History of Holyoke's Churches

Liberal Christian Congregational Society

Rev. A. Coar, Pastor

      On May 28, 1857, the first Unitarian Society of Holyoke was formally organized by the adoption of its articles of agreement. The names of many of the men most prominent in the history of the growing town are on the roll of those who signed these articles. This society lasted about a year, having to give way to save another religious organization, which was then in financial straits. Rev. J.F. Moors, later and for many years the able minister in Greenfield, preached part of the year to this society, and was followed by Rev. Mr. Penniman.

Unitarian Church
Unitarian Church

      Agitation, begun as early as 1872, bore fruit in 1874, in the organization of a second Unitarian Society, under the name of the Liberal Christian Congregational Society. The signers of the agreement, May 27, 1874, were Richard Pattee, Rufus Mosher, Samuel B. Gilmore, William J. Sumner, Augustus Tuttle, William S. Chase, William B. Whiting, F.R. Norton, Charles Bigelow, James G. Smith, E.M. Belden, George Ruddy, Hiram M. Smith, George M. Munn, Horace R. Day, and C.H. Roby. Fifty-five signed the membership roll, and at a meeting held in July, E.A. Ramsey was chosen Sunday school superintendent, and steps were taken to secure land as a church site.
      The society held its first services in Parson's Hall; then meetings were held in Temperance Hall until the spring of 1876, when its own chapel was ready for occupancy. The Water Power Company the year before had donated the lot at the northeast corner of Maple and Essex streets, which had encouraged the young organization to vote to erect a building, the cost of which should not exceed $5,500. To accommodate the growing work of the society the south wing was added in the year 1899. This addition provides a Sunday school room and quarters for the meetings of the various church organizations.
      Rev. W.S. Heywood was the first minister, and he served until February, 1883, to the great advancement and gratitude of the society. Rev. Granville Pierce served until 1886, to be followed by Rev. James W. Carney, who remained until 1895; Rev. T.E. Chappell, 1895-1901; Rev. Antone G. Singsen, 1901-1906; and Rev. Arthur H. Coar, 1906 to the present time, concludes the roll of ministers.
      This society is affiliated with the American Unitarian Association, and in common with most so-called Unitarian churches, is founded upon the two principles of Religious Freedom and the progressive Revelation of the Divine Life in the Soul of Man and the Social Life of the world. The covenant states: "We believe in freedom of Reason and Conscience as the method in religion, in the Fellowship of the Spirit as the bond of religion, and in the progressive establishment in the life of the individual and society of the Divine Commonwealth of Truth, Justice and Love."

Rev. A.H. Coar
Rev. A.H. Coar

      The aims and purposed are expressed in the covenant, the signing of which is the only condition of membership in this organization. "In the love of truth we unite for the worship of God, and the service of man: and as His followers we accept the religion of Jesus, holding in accordance with His teaching that practical religion is summed up in love to God and love to man. We covenant with God and one another, to insure perpetually to this community a reverent worship of God, free and untrammeled preaching of the truth, the religious training of our youth, the upbuilding of character, and the promotion of justice and benevolence in the world."
      The society is organized with the following officers and committees:
      Board of trustees: George Lewis, chairman; Thomas S. Childs, James M. Ramage, Dr. D.E. Bartlett, Charles Kelley; clerk, M.M.S. Moriarty; treasurer, Thomas S. Childs.
      Standing committees: Committee on worship, Mrs. D.E. Bartlett, chairman; committee on hospitality and social life, The Woman's Alliance; committee on education, officers and teachers of the Sunday school; committee on social service and benevolence, Thomas S. Childs, chairman; committee on church property, J. Roy Lewis, chairman; missionary committee, Mrs. H.F. Farr, chairman.
      Woman's Branch Alliance: Honorary president, Mrs. G.T. Smith; president, Mrs. A.H. Coar; vice-president, Mrs. J.M. Ramage; corresponding secretary, Mrs. M.M.S. Moriarty; recording secretary, Mrs. Emma Barnes; treasurer, Miss Anna Bartlett.
      Liberal Club: President, Mr. Charles Kelley; secretary and treasurer, Mr. J. Roy Lewis.
      Sunday School: Superintendent, Rev. A.H. Coar; assistant superintendent. George Barnes; secretary, Miss Anna Bartlett; treasurer, Irving Barnes.
      Ushers: Mr. M.M.S. Moriarty, Irving Barnes, George Barnes.
      Janitor, Mr. Charles Ward, 280 Maple street.
      At present the membership of the society is 60.
      The society has voted to sell its present lot and building, and is planning to erect a new church in a more favorable location. Rev. Arthur Coar, in addition to his duties here, has for a number of years acted as pastor of the Unitarian church at Amherst. He is also president of the Associated Charities, which was founded largely by his efforts. Mr. Coar was graduated from Williams College in the class of 1894.

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