The First Congregational Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, was formed on November 7, 1716 with 21 members, 71 years after the incorporation of the town of Manchester. The first minister of the newly formed church was Rev. Ames Cheever. Prior to the formation of the church, the inhabitants of Manchester worshipped first at Salem and then at Beverly. However, the town of Manchester still had a meeting house, with the first constructed in 1656 and the second constructed in 1695. A third meeting house was constructed shortly after the formation of the First Church in 1719. The fourth and final meeting house was built in 1809 and was co-owned by both the town of Manchester and the church proprietors.
The church’s Sunday school was founded in June of 1810. In 1843 the name of the church was changed to the Orthodox Congregational Church. In 1844 the church proprietors bought out the town and therefore fully controlled the meeting house thereafter. In 1857, an ecclesiastical dispute resulted in about two-thirds of the parish separating from the church and forming a new church with Rev. F. V. Fenny as the minister. The two churches were reunited in 1869. In 1902 the church was officially incorporated under Massachusetts law and a new covenant and revised by-laws were adopted, and in 1979 the church adopted the name First Parish Church Congregational. A member of the United Church of Christ, the First Parish Church Congregational continues to serve the community of Manchester-by-the-Sea today.
This collection contains the earliest extant record books of the First Congregational Church in Manchester, including the financial records of the church and meeting house, and vital member records including baptismal records, marriage records, necrologies, lists of active members, and disciplinary records.