The Union Church in Waban

THE UNION CHURCH IN WABAN

1904-2016

A small group of twelve Waban residents, recognizing the need for a non-denominational Protestant church in the fast-growing village, met informally on December 4, 1904 to decide how best to organize. By March of 1905, the name “The Union Church Society of Waban” was selected, and accommodations for the initial congregation and 36 children enrolled in the newly-established Sunday school were found in tiny Waban Hall. Formal adoption of by-laws and articles of organization took place the following November, and incorporation in 1908. The members of this new church society were served over the next several years by a series of ministers-in-charge while the society struggled to establish itself as a permanent religious body. It grew rapidly, filling a community need, and soon set about to raise the necessary funds to build a church of its own. William C. Strong, a Waban resident and well-known horticulturist, donated the land. The building, designed by Boston architect James H. Ritchie, had its cornerstone laid on November 19, 1911. Construction followed rapidly so that it was completed for the Dedication Service on September 12, 1912.

As plans were being selected for the building and funds raised for its construction, the members of the society felt the need for several parallel organizations to preserve the founders intentions and serve the needs of the congregation and Waban community. These were: 1) The Board of Trustees, which retained title to the church property; 2) The Union Church Society of Waban, which conducted the business affairs of the organization; and 3) The Union Church in Waban, which directed all religious affairs such as the selection of ministers and deacons, the types of worship services, the Sunday School, benevolences and other related activities. From the very early years, the Union Church has been affiliated with, but not a member of, the Congregational Church (later, the United Church of Christ) in order to have a link with the larger world of Protestant work and missions.

The Rev. Charles H. Cutler was called in 1912 by Church and Society to become the first permanent minister. It was during his ministry, that the Covenant of The Union Church in Waban was adopted.

Upon retirement of Dr. Cutler in 1925, the Rev. Joseph C. MacDonald was called as minister. He was formally installed in 1926. During that year, the church building was enlarged extensively. The sanctuary gained 40 feet in length and two transepts were added. The tower was heightened to better balance the larger structure. The vestry and sub-basement were refinished to include classrooms and a parlor. The building was enlarged a second time in 1951, the new addition on the north side accommodating a number of large classrooms to meet the needs of a burgeoning Sunday school, office space and formal reception room. It was also during Mr. MacDonald’s ministry, in May 1957 that the Church and Society were united into one incorporated organization named The Union Church in Waban. Joseph C. MacDonald served as the church’s beloved pastor for 40 years until he formally retired in 1965. He was then elected to the position Minister Emeritus, continuing to advise and participate in the worship service until his death on February 20, 1978.

The Rev. Boyd M. Johnson, Jr. was chosen by the church members and installed as their minister in 1965. During his ministry, the vestry was entirely refinished and a number of fine stained glass memorial windows were added to the sanctuary. He served The Union Church and its congregation with devotion for 15 years, until 1980. For 75 years The Union Church in Waban enjoyed steady growth in membership under remarkably stable long-term spiritual leadership. In more recent years a leaner congregation with strong lay leadership has been guided by the spiritual direction and profited from the pastoral care of many ministers each contributing to the vital diversity and the welcoming inclusiveness that our church community is favored with today.

In the fall of 1981, Rev. Emil C. Beck was installed as minister and served the congregation for the next four years. Rev. Paul E. Barnes succeeded him in the fall of 1985. During Rev. Barnes pastorate, the child cherishing tradition of The Union Church was strengthened with the support of Associates in the Ministry, Robert Dwyer and Tina Saxon, who directed the Christian education programs. In 1986, the church-operated nursery was inherited by Riverside Children’s Center, which formally took over the church classrooms in September 1986 with 30 children and 8 teachers. Following Rev. Barnes tenure, the Union Church congregation was guided by interim ministers, the Rev. Robert Johnson in 1990 -1991 and the Rev. Luther Durgin in 1991- 1992.

In the fall of 1992 Rev. Yvonne Shaudt was installed as minister and served faithfully for the next five years. In September 1997, Rev Mark Welch came to the Union Church as interim minister for one year and was followed by Rev. Nancy Rockwell who served the congregation during the 1998-1999.

In March 2000, The Union Church installed the Rev. Wayne Pruitt as its settled minister. During Rev. Pruitt’s ministry the Union Church completed an ambitious Capital Campaign enabling the church to bring to fruition its goal of full accessibility, restore its historic Skinner organ and seed innovative mission work. The church embraced international service missions in Nicaragua and Zambia and renewed its covenant as an inclusive church, welcoming all. When Rev. Pruitt resigned to live in Spain in the spring of 2008, the congregation was ably guided through a spiritually joyful transition by interim pastor Rev. Rob Asinger and Rev. Ned Parker, culminating in March 2009 with the calling of our beloved, current minister Rev. Stacy Swain.