Belmont MA “Payson Park Church postcard 1930s”
It was in the fall of 1912, that Francis Loring, a resident of the rapidly developing Payson Park section of town and a member of the Plymouth Congregational Church on Common Street voiced a desire to hold worship services in his own neighborhood. Late in December 1912, the first step was taken when a visit was made to the Congregational House in Boston to explore the possibility of receiving denominational support. Early in the new year, members from that organization visited Belmont and seemed initially impressed by the growth of the area. It was at this time that large estates such as John Cushing’s “Bellmont’ were disappearing and many streets were being laid out and new homes built. An eight-room school house at the corner of Payson Road and Elm Street was constructed in 1904 and the initial population of 99 students in grades 1-6 had doubled already by this time. Despite continuing development the argument was made that the sparsely populated town may not be able to support a third Congregational Church with both the First Congregational Church of Waverley started in 1865 and the Plymouth Congregational Church organized in 1899 within its borders.
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Unmoved by the opposition, a group of twenty-two determined men drew up a petition and began a door-to-door campaign, which resulted in 130 signatures pledging local support. On Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, 160 people gathered in the small stone chapel on Old Middlesex Road to participate in the first service.
Formal recognition of the new congregation was received on June 3, 1913. Seventy-two charter members made up of 31 men and 41 women, representing five different religious affiliations, were acknowledged by the Ecclesiastical Council. While the largest share of these first congregants were from Congregational backgrounds, the new church from the beginning set out to unite Christians of all denominations in the form of a community church. Those early documents record: “To exemplify the spirit of our time and help to fulfill the prayer of our Lord Jesus for unity, the members of many communions are here uniting to pray and work together for the building of the Kingdom of God. To co-operation and membership in this community Church, every household of the vicinity is heartily invited.”
One of the notable architectural features of the church is a large bell, which was presented to Payson Park by the citizens of the community – a visible token of their well wishes for the work of God here carried on – Easter Sunday March 27, 1921. The bell, which continues to be a reminder of the early years, still sits on prominent display to the right side of the building. In celebration of our Centennial in 2013, the bell was polished and set on a granite foundation surrounded by granite benches surrounded by a remembrance and reflection garden.