Union Evangelical Church, UCC
Gathered 1873 Incorporated 1901
Our Church Today
Currently, our congregation is a diverse age group. There are some who have been at this church since childhood, with second and third generations in our faith family. Then we have those who have been with us for only a few years. We are also blessed to have many families with young children.
Our worship is more traditional, but we are open to other ways of expressing our thanks to God. Our education seeks to reach out to all ages groups. Our missions seek to support needs that are local and needs that reach around the globe. Our fellowship opportunities bind us together and make us more of the family God calls us to be.
Union Church has had a long history in Hopedale. Founded on April 27, 1901, the congregation is looking to the future with great excitement. Our church seeks to bring people together in worship, service, education, and fellowship.
Union Church is part of the United Church of Christ - a mainline denomination that finds its roots in the Protestant Reformation and the founding of this country. We are marked by a spirit that seeks unity, inclusiveness, and justice. The present building was constructed following the loss of the original church by fire in 1962.
Our United Church of Christ Heritage
We are Christian, for we are a part of the body of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior. We are reformed, for we hold to the Reformation belief in the sole authority of and personal access to God. We are evangelical because we preach the good news of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are congregational, for we affirm that all churches are to be in covenant with each other, yet local congregations are autonomous to follow Christ, and order their own life and worship.
In our church, we value and encourage inquiry and reflection as much as we encourage applying our historic faith in Jesus Christ to everyday living. As seekers, we all have questions. While some answers may be clearly found in our faith, there are other answers that are more elusive. The Holy Bible is our sourcebook, and our tradition calls us to read it seriously, rather than literally. We are called to read it faithfully - using our hearts and minds, and trusting that the Holy Spirit will help us in discerning its meaning for our lives today.
So we journey together in search of the answers to our questions, faithfully supporting one another in times of joy and pain, being faithful to the God that will speak an answer - even if it is one that we don't necessarily want. Thus, we are a covenantal church, emphasizing the journey and the relationship between each one of us, one another, and the God we know in Jesus Christ.
Our History in Hopedale
Mendon is our Mother Town. When Mendon was bought from the Indians before King Phillip’s War, a settlement was started but had to be abandoned until the close of the war. One of the first acts of the settlers was to set aside land on which to build a Meeting House.
In 1668 it was voted “that the meeting house shall be set on the highest side of the land on the highway.” This point turned out to be what is now known as Founder’s Park, which is located on the left hand side of Route 16 as you reach the top of the hill going into Mendon. That first meeting house was a building 22 feet square, a building which was destroyed when the Indians attacked and burned the town.
After the war, the people returned and two more meeting houses were built on the same site. Mendon grew and spread, and nearly 100 years after the original settlement, the area which is now Milford wished to become a separate town. One of the conditions imposed for the privilege of separating was the establishment of a church in the district. So a meeting house was built and a minister secured, and in 1780, Milford became a town. This church, called The Standing Order, was supported by the town, and all landowners were required to pay a church tax. Eventually some of the folks wanted to form another church and asked to be excused from paying this tax. This request was finally granted, and a new church was started.
Then gradually, churches of other creeds came into existence in Milford. The Rev. Adin Balou was very active in religious circles in both Milford and Mendon. He conceived the idea of a Fraternal Society governed to some extent by socialistic theories. So in the Dale, the valley that separated Milford from Mendon, he established a community of people who decided to go along with his theory.
The Society flourished for a time, but ran into difficulties and had to disband. Two things resulted from this experiment, however. The Dale became known as Hopedale, and a religious society was formed, which became the basis of the Unitarian Church in the town.
Now there were other people living in Hopedale who had religious views differing from the Unitarian Creed. They were attending the Evangelical church in Milford, a long cold walk in winter, and a hot tiring one over the hills in the summer; for there was no more public transportation to Milford then, as there is now. Few families had horse drawn vehicles and the horseless carriage was still in the future. It was in this era that the Rev. Francis Clark had begun his young people movement in Maine, that became the Christian Endeavor. Some of the young people in Hopedale heard of this organization and formed themselves into a C. E. Society.
It was around this same time that a group of mothers got together and started a Sunday School which resulted in asking ministers from Milford to come and speak to them on Sunday afternoons. Some of the women of the town were meeting together to sew and perhaps to gossip. They filled missionary barrels and helped folks who were in need. So there were three groups who were ready to unite in religious work.
As a result, in the 1890’s soon after Hopedale was incorporated as a town, some of these men and women associated themselves together with the intention of forming a corporation under the name of the Hopedale Union Evangelical Society, with the stated purpose of maintaining the worship of God and promoting the Christian religion in accordance with apostolic teachings. They applied to the state for certification of incorporation. This was granted in 1896. They first met in different halls in town but soon raised money enough to build the stone Chapel on Peace Street.
It had an assembly hall, a balcony and a small kitchen – our first home. Here the women put on suppers, entertainment, and fairs. Their first fair netted them $60.93. With $50 of this as a nucleus, they started a fund to purchase a piano. When $350 was in hand, the piano was purchased. This instrument was used in our Sunday School, at Lenten services, at hymn sings, and entertainments, until it was destroyed in the fire of 1962. The sums the ladies earned were small. One entertainment added $9.58 to their treasury. Of another event held in the town hall with a paid entertainer, the report read, "“An enjoyable time was had by all” – the profit was only fifty cents.
In 1901 the Union Evangelical Society was ready for another step. They decided that the society should become a church. Again they applied to the state for a certificate of incorporation. Again the state granted the request and on April 27, 1901 a meeting of certain persons holding letters of dismissal from Evangelical churches was called for the purpose of organizing an Evangelical Church in Hopedale.
So the 46 charter members founded our church with the purposes expressed in their petitions for incorporation – TO MAINTAIN THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND THE PROMOTION OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IN ACCORDANCE WITH APOSTOLIC TEACHINGS. They welcomed into their membership all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and agreed concerning the essential doctrines of the Christian religion by whatever name they might be called. So it was then, and so it is now.
The mortgage on the Chapel was soon paid off and plans were made for building a larger church. They needed a greater area on which to build. It was at this time that the Draper Company moved off some houses facing on Dutcher Street and gave the needed land to the church. The church was built and then it was dedicated on June 6, 1906.
In 1951 the church celebrated its Golden Anniversary. It was only eleven years after this celebration, in 1962, that the church building burned. The chancel had been undergoing alterations and a new organ was being installed. All was ready and plans were made for dedicating the new altar and organ. A happy group of workers had spent an evening cleaning. That night a fire broke out and all was destroyed. The building was gone, but the church remained and plans were made at once for a new meeting place.
Before the ashes were cold, many pledged money for a new church. Children brought money from their piggy banks, committees were formed, help came from everywhere, from all religious and fraternal groups in the area, from the Jewish Community, from Catholic friends, from North, East, South and West. The list contains hundreds of names. The Unitarian Church offered us the use of their Sanctuary, and we held our worship services there for nearly two years, while the present building was being built.
Finally, in the summer of 1964, it was approaching completion and on Sunday, August 30, we had a Service of Entry. All gathered at the Unitarian Church, formed a parade and singing, marched to the new church building – a group of happy people. The first service was held in the church on September 27th, 1964.
It was during this time of planning that the question arose of the advisability of the church changing from its non-denominational standing and affiliating with some denomination. A committee was formed to investigate and make recommendations, and at a meeting on Mary 27, 1968, called to act on the matter, the majority of the members present voted to join the United Church of Christ – and in October of that year we were accepted by the members of that body.