OUR HISTORY

 

Throughout its two-hundred and seventy-five year history, First Parish has occupied a central place in the life of the Westwood community.

The roots of First Parish reach back to Dedham and the early 1630’s.  With the passage of time there came a need for more suitable lands for farming and housing needs.  With expansion south and east of Dedham there naturally arose a need for a meeting house for worship and matters of government.

 

The parish was "gathered" in 1730 when Westwood was still part of Dedham.  In 1736 the Clapboard Trees Parish was established by law.  In a few years there was a meeting house and a settled pastor. The congregation called itself The Clapboardtree Parish, or Third Parish.  In the early 1800s the Parish, like many others in New England, became Unitarian in thought and affiliation.

 

The first Meeting House (1736) was sold to a Baptist group in 1809 and is still used by The First Baptist Church of Westwood.  In 1840 the current Meeting House was built.  A major addition and improvements were made in 1969. Our Parish House, across the street from the Meeting House, was then built in the mid-1950s with largely volunteer labor. The Cottage, used originally as a gate house, was purchased and relocated behind the new Parish House, The Parsonage, built next to the Meeting House by the Reverend John White in 1815 while he was pastor, was not acquired by the church until 1960.

 

The great theological debates and schisms of the 1800’s affected many Protestant churches in New England, including the Clapboard Trees Parish.  At the end of World War II, when Westwood was a rapidly growing Boston suburb, a new Congregational Church was forming.  At the invitation of The First Parish of Westwood, Unitarian, the Congregationalists joined with the older parish in a federated church.  In 1950 the dual organization was succeeded by a single congregation:  The First Parish of Westwood, United Church.

 

As a church our congregation is autonomous, though we are tied historically to the two denominations. We maintain cooperative and responsible relationships with the larger fellowship of Christians mainly through the United Church of Christ, the denomination formed in 1957 by the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.