Meeting Minutes of the Independent Christian Church, Gloucester 1795

This set of minutes shows how the support of churches has come full circle. The parishoners vote to create a tax amongst themselves to support the minister and the doings of the church. While no longer mandated by the town, the members of this church use the same language and structure to provide money to finance their religion.

The new Independent Christian church was created after parishioners left the Congregational First Parish church, because rather than pay their taxes to a church of the official state religion, they sought to pay their taxes instead to a Universalist church. The doctrine of universal salvation had been influenced by Rev. John Murray, one of the founders of Universalism, and led to the establishment of the Independent Christian Church in Gloucester. This act would also later initiate a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case that established a legal precedent for separation of church and state. For further reading about this history, see the Sargent House Museum website (home of John Murray’s wife, Judith Sargent Murray).

Related documents to the separation of church and state in Gloucester:
First Parish Meeting Minutes, Gloucester 1777
Town Meeting Minutes, Gloucester 1777
Partial List of Subscribers of the Independent Christian Church, Gloucester c. 1790s
Act of Incorporation of the Independent Christian Church, Gloucester, 1792

At an Annual Meeting of the Independent Christian Society in Gloucester, March 12th 1795 —

Mr. David Plummer Chosen Moderator and Benj. K. Hough Chosen Clerk, was sworn by the Moderator to the faithfully recording the Transactions1 of said Society during the year ‐‐‐

Voted–Capt John Somes be Treasurer for the Society the Current Year
Voted–Capt Francis Low
Col. William Pearce
Mr. Caleb Norwood, Jun

be a Committee for the Society the present year
Voted–That the Committee be Empowered to hire a Collector2 for the Society and make report at the Adjournment3 of this Meeting
Voted–That money be raised by a Tax on Polls and estates4 to Support the Preaching to this Society the Ensuing year
Voted–to have Preaching three quarters of the time the Current year and the Committee to furnish a Preacher
Voted–to have the sum of Ninety Pounds Raised for the support of Public Preaching the Current year
Voted–that this Meeting stands adjourned to this day fortnight5 at three O’Clock in the Afternoon

At the Adjournment March 26 1795
Voted–That Capt Francis Low be excused from Serving as a Committee Man the Current year
Voted–Mr. David Plummer be a Committee man
Voted–That the Committee be Empowered to Hire a Person to Collect the Taxes for the Society the Current year
Voted–That the Treasurer be Empowered to Hire Money to Pay Mr. Barns for his services the year past till Money is Collected
— Voted — that the Committee is Empowered to agree with the Rev Mr. Barns to Preach to the Society one half of the Current year and Longer if the Committee think it Expedient6 at the Expiration7 of six months
Motioned–That Col William Pearce and Mr. David Plummer be Empowered to Purchase the Land the Meeting House stands on from Capt. Fitz Wm Sargent

1 Transactions = what is decided in the meeting
2 Collector = tax collector
3 Adjournment = end of the meeting
4 Tax on polls and estates = tax on men or households which have land and can vote in town meeting
5 Fortnight = 2 weeks later
6 Expedient = worthwhile
7 Expiration = end


“Meeting” (1795). Records of the Independent Christian Church. Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA.