History

"The history of Old South Church is more than the record of one New England Meetinghouse still in existence after 350 years. Deep under the foundations of the Three Structures that have housed its thousands of worshippers lie whole chapters of American history and the slow emergence of certain Ideas & Principles upon which this nation is built—Liberty, Freedom of Conscience, Equality.”
-Ola Elizabeth Winslow, Historian

As we celebrate our 350th anniversary, we’re not resting on the laurels of the past; we’re still making history. Read on to learn about the people, buildings, and stories of Old South Church in Boston.

Origins of the Congregation
Old South Church was born in 1669 in a raging argument over the waters of baptism. Twenty eight men and about as many women (known then as “the Schismatics” or “the Dissenting Brethren”) broke away from Boston’s First Church to found a church aching to dispense the waters of baptism more liberally. Our founders were descendants of separatist and dissenting Pilgrims, Puritan reformers, and Bay Colony merchant adventurers. Their parents left England in the 17th century, some to escape persecution, and others to forge a more prosperous life in the New World. Our founders included a butcher, a bricklayer, a brewer, a fisherman, a bookseller, a shoemaker, two ship’s captains, a tailor, two felt-makers, an apothecary, several merchants, a mason, several selectmen, a mint-master, farmers, and a schoolmaster.