Hunting for lost churches

I’m cleaning obsolete files off my computer and have discovered saved webpages about the records Harvard holds about some defunct Universalist and Unitarian churches. There’s no good reason to save the cached pages; you can read about the holdings yourself here.

But why look? To feel miserable about what’s lost? No. To see the stream of mergers and consolidations. Turns out that the Fifth Universalist Society, Boston, changed buildings and names in a snail-like crawl from Boylston Hall, to Shawmut Avenue, to Brookline, to Waltham, where merging with another church expired in 1946. (Or perhaps not, the records got to Harvard in 1982 via the First Parish, UU, Waltham, so perhaps there was a final merger.)

The Shawmut Avenue era, as the Shawmut Universalist Parish, is the most glorious era as described in chapter 27, volume 2 of Miller’s The Larger Hope. The minister was George L. Perrin, recently returned from the Japan mission and he set about making the church “the Every-Day Church” or the kind of institutional church that responded to the community by providing social services. The Bethany Union — in case you’ve seen it in the UUA directory and wondered what it was — survives from this church’s members in this era.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Scott, do you know if there was any ongoing relationship between Fifth/Shawmut Universalist and the SHAWMUT CHURCH, Congregational Trinitarian, Tremont, corner of West Brookline Street, South End, which was active at that location in the late 19th century?

  2. Yea the Shawmut Church is the building of the congregation, or at least the site of their old church (kittie corner from James Freeman Clark’s old place.) The Universalist church moved from the South End and built what is now a Catholic Church on Boyalston between Fenway Park and the Berklee School of Music.

    The building that the Blue man group uses in Boston is also an old Universalist churhc like the 10th society or something like that

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