All Souls Church, Unitarian Universalist, began as the Third Congregational Society of Greenfield. Unitarianism began as a protest against the rigid doctrine of Calvinism preached in the region's Congregational churches.
The Greenfield Unitarian
Society was organized by 23
male members of the Second
Congregational Church on
June 13, 1825. It was
supposedly led by a man
whose baby son had died.
When he heard the
minister at the Second Church
preach about the path to hell
being paved with unbaptized
babies, he allegedly walked out,
determined to find another church. The first meetings took place in the old courthouse (the present site of E.A. Hall & Co. on Bank Row) for twelve years. The Rev. Winthrop Bailey was the first pastor. Because of straitened finances, the minister's services were shared with the Second Congregational Church in Shelburne and the Unitarian Society in Colrain. Although some early church records have been lost, it is known that the first church building was dedicated on August 15, 1837, a small wooden structure at the corner of Main and Hope Streets.
1800s to 1900s
For the next 10 years the church struggled to stay alive financially. Services were scheduled occasionally with visiting ministers filling the pulpit. Finally, the church closed, and its members scattered to other churches. But the spirit that opposed the strict doctrine of Calvinism in 1825 brought former members together again, and the Rev. John Moors of Deerfield was chosen as their minister. He served the church from 1860 to 1884, when he became superintendent of Unitarian churches in New England. His career was long and varied; during his tenure in Greenfield, Rev. Moors also served as the chaplain for the 32nd Massachusetts during the Civil War, as well as founding Prospect Hill School for Girls, the forerunner of Stoneleigh-Burnham School. Even though Rev. Moors had
left Greenfield's pulpit, he continued to live in Deerfield,
and was the moving force behind having a new church built in the same spot as the first church building. In addition to his encouragement, he gave a $1,000 contribution to start the drive.
On June 2, 1894 members chose All Souls Church as the name.
The old wooden building was moved to the lot behind and the cornerstone for our current church was laid on June 6, 1894. Hundreds of people gathered for the ceremony.
The building was completed in January, 1895, at a cost of $26,000, with only a $2,000 mortgage to pay. The women of the church had raised several thousand dollars to furnish the church by giving ten-cent lunches raising the price to twenty-five cents when they added oysters! The dedication was on January 10, 1895. Although by then in his late seventies and in ill health, the Rev. Moors was wheeled into the back of the sanctuary on a wicker lounge. He died seventeen days later, mourned and remembered by his congregants for decades thereafter.
Near the turn of the19th to the 20th Century, Mary P. Wells Smith, best known as the author of the Boy Captive series of children's books and an active member of the church, initiated the Union Tea, inviting women from all churches in town. This was long before the term "ecumenical" was in common use.
As a result of the teas, the Women's Club of Greenfield was founded. Because of changes in women's lives, so many of them working, the Union Teas died out in the 1970s. However, one was revived on a Saturday during All Souls' centennial year. The first boys' club organized in Greenfield was established in the church in 1910 when Welles Seller was brought to town to direct the new organization. It was supported completely by All Souls, but was open to all boys in the community. This was a forerunner of the YMCA of the Greenfield area and the Rev. John B. Day of all Souls took an active part in establishing the "Y." In the 1930s, Channing Bete Sr. took a leading role in instituting Boy Scout Troop 10, operating out of All Souls. More recent community initiatives included the establishment of the Franklin County Interfaith Council and the Community Meals Program, both during the pastorate of Rev. Frances Reece Day in the mid 1980s. The All Souls Charity Fund, founded by Judge Charles Allen in 1906, has been the source of philanthropic work quietly conducted in the community to the present date. The fund provides necessities for people in need regardless of religious beliefs.
All Souls is a non-creedal church in which members
are encouraged to develop their own philosophies of
life in the light of conscience, a liberal religious
tradition and experience. Unitarian Universalists treasure
the universal truths taught by great teachers of humanity
in every age and tradition.
All Souls' imposing square tower, defended by gargoyles at all four corner, has stood the test of time. All Souls abides as a masterpiece of classic Romanesque architecture. Many meaningful events occur here: both private and public, some of the heart and spirit, others of intellect and social conscience. Joys are celebrated, sorrows are shared, concerns about injustice are raised and then converted to action. Our community, and the community at large, is strengthened.