Mass. Church to Auction 17th Century Hymn Book

A historic church in Massachusetts will be auctioning off one of their two hymn books that date from the 17th century.

Old South Church in Boston, a 300-plus year-old progressive congregation belonging to the United Church of Christ, voted Sunday to sell off one of their Bay Psalm Books, which were published in 1640.

The Board of Trustees for Old South will be auctioning off the Book and 19 colonial era silver items to help fund improvements to their present building as well as aid their nonprofit efforts.

Given that it is one of the first books to be published in North America, the Psalm Book is expected to bring in somewhere between $10 million and $20 million.

Nancy S. Taylor, senior minister at Old South, said in a statement provided to The Christian Post that this was "an exciting time for our congregation."

"We gathered together as a deeply respectful community to make this decision. I am gratified that a large majority of our members agreed with church leaders that we are at a mission-critical moment now and this is the best path forward," said Taylor.

"This decision ensures that we will remain one of the strongest, most vital progressive Christian churches in Boston and perhaps in the nation, for years to come."

The psalm books that Old South owns were part of larger collection printed in the 17th century and widely used by Puritan communities.

According to an Old South press release, they have had both the psalm books and the silver items on display at a couple public sites.

"The church's copies have been at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square since 1866, while the silver has been on deposit at the Museum of Fine Arts since 1939," reads the press release.

"The second, and better copy of the Bay Psalm Book owned by Old South Church, will remain at the library as part of the Prince Collection of some 2,000 or so rare texts collected by the Rev. Thomas Prince, an 18th Century pastor of the church."

Phil Stern, chairman of the Board of Trustees for Old South, told The Associated Press that while "loud opposition" was leveled against the idea, the vote by Old South members to sell off the colonial era relics was a landslide, with 271 voting in favor and 34 against.

"We will take this wonderful old hymn book, from which our ancestors literally sang their praises to God, and convert it into doing God's ministry in the world today," said Taylor.

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