Throughout 2015, the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme will celebrate 350 years of history. A series of concerts and a talk on the historic landscape of Lyme Street will commemorate the rich legacy of the past and ongoing connections that link the church and the larger community.
The next event in the year-long celebration is:
Simon Holt: An Organ Recital
“Spanning 350 Years of Organ Music”
Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Public worship began on the east side of the Connecticut River in 1664 when the New London County Court acknowledged that there were “thymes and seasons” when inhabitants could not attend Sabbath meetings in Saybrook and ordered them to agree on a house where they would gather on the Lord’s Day. A year later, Articles of Agreement defined a “loving parting” that created a separate “plantation” on the river’s east side, which would soon be named Lyme.
The first minister, Moses Noyes, a Harvard graduate from the Boston area, settled in the growing community in 1666. Rev. Noyes helped to found the Collegiate School in Saybrook that later became Yale and was elected the twelfth Trustee of the college. Most famous among Lyme’s ministers was Rev. Stephen Johnson, who used a pen name to publish fiery letters in a New London newspaper urging colonists to resist British authority and fight for liberty. He later served as chaplain in the regiment led by Col. Samuel H. Parsons from Lyme and reached Roxbury at the end of the fight for Bunker Hill.
In colonial times, the meetinghouse was not only a place for public worship but also for town meetings and, after stocks were erected in 1685, for public punishments. Over the centuries, community disputes, family quarrels and local scandals played out within its walls. Beginning in 1719 with the creation of a separate Congregational parish in the east section of Lyme, other churches, first Baptist and Methodist followed by Episcopal and Roman Catholic, met the religious needs of the community.
The first three meetinghouses stood on a hill overlooking Long Island Sound. After a lightning strike destroyed the third of those structures in 1815, the church was relocated to its present site closer to the village. Master builder Samuel Belcher from Ellington was hired to design a fourth meetinghouse beside the town green and the cornerstone was laid on June 10, 1816.
That stately white church with its graceful steeple and columned façade, painted repeatedly by the country’s most prominent landscape artists, burned to the ground on July 5, 1907, in what was almost certainly an act of arson. Rebuilt to replicate Belcher’s design after a community-wide, fund-raising campaign, the fifth meetinghouse, dedicated in 1910, remains today as both a vibrant center of faith and fellowship and the town’s most important historic landmark.
For more information, visit www.fccol.org or call the church office at (860)-434-8686.
The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme is located at the intersection of Ferry Road and Lyme Street in Old Lyme, CT.