On the Green for Good
It’s not an accident that Hancock United Church of Christ is on the Green in Lexington. We began in the 1690s, as First Parish Church, the congregational church that was necessary for the incorporation of the town of Lexington. Our first building was on the Green, a common area owned by all citizens, where people could gather to discuss the great issues of the day, whether political and economic or spiritual and theological. The Green was common space for the people to gather to seek the common good. And our church was right at the center of it all, worshiping under the guidance of the Rev. John Hancock, whose namesake and nephew would sign the Declaration of Independence.
On April 19, 1775, when the British Regulars marched out of Boston to Concord, the militia men who met them on the Green in Lexington were all members of our congregation. Their decision to stand for liberty was the result of countless conversations in the congregation and on the Green (and, of course, in the Buckman Tavern). This sort of discussion has occurred again and again in our faith community, as we have dealt with issues like the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and, most recently, equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens.
In 2012, the congregation raised nearly $3.5 million dollars to make our building accessible to all, regardless of handicapping conditions. We intend to remain on the Green for Good, and to include in our work anyone and everyone who has a desire to be a part of our conversations and our work.
Leaving First Parish – Becoming Hancock UCC
In the first half of the 1800s, New England Congregationalism was rocked by the Unitarian movement. Unitarians do not accept the divinity of Christ, and while some still thought of themselves as Christians, many Christians could not see them in that way. Many congregations split over this issue at this time, and First Parish Church in Lexington was no exception. In 1852, the majority voted to call themselves a Unitarian congregation.
The Christian minority made two resolutions: 1) to continue to gather as a Christian Congregational Church, and 2) to build a new church home on the Green as soon as possible. In 1868 the church was reorganized as Hancock Congregational Church, named in honor of the first minister, John Hancock, and land purchased on the Green. In 1982, they could at last afford to build a new building, debt free, and our current sanctuary was dedicated that year.
First Parish remains an active Unitarian Congregation, in the original building. Hancock UCC has become a larger and vibrant Christian congregation with a theology in harmony with that of the founders.
Still on the Green for Good
Congregational theology and organization call for each individual and each congregation to search their own heart, mind and conscience to shape their belief and course of action. Also called for is a covenant commitment to remain in community together, even when, especially when, we disagree. It is a tradition in which thoughtfulness and conversation are esteemed, with the expectation that we will learn essential things from the witness of others.
Our rich history and our continuing theology call us to be leaders as the community discusses the great issues of the day. We live out this call through cultivation of continuing education on the great issues of the day, including equal rights for all, the challenges of climate change, and interfaith conversation. Hancock is proudly Open and Affirming of all people. Hancock is a community leader in the creation of sustainable building practices and codes now in force in Lexington. And Hancock is a leader in inter-faith programs such as the Interfaith Garden to feed fellow citizens at the Lexington Food Pantry, and dialogue among the many faith traditions practiced in Lexington. When Temple Isaiah was under construction, Hancock provided space so that our Jewish friends could worship in our building.
As conversations continue around health care, the relationship of faith and science, a variety of justice issues, Hancock UCC will be at the center of them, on the Green for good.