A service celebrated in words this weekend marked the 300th anniversary of West Gloucester Trinitarian Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
While the church is observing its birthday all year, on Saturday, Sept. 14, parishioners and friends recognized the milestone by holding a service at the church’s original site in the woods off Bray Street. A rock marks the site of the First Meeting House in the Second Parish of West Gloucester, 1713-1846.
The service was followed by a banquet at the church on Essex Avenue, during which state Sen. Bruce Tarr presented the church with a proclamation in honor of the 300th anniversary.
On Sunday, a special service was held at the church.
“In colonial times, church attendance was compulsory. Prior to 1713, residents of West Gloucester had to make the arduous journey to worship by crossing the Annisquam River, weather permitting, or by traveling down the west shore to the harbor, across the bridge, and along the east shore to the Green,” according to “Church in the Wilderness, 1713-2013,” a publication of the West Gloucester Trinitarian Congregational Church. “This was a distance of more than six miles. In 1694, the town established a ferry linking the Ipswich Road at Biskie Head (Rust Island) to Trynall’s Cove, which shortened the distance one was required to travel, but there was a toll of one penny for each person (or horse).”
“In 1710, the residents of West Gloucester petitioned the town for relief, asking to be separated from First Parish and for permission to build their own meeting house. The petition was denied, but in 1712 permission was granted to engage a schoolmaster who would serve as a preacher during the winter months. In 1713, the people again asked the town for land on which to build a meeting house, and 15 acres were granted,” the anniversary publication says. “The meeting house was erected where Bray Street now crosses Tompson Street, and continued to be the meeting house until 1846 when the church moved to its location at 488 Essex Ave.”