First Baptist Church – Manchester, VT, USA

First Baptist Church – Manchester, VT, USA
First Baptist Church
Image by Juan_Carlos_Cruz
The First Baptist Church of Manchester was formally organized on June 22, 1781 under the name “The Church of Jesus Christ in Manchester” by Elder Nathan Mason and a delegation from the Baptist Church of Lanesborough, Massachusetts. The fellowship that signed the sixteen articles of faith drawn up as a covenant were one hundred and ten members from Manchester and eighty-two from Dorset.

Elder Joseph Cornell came to Manchester from Swansea, Massachusetts having been ordained in 1780 by the Lanesborough Baptist Church. Settling in Manchester, he became entitled to the “First Settled Minister’s Right” designated by the Town Charter. Elder Cornell sold these lands to finance the building of the first meeting house in the northwest corner of what is now Factory Point Cemetery. Early records and local histories describe it as a large, plain frame building.

This church early subscribed to the Sunday School movement and the First Church School began in 1825. The Church School has continued to be a vital ministry throughout its history.

The present sanctuary was built in 1833 with bricks drawn from Bennington. In 1835 the Women’s Missionary Society was founded which continues as part of our Mary and Martha Fellowship.

In 1843, a marble platform was added to the church. In 1873 rooms were added and in 1876 the present belfry tower, bell and vestry were added. The same time that the Johnson Tracker Organ was installed, the kitchen wing was added to the present building. The 1981 entrance brings our church to its present form.

From its earliest time, this church was concerned with churches in other communities and expanding its fellowship beyond this valley. It early joined in the Shaftsbury Association, began a short-lived association of its own with other Baptist Churches in New York called the Manchester Association, and later was instrumental in the founding of the Vermont Baptist State Convention.

It also has participated in the organization and founding of several other churches. These include the Hubbardton Baptist Church as early as 1787, the Stillwater Baptist Church, and the East Dorset Baptist Church now known as the East Dorset Federated Church.


The Holy Name Church, Oxford Road, Manchester, 23 April, 1973

The Holy Name Church, Oxford Road, Manchester, 23 April, 1973
Church names
Image by Dr John2005
Departure (2), 7 September, 2009

John phones me to discuss where to meet up. I have been musing about this during the last week but hadn’t reached a definitive decision. But I do know that it has to be Manchester. Why? In the past I had escaped to spend periods in France, and I had also lived in London over two years, but my ties with the city are too strong to suggest anywhere else. I narrow down my choice of location to two places.

First, I suggest Piccadilly train station, where we eventually make the opening image of our collaboration. I have regularly commuted into the city by train since childhood and Piccadilly has constantly been my point of arrival and departure. I’ve always been attracted to places of daily transit and as the city’s main train station it is one of the key arteries linking Manchester to the rest of the UK. Like many of the major English train stations, it has changed considerably over the last two decades. Gone are the days of old leaking roofs and flocks of pigeons nesting in dark and filthy upper recesses: now a parade of gleaming shops and bars fill two floors and light floods in through large glass windows and fine mesh roofing high above the platforms. This can present a challenge to memory: can your recollections of your past in a place remain the same when so much of its fabric has changed? The station’s transformation seems to have effaced many of my recollections from childhood and adolescence passing through here but it will always be more than a mere stop on my daily commute between home and work.

The second location I propose is the Holy Name Church on Oxford Road. This is where my parents married in 1973, and where my favourite photograph of them was taken, but also because it reminds me of my father’s migration to the city. When he first arrived here, he used to live on Dover Street behind the Church, and the Holy Name was where he attended Mass. Further down the same side of Oxford Road, I was born in St Mary’s Hospital in 1978, and now work opposite the Holy Name at the University. So when I am on campus I pass by it at least twice a day, yet seldom catch people climbing or descending its steps: how many students and staff have ever ventured inside? Every time I see it, it also reminds me of my own return back to my alma mater after living in London and working in Wales and thus to an area that has played a pivotal role in my parents’ lives. This unplanned and oddly circular journey never fails to surprise me and despite myself seems to root me irrevocably here.

© Joseph McGonagle, 2009