Our History, Our Future
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.
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.
Through the years the church has continued to grow. In October of 2007 the members of Payson Park Church welcomed parishioners who joined from Phillips Congregational Church located in nearby Watertown, MA. It is evident that the formal process of consolidation has changed those who initially came as friends into valued members of the Payson Park family.
The year 2013 marked the Centennial Anniversary of the founding of Payson Park Congregational Church. The celebration culminated in a worship service and luncheon held on Sunday, November 3, 2013, which brought together friends and faithful members who met to joyfully acknowledge the milestone.
Going forward, our goals in support of our Mission Statement will center on our strengths; growing community involvement and mission outreach, welcoming families into our revitalized youth programs, celebrating our music program for adults and children, and inviting all to a deeper commitment to walk in the way of Jesus.
In November 2016, the church called the Rev. Eric Wefald as our settled Pastor. Eric arrived at Payson Park, by way of a one year writing sabbatical, from First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. We are delighted to welcome Eric to our congregation!
Portions taken from Belmont Historical Society Newsletter – December 2013