Massachusetts can claim a lot of firsts. We’re home to the oldest public park in the country, the oldest public school, and we were even the first to figure out how to package frozen food. However, few firsts can compare to the inspiring beauty of Old Ship Church in Hingham. This place the nation’s oldest church in continuous use, and it’s pretty breathtaking.
The most incredible thing about this church is how much of a direct link it is with history. The building was constructed in 1681, but the congregation gathered there in an older building beginning in 1635. It was built before the first recognizable, white-steepled, New England-style churches were even conceived of.
Instead, this church draws its architectural heritage from techniques that early settlers brought with them from England. It’s the only surviving example in America of the English Gothic style of the 17th century.
The church was literally raised from the ground by the Hingham community, with each and every townsperson gathering in the heat of July 28, 1681 to lift the wooden frame of the church into place. Each townsperson contributed to the cost of the building according to his ability, in payments ranging from one to 15 pounds.
There are so many amazing connections to the past at Old Ship Church. Reverend Peter Hobart was the first to lead the congregation of Old Ship Church in 1635. Incredibly, his direct descendant, Kenneth Read-Brown, is now the minister at the church.
Some of the original church furnishings are still in use today, For example, the church’s christening bowl was made in the 1500s, and was brought all the way from Hingham, England.
Notable people buried in the church’s cemetery include the designer of Boston’s original state house, multiple Massachusetts governors, the daughter of Paul Revere, and the original founders and settlers of Hingham. The oldest burial dates back to 1672, before the church was even erected.
Today, the congregation is Unitarian Universalist and is a Welcoming Congregation. Visitors are frequently awed by the simple yet striking interior, the soaring ceiling and the aura of quiet grandeur that pervades the church. It's easy to see why this stunning church has stood the test of time.
This place is a true example of our amazing state history. You can find Old Ship Church at 107 Main Street, Hingham. To learn more about Massachusetts’ incredible past, check out t
hese 11 very rare pictures taken in this state during WWII.