Once the church was established, residents would gather several times a week to hear sermons and lectures in practical piety. Servants and masters, young and old, rich and poor alike all joined the church. While in early years nearly every resident of the town was a member of the church,  membership gradually slowed until only eight new members were admitted from to To resolve the problem, an assembly of ministers from throughout Massachusetts endorsed a " half-way covenant " in and then again at a church synod in Initially, a public profession of faith was officially required to join the church, though in practice it was not always enforced.
Women could be members of the church but could not vote in the church meeting. The first covenant was signed the day the church was gathered, November 8, The covenant was much broader than those that preceded it. We profess our belief in the Christian Religion. We unite ourselves together for the purpose of obeying the precepts and honoring the institutions of the religion which we profess.
We covenant and agree with each other to live together as a band of Christian brethren; to give and receive counsel and reproof with meekness and candor; to submit with a Christian temper to the discipline which the Gospel authorizes the church to administer; and diligently to seek after the will of God, and carefully endeavor to obey all His commandments. As the town grew and residents began moving to outlying areas, the town was divided into parishes and precincts.
In , the Town Meeting voted, in what was the first ever concession to outlying areas, to exempt residents from paying the minister's salary if they lived more than five miles from the meetinghouse.
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The Clapboard Trees section of town had more liberal religious views than did those in either the original village or South Dedham. In the early 19th century, all Massachusetts towns were Constitutionally required to tax their citizens "for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety. The "previous and long standing practice [was to have] the church vote for the minister and the parish sanction this vote. In "Dedham [claimed] rights distinct from the church and against the vote of the church.
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Alvan Lamson, to serve the First Church in Dedham. The case reached the Supreme Judicial Court who ruled that "[w]hatever the usage in settling ministers, the Bill of Rights of secures to towns, not to churches, the right to elect the minister, in the last resort. Despite the court ruling, the silver was not returned to First Church.
A "tender" search for the flock's first minister took several months, but finally John Allen was ordained as pastor and John Hunting as Ruling Elder. The "gifts and graces" of each member of the church was tested and considered for nearly two years before they settled upon Allen. After selecting a pastor, the names of Ralph Wheelock, John Hunting, Thomas Carter, and John Kingsbury were put forward for the role of ruling elder with Hunting eventually being selected.
As in England, Puritan ministers in the American colonies were usually appointed to the pulpits for life  and Allen served for 32 years. After Allen's death the pulpit went without a settled minister for a long stretch  but he was eventually succeeded by William Adams. The church was without a minister from to That minister, Joseph Belcher , began preaching in the spring of and was installed on November 29, Belcher was minister at First Church from    until his death in ,  although illness prevented him from preaching after Five of his sermons survive.
Samuel Dexter preached for the first time on October 15, and was called to minister at First Church in the fall of During his ministry, several outlying areas of Dedham began to establish their own churches. Jason Haven was called to the Dedham church in and ordained on February 5, As minister, he brought a number of young men into his household to prepare for college or the ministry; 14 of them went to Harvard College. In , he instituted a new method for bringing new members into the congregation.
After Haven's death, an effort was made to limit the term of the minister rather than granting him a life tenure.
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During his pastorate, the Lord's Supper was administered every six weeks. Politically, he was an ardent Federalist while the town and the church were strongly anti-Federalist. The anti-Federalist members of the congregation didn't like paying taxes to support hear Federalist sermons, and the liberal parishioners didn't like the exclusion of other voices from the pulpit. Lamson's appointment as minister came shortly after he was graduated from Harvard College and three months after the resignation of Bates.
After Lamson accepted the parish's call without the concurrence of the church, a council of pastors and delegates from 13 other churches was convened on October 28, Henry Ware. His ordination by Rev. Benjamin H. Bailey served at First Church from to In , he was called to Portland, Maine.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Fisher Ames. Main article: Baker v. See also: Allin Congregational Church. Retrieved Archived from the original on Dedham Historical Society Newsletter January. Archived from the original on December 31, UU World Magazine. Samuel Fales, 16 Mass. Neem Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. First Church and Parish in Dedham. Retrieved August 16, Gardner The Belcher families in New England.
Retrieved July 11, American Unitarian association.
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