Old South Union Church traces its historic roots back to 1723, only 103 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. By 1720 there were enough families scattered throughout the southern part of the Town of Weymouth who found attending worship in North Weymouth a difficult task. Permission was granted for the formation of a new meetinghouse in South Weymouth, right in the center of present-day Columbian Street, midway between the Fogg Library and the Fogg Building. A stone marker on the small triangular strip of land that divides Columbian Street marks the site of the first meetinghouse. In 1785 the church voted to spend $70 to procure a bell for the steeple. It was brought from London by Captain Reuben Loud of South Weymouth, who is said to have had $100 worth of pure silver cast in it. The bell was in use until 1865 when it cracked after being tolled for the death of Abraham Lincoln.
There was a remarkably low turnover rate of ministers in the early days of the church. The Rev. James Bayley, the first minister, served 43 years, and his successor, the Rev. Simeon Williams, established the incredible record of 51 years of service. In more recent years, the Rev. Terry Martinson served Old South Union Church for a total of 41 years, first as Associate Pastor and then as Senior Pastor. His leadership was critical to the growth and success of the church’s community-wide Youth Group, which now welcomes 750 middle- and high-schoolers each year. It was during Terry’s ministry that the church meetinghouse (the part of the building more commonly referred to as the sanctuary) was destroyed by fire on May 8, 1989. The first worship service in the newly rebuilt meetinghouse was held on March 3, 1991. The Dedication Service was held on May 5, 1991, just two years after the fire. In recent years, it became clear that the meetinghouse was suffering from significant deterioration. In order to stop the decay, fix the deterioration, and restore the outside of the building to pristine condition, the church invested $1.6 million in a building restoration project. The last pieces of that project were completed in the Spring of 2018.
While Old South Union Church has a significant history, we’re not stuck in the past! Following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the congregation voted in 2005 to allow same-sex couples to have their weddings held in the church sanctuary. And after 290 years, the church welcomed its first female Senior Pastor when the Rev. Jennie Barrett Siegal began serving in that position on July 1, 2013. It will be exciting to see where the Spirit leads us as Old South Union Church continues to grow and thrive!