Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Rock Churches Federate, 1921

Rock Village Church (1880, 1920-21), Miller Street,
Middleborough, MA. Photograph by Mike Maddigan,
May 20, 2006. 
Between 1879 and 1921 Rock was the site of two churches: the Third Baptist Church on Highland Street which had originally been established in 1761 at South Middleborough and the Independent Congregational Church on Miller Street which was founded in 1879.  The maintenance of two churches in such a small community was not without difficulty for several reasons and as early as 1895 the case for federation was made in the pages of the Middleboro Gazette: 

We think Rock would be a good place for some apostle of church unity to do a little missionary work.  There are enough people here, if they were united, to possibly raise five or six hundred dollars a year for the support of church services and a clergyman, but we have two church societies, both of which must have preaching.  And there are representatives of nine or ten different denominations among us.  We wonder what plan of action an advocate of church unity would recommend here.

While union services between the two churches were occasionally held with success, it was not until the destruction of the Third Baptist Church by fire in December, 1918, that serious consideration was given to establishing a single union church, an act that was finally accomplished in 1921 when the two organizations were federated and became known as the Rock Village Church or Rock Federated Church.  The successful venture was also curious, however, as noted in a 1937:

The Rock Village church though one of the smaller churches of Middleboro, has special features worthy of note.  The church is the only Federated Church in town.  The two churches federating were the 3rd Baptist and Independent Congregational.  The pastor is a Methodist; the organist, a Quaker.  It is the usual thing on Sunday morning to find in the congregation, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, while occasionally a Unitarian will be present.

This year, the Rock Village Church celebrates its 250th anniversary.  As part of the celebrations, a walking tour, light cookout, concert  and historical exhibit will be featured on Saturday, June 18, beginning at 11 a. m. at the Rock Village Church on Miller Street.


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