History of Our Church
The First Congregational Church of Raynham is commonly known as The Stone Church because of its field stone exterior. However, the church had a long history before the current building was completed in 1915!
Our history reaches back in to the great history of the Christian Church, along the branch of the Protestant Reformation that is best known by the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth in 1620. These people, along with those who settled around Boston a decade later, were called Puritans because of a desire to purify the Church of England, which had been their “Mother Church”. Settling in New England, they endured great difficulties, but also began to prosper. These Puritans began to spread across Massachusetts, founding new towns in the wilderness.
The area now known as Raynham was once a part of Taunton, which was settled beginning in 1637. The Iron Forge, established by the Leonard family in 1652, provided employment in this region for over two centuries. The people who lived in this area considered the journey to Church Green in Taunton for Sunday worship services too long and in 1727 they petitioned to have their own church closer to home. That petition was rejected. Persistence on their part paid off since in 1731 they were granted permission to form a separate town and instructed to provide for a church and a school teacher. The church was officially established on October 19, 1731 and Rev. John Wales was ordained as its first Pastor the next day.
The first church building (known as the Meeting House in the old days) was located along Richmond Street, not far from the Iron Forge. In the 1760’s this was replaced by a new building on the present lot at Raynham Center. This church was originally built without a steeple, which was added some years later. When the church people decided to replace the second building in the 1830’s, the town expressed an interest in the old building. However, some of the church people wanted no part of that plan. Late one night they detached the steeple from the building and dropped it to the ground. The town protested, but did not block the demolition of the remainder of the building.
The third Meeting House stood on the corner in Raynham Center until July 22, 1913. On that day a fire in a shed belonging to a nearby blacksmith shop spread from building to building. The church was completely destroyed. The people of the church were determined to rebuild, but decided that a stone exterior might provide better fire protection. The Stone Church was dedicated on April 1, 1915. Over the years a few major changes have been made. The original flat roof on the steeple created a water problem that was corrected when the peak was added in 1938. The people of the church dug out the cellar of the church and hand poured a concrete floor to provide Sunday School space. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1965, forming the present “split chancel.”
A very successful capital campaign that ran from 1997 to 2000 provided for more improvements, including an expanded parking lot.
The church, like many others, experienced ups and downs throughout its history. Early on in the church history it received a flood of new members as the Great Awakening stirred religious sentiment across New England. Two centuries later, during the Great Depression, the church considered closing, but voted to carry on. Today the church is a healthy, vibrant community of believers.
Finding itself cramped for space, the congregation began construction of an addition in late 2006 on the back part of the present building. This addition was dedicated in September of 2007. The addition features a large fellowship hall, a new kitchen, new office space, handicap accessible restrooms upstairs and down, a new nursery and a lift that provides access for those who have difficulty with stairs.
Our church history was covered in much more detail in the book If These Stones Could Speak published by the church in 1994. Copies are still available from the church.