The Boston Religion


Unitarianism In Its Capital City

by Peter Richardson

The Boston Religion and the American Revolution.

John Adams, a Unitarian from Quincy, MA, defended in court the British soldier accused of murder in the Boston Massacre. Adams owned a pew in the Brattle Square Church. John Hancock was chair of the building committee for the second meeting house of that church in 1773. Paul Revere was a member of the New Brick Church and lived across North Square from the North or Old North Church. This church and the steeple of the West Church were torn down by the British to prevent further signaling . The congregation of Old North was called “a nest of traitors” by the British occupation. Its minister, John Lathrop, had preached against the occupation and had to flee the city. Jonathan Mayhew, minister of the West Church, was the first in the country to preach on the right of revolution as well as the earliest public advocate of Unitarianism in Boston in 1755. A poem about Charles Chauncy reads:

And Charles Old Brick
Both well and sick
Will cry for Liberty.

“Old Brick” refers to the third meeting house of the First Church, built in 1713. Signal lanterns were also hung in the steeple of the First Church in Roxbury in John Eliot Square throughout the occupation.

The Real Old North Church
Tourists visiting Boston today are ushered to the North End’s fifth oldest church, Christ Churth, having the least likely steeple for the lanterns chronicled by the Unitarian poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. By the time it received its “new” name it was indeed the oldest remaining congregation there.
1. 1649  North, later Old North Church, founded.
2. 1665  First Baptist Church founded.
3. 1714  New North Church founded.
4. 1721  New Brick Church founded.
5. 1723  Christ Church founded.

The Boston Religion corrects a common historical misunderstanding as to the identity of the real North or Old North Church.

Church Architecture
Charles Bulfinch, prominent architect of the Massachusetts State House and the U. S. Capital was a member of Boston’s King’s Chapel and father of a Unitarian minister, Stephen Bulfinch.  Among the Boston Unitarian churches you will find five buildings designed by Bulfinch.

Other architects designed Unitarian churches in Boston including: Asher Benjamin (3); Alexander Parris; Gilman, Fox and Bryant; William Ware and Henry Van Brunt; Henry Hobson Richardson; Ralph Adams Cram and others.

“A Religion For One World”
A congregation was established in 1949 which created a worship center with pews “in the round.”  Earth’s continents were inlayed in the central round open space as a key to religious centers arrayed around the room.  A large mural of the Andromeda Galaxy was on one wall with an axis from macro through Earth to micro, an abstract sculpture representing the atom.

temple building

This experiment in temple building for a global village challenges us to become, each of us, participants in one humanity.


floor plan

Floor plan for religious centers,
Charles St. Meeting House






Jonathan Mayhew

Rev. Johnathan Mayhew,
minister, West Church


John Hancock

John Hancock, member,
Brattle Square Ch.

Old North Church

Old North Church (1676-1775)
Second Meeting House


New North Church

Second Meeting House of the New North Church, 1804


New South Church

Second Meeting House of the New South Church, 1814

Federal Street Church

Third Meeting House of the Federal Street Church, 1809


Hollis Street Church

Second Meeting House of the Hollis Street Church, 1787