continued to reside among his people to the day of his death, in August, 1837, in the eighty-sixth year of his age. His residence was at the corner of High and Bradford streets, the house now occupied by William H. Spooner, Esq. His family consisted of several sons and daughters, who grew up in the Christian faith, and adorned the stations of life which they were called to fill. The eldest, JOHN B. WIGHT, was ordained Pastor of the Congregational Church in East Sudbury, Mass., 1815, January 25th. The sermon on the occasion, which was published with the other parts of the services by the Church, was from Matthew xxviii. 20, by the REV. JOSEPH MCKEAN, LL. D., Professor in Harvard College. The Charge to the Pastor was by his father.
From 1793 to 1833, Dr. Wight was a member of the Board of Fellows of Brown University, and in 1811 received from thence the degree of Doctor in Divinity.
His ministry, continuing for nearly half a century, longer than that of any other pastor, was characterized by Catholicity in intercourse with other denominations, and am amiability of spirit and fidelity to his convictions of right, which won respect and confidence. He took an active interest in the political questions of the day, and did not hesitate to introduce topics of this nature in his pulpit ministrations, which offended some whose views differed from his and led to their withdrawl from the Society. He was singularly faithful in recording all the votes of the Church, and even the informal proceedings of Conferences and Committee meetings. He also kept for many years quite a full record of current events in the town, particularly of marriages and deaths, and this book has already proved to be of invaluable worth in proving titles to property and to the bounties and pay of soldiers and others who died in the Governmental service.
During the sole pastorate of Dr. Wight, there were two hundred and twenty-eight additions to the Church membership, and a large number of children and adults were baptized.
His memory is precious to the aged few who yet survive to recall his labors in the days of his strength. The marks of his influence are indelibly traced in the character of the community; and in the great day of account we doubt not it will be said of this man, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
His mortal remains rest in the Juniper Hill Cemetery, and over his grave is erected a memorial stone with the following inscription:
“The Grave of
REV. HENRY WIGHT, D. D.,
Born in Medfield, Mass.,
May 26, 1752.
at Harvard College, 1782:
Settled over the Cong. Church
in this place Jan. 5, 1785.
Deceased Aug. 12, 1837,
in the 86th year
of his age,
and the 53d of his ministry.
Faithful and kind in the duties
of his sacred office,
Affectionate and tender
in the relations of domestic life,
his memory is precious
to his surviving kindred and people.
With long life was he satisfied
and his end was peace.
Remember the words which I spake unto you
while I was yet present with you.”