Congregationalism had its genesis in England and was carried to the shores of America by our Pilgrim Fathers. During the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Congregationalism was the state church. Every individual in a community, therefore, regardless of creed, was taxed to support the Congregational Church in his parish. As a result, many of the people who supported the church and who were known as members of the society were not members of the state church and were, therefore, prohibited from voting on any issue pertaining to the spiritual offices of the church. These persons could cast a vote (as members of the society) upon matters pertaining to the church property, which each society owned and controlled in their respective parishes. The society raised and dispensed all monies needed and used. However, the state churches no longer exist; therefore, any member of the community who contributes annually to the support of our church may be eligible to become a member of the First Congregational Church by attending the meetings and being voted into full membership.
The Meeting House 1816 - 1832
The First Congregational Church in Fall River was organized January 9, 1816. (The settlement, now Fall River, was then called Troy.) The Church began with five members: Joseph Durfee and Elizabeth, his wife; Wealthy, wife of Charles Durfee; Benjamin Brayton; and Richard Durfee. They chose the Congregational form of government and bound themselves together by covenant after the Congregational fashion. For seven years they had no place for public worship nor any settled minister, but their fellowship increased, and they formed a Sunday School of one hundred members.
Their first Meeting House was dedicated February, 1823. Some years later, they sold it to the Unitarian Society. That Society later sold it to the City, which made a schoolhouse of it. It was burned in the great fire of 1843.
The Stone Church 1832 - 1913
The dignified Stone Church in which the congregation worshipped for eighty years was dedicated November 21, 1832. The Female Benevolent Society was organized January 21, 1869. The women of the Church have been distinctive in their service. Christian missions and all good causes have been blessed by their fidelity and the record of what they have been and done is a shining chapter in the history of the Church.
The Church grew and prospered in Fall River. Its men and women have been outstanding in the industrial, religious, medical, and philanthropic affairs of the City for 162 years. Its ministers have been capable and distinguished. The long pastorate of Dr. William W. Adams (only a few months short of 50 years) was epochal and his amazing erudition gave wisdom and grace to the generation to which he ministered.
Our Current Edifice 1913 - Present
Shortly before her death, a munificent bequest from Miss Sarah S. Brayton made possible the noble building in which the Church now works and worships. It was dedicated January 9, 1913. Its towers look out upon the City, and its spacious hospitality entertains groups, causes, and activities that made Miss Brayton's bequest a continuing service to the higher life in Fall River. The history of the City, of Massachusetts and National Congregationalism, and of Home and Foreign Missions are all interwoven in the 199 years of a Church that began so simply and has grown so strong.