The First Congregational Church in Middleborough, Massachusetts has a rich history that has been made even more so by the discovery of letters of application to the church that date back all the way to 1724. The letters are believed to come from some of the first settlers in America because one of the church was founded in 1694.
James Fenimore Cooper Jr., a professor Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston have been working on the project to organize the found documents into one collection that will be held at the Congregational Library in Boston, Mass.
The letters reveal quite a bit about the members of various churches in Massachusetts, such as their various sins, which they listed in order to apply to the churches. One such letter is written by a parishioner named John Briggs.
"Left to fall into the sin of fornication, by which it appears to me, I have not only wounded my own soul but greatly dishonored God and grieved his people," Briggs wrote.
Priscilla Cushman also wrote that she had fallen to the "sin of fornication, to the great dishonor of God," and Jedidiah Lyon confessed that he "was unwarily overcome with strong liquor, in the view of several persons present, by which conduct I have greatly dishonored God."
The online records trace back family histories and include confessions, requests for baptism, general letters to the church, and requests for dismissal from the church. The Library is working to transcribe all of the records and has been able to do so for some of the original letters already, but there is still a great deal of work to be done.
What's interesting about these documents is that they show a willingness to confess one's sins and join with the church in a time where people arriving to the country were fleeing religious persecution abroad.
The records can be found by clicking HERE.