“DEEP ROOTS…..STRONG BRANCHES”
The cycle of life in the Federated Church of Marlborough
The roots of the Federated Church of Marlborough grow deep and strong from their planting some 225 years ago. Marlborough, a small community of some 2,000 people, is located in the picturesque Monadnock Region of southwestern New Hampshire. Marlborough is only eight miles from the vibrant community of Keene, known in the Guinness Book of Records as the creator of the Pumpkin Fest and still champion for the greatest number of pumpkins assembled together at one time and place. Our church is a major part of that celebration, having cornered the market on our Pumpkin Whoopee Pies.
The vitality and essence of our town is barely noticeable to motorists as they travel along Route 101 between Keene and Manchester or on their way to climb Mt. Monadnock.
For centuries, people have been born, lived and died here. Today, there is a subtle shift in our population. Not good or bad for the most part, just different. American culture of the last two decades has put families on the move and scattered loved ones, across the country and around the globe. Sitting around the fire and hearing elders recite stories of how things used to be is no longer a common occurrence.
Here in Marlborough, New Hampshire, we still honor our stories. We are proud of our heritage. We know that our roots feed us as we engage with one another in our daily affairs and embrace the future.
The Federated Church of Marlborough is a reflection of our community character. Our diverse church family not only honors tradition, but acknowledges diversity, even as we struggle with it. Most of all, we unite in a community of spirit, not always in agreement, but accepting of compromise and capable of change where it benefits our church and our congregation. Francis of Assisi said it well,
We are “simply a band of people who love God.”
OUR ROOTS: COOPERATION AND COMMUNITY
(from a “History of the Federated Church of Marlborough, NH”)
“In 1770, construction began in the Old Meeting House, located on Frost Hill, in the original center of town. Completed in 1790, the Meeting House was home to five denominations, each one allotted a number of days of use according to the size of its membership. The Universalist being the largest group (20 members) used the Meeting House on 20 days. The Congregationalists used it 13, Methodist – 10, Baptists – seven and Unitarians – two. When unable to use the Meeting House, the denominations met in homes and barns.”
In the mid-1860s, a windstorm destroyed the Meeting House. A parishioner salvaged a hinged portion of the communion table which was used in the construction of the present altar of the Federated Church.
The Trinitarian Congregational Church was organized in 1778. In 1834 its members erected a church from bricks which were made in a local brickyard. The church was built on Pleasant St., the site of our church home today.
In 1859, the Methodist minister bought the Baptist Meeting House, located on what is now Marlborough’s Main Street. The Baptist community had become too few in number to maintain the building and disbanded. The Methodist congregation embraced the church, added a second story and moved the bell tower.
Today, that building – our Community House - is still owned by the Federated Church. It is the hub of Marlborough civic, cultural and recreational activity and a significant outreach of our faith community. It is the home to the following groups and activities: Friendly Meals, senior recreation (games and exercise groups), Gramma’s Table (a free monthly community meal open to all), Ladies Group Holiday Fair, scouting programs, an area actors’ theater, youth summer theater, quilters, wedding receptions and much more.
The first records of the Universalist Society are dated October, 1805. Their church building was dedicated in 1852 and was located on the corner of Main and Church Streets. There were several renovations and additions to the property during the next 70 years, allowing for a parsonage, kitchen and youth center. In 1963, the Universalist Society having joined the Federation, the property was purchased by a local Marlborough family. The building was razed. However, the church’s signature round stained glass window was placed in the west wall of the Ella Talmadge Memorial Chapel in the Federated Church.
In 1927, the Congregationalist, Methodist and Universalist groups united to create the Federated Church of Marlborough. Board members from each of the denominations met and acknowledged that the individual groups could no longer support themselves separately. The deliberations were not without pain and dissension, and were mostly about where we would worship, not how we would worship. In 1929, the three denominations agreed to use our present site as its permanent home. This is where that small piece of the communion table, rescued and honored close to 150 years ago, has become a symbol of our unity.
Today, we continue to build our history as we worship, witness, study and sing.