In the beginning
It was in May of 1846 that the Rev. W.H. Adams served as moderator at a meeting of several men to discuss the need for a meeting house in North Village (now Wellesley Hills). At the time only two Meeting Houses were available in the area to serve 175 families of North Village.
It was a hardship to travel the distance to the two existing churches. Because of the distance and lack of adequate accommodations, many North Village families remained at home. It was the dire condition that provoked the meeting and decision that a new church be provided at once.
In January, 1847, a Covenant and Confession of Faith was adopted and a letter was sent to the West Needham Church asking for a dismissal. The request was denied. Challenged by this denial, the 30 people who wanted a place of worship in North Village petitioned for a Council of Churches in the vicinity to listen and judge the decision of their case. The Ecclesiastical Council met at Rev. Adams’ home on January 27—and voted adversely.
The 30 proponents were not to be denied. In a short time they developed absolute proof of their need for a new parish. On February 8, 1847, Rev. Adams wrote the following statement:
“We live in the midst of a rapidly increasing population and near one of the most important centers of influence in the world. The increase in the last ten years has exceeded the most sanguine expectations. It must go on with accelerated progress and every suitable spot on the great thoroughfares will soon be teeming with a busy population. But the concentration of a large population on a small surface, unless thoroughly imbued with the spirit and principles of the Gospel, is a great evil. We ought, therefore, not to suffer the population to outstrip the provisions for religious instruction. By so doing we lose the ground and the religious character suffers a retrograde. And we think that there is no part of the world where it is more important to maintain the ground and secure a firm footing for evangelical religion than the whole of this region, because it is the center of a vast influence, which radiates the whole world. We are therefore not acting merely for ourselves but for the permanent interests of religion for our children and for multitudes yet unborn who shall dwell here. The character of the village rising up here for generations yet to come must very much depend on the success of the enterprise which we have commenced. If it succeeds we shall see this place peopled with a religious population. If it is defeated we may expect those to settle here who have little use for puritan institutions. It involves also the question: What influence shall this place, when full of people, exert on the cause of Christ at large?”
Thus was the beginnings of the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church. Those 30 founders WANTED A CHURCH AND KNEW WHY THEY WANTED IT.
In over 160 years of existence, the church has fulfilled the vision and prophecy of the 30 founders. The first “Meeting House” was used from 1847 to 1901. Land and building cost $4,500. It was refitted in 1877 at a cost of $3,700. On February 10, 1901, a final meeting was held in the structure, before being torn down to make room for a larger facility.
A cornerstone for the present building was laid on February 10, 1901. First services were held in the new structure on December 7, 1902. The approximate construction cost was $45,000. Mr. Charles T. Wilder gave $10,000: $6,500 for building and the balance for the organ.
The auditorium was enlarged and the lower floor completely remodeled in 1917. Changes in the structure provided a better facility for the church school and various social activities.
The present parish house, completed in 1948, accommodates the church school, the Wellesley Nursery School in the Hills, church offices and reception room.
Along the way each generation of members at the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church has taken a special turn to provide for the present generation and for its future children and grandchildren. The constant growth in membership has required remodeling, refurbishing and new construction of the church through its existence.
During lean financial years, maintenance is overlooked in order to accommodate programs and benevolence. Each year the Stewardship drive asks members to support the continued care and growth of our spiritual and physical foundation.
To emphasize this, here is a quote from a fundraising letter written in 1959 for a major capital campaign by the Rev. John Wallace, Pastor Emeritus: “A great heritage is neither easily won nor is it nurtured by an unworthy people… As one generation succeeds another, the accumulated heritage becomes ever more priceless…this is no small test that faces each generation! It is indeed an awesome decision and cannot be ignored. Because a heritage is now great, there is no assurance that its vital, priceless character will remain so! History is fill of shocking example in which a goodly heritage was taken for granted –and lost. A heritage lives only by the nurture of a worthy people.”