Art as a Means of Congregation, Unity and Inclusion: Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts

Old South Church, located in Boston, Massachusetts, at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth Streets in Copley Square, has a fascinating history and unique character. Old South Church is known for its long legacy of fighting for civil and human rights. The church congregation was founded in 1669 by worshipers separating from the First Church in Boston because they wanted to escape forced conversion to baptism. Old South Church then became an important location in the American Revolution; it was there that the Boston Tea Party was initiated by patriot Samuel Adams’ famous “war whoops.” During the Civil War, the Church became an important location where soldiers could enlist in the Union Army, fighting to abolish slavery.

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The Facade of Old South Church

In 1875, the congregation moved to its current location at 645 Boylston Street, where the current Old South Church began construction in 1872 by Cummings and Sears, an architecture firm in Boston (Charles Amos Cummings, the lead architect on the project, also headed the construction of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, also in Boston). The church was constructed in the Ruskinian Gothic style, named after famous nineteenth century art critic John Ruskin, who after visits to Venice, Italy, insisted that modern buildings in England and America should be based off of the the Northern Italian Gothic style. Old South Church definitely evidences this style, with its sculpted stone facade, arched windows and porticoes, interior walls decorated with warming reds, golds, browns, and radiant stained glass windows.

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The Interior of Old South Church

I first experienced the church when I played a violin concert there with my high school chamber music group for one of the church’s Sunday services. Having lived in and around Boston for the past 5 years, I’ve passed by the church countless times, though more recently attended the church’s Festival Worship service this morning (Old South Church holds services on Thursdays and Sundays, which are progressive, inclusive, and welcoming to all walks of life and religions). The service today was heartwarming and comforting, a refreshing place to be after a distressing and fractious inauguration week. Themes of community and unity resonated throughout the service, and the interior architecture was truly a sight to behold. No matter your beliefs, I encourage you to visit Old South Church, not only to witness the beautiful Gothic art and architecture, but also to be inspired by the unifying and inclusive feeling that the Church imparts.

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Pamphlet Provided at the Service

This visit reminded me of the love, compassion, and kindness that exists among us the people, something that can never be taken away from us.

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Pamphlet Provided at the Service
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