Hudson Community Church Marks 280 Years of Unconditional Love

October 12, 2018

 

by Ruth Parker and Doug Robinson

Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” said it best: “There’s no place like home.”

And, to the family of Hudson Community Church, those words could not ring any truer. For 280 years, the Hudson Community Church has been a second home for many in the Hudson community.

Nearly 15 generations have come and have gone since the inception of Hudson Community Church. That formative year was 1738 –38 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia.

However, while change must be embraced, the Hudson Community Church has remained vigilant, consistent, and committed to their biblical roots of being “home.”

“Have you ever been lost?” asked Pastor Tank during his “Come Home” sermon. “I have been. I was lost in NYC. I had a GPS, bluetooth, hooked to cell towers, and still, I got lost. I was really lost and I was scared.”

And then he asked, “Have you ever been spiritually lost? No place to go, no place to call home, no one?”

Our church is “not watered down. We are a family church that loves unconditionally. Our church is a church for souls, not bodies. You are welcome in this house of worship.”

Pastor Tank stressed that the Hudson Community Church “welcomes all with all your bumps and bruises. Many prayers have been said in these pews and many prayers have been answered. It is easy to get off track with today’s distractions. When we get off track, come here.”

The Hudson Community Church, organized in 1930, resulted from a merger of two historic Hudson churches: the Congregational and the Methodist-Episcopal.

Prior to the merger, meetings were held by each of the churches to discuss and approve the plan to merge as guided by a joint committee. The HCC selected the church building of the Methodist-Episcopal Church on Central Street, also known as “the brick church,” and the parsonage house of the Congregational Church at 31 Library St. The Congregational building at 76 Central St., aka “the white church,” was sold to the Hudson Grange, and the parsonage house of the Methodist-Episcopal Church on Baker Street was sold to members of the Baker family.

Despite the fact that the HCC was organized in 1930, the church roots date to November 1737 when 24-year-old Reverend Nathaniel Merrill was settled by the town and ordained as the first Congregational minister of town. The town was responsible for hiring the minister, paying his salary, and providing a meetinghouse. The site of the first meetinghouse on Musquash Road (near the conservation area) is identified by an historic marker.

Before 1733, what is now Hudson was included within the township of Dunstable, Mass. In 1733 Nottingham, Mass., was granted a charter separating it from Dunstable at the Merrimack River. This charter included a mandate to hire and settle a minister. That requirement was met with Rev. Merrill. Settlements within the town of Nottingham were primarily along the river, but they extended for the full length of what are now Hudson and Litchfield on the north and much of Tyngsborough, Mass., at the south. The Musquash Road site was chosen as the center of Nottingham, Mass.

After the boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was established and the town of Nottingham West, N.H., received its charter in 1746, many acres of the earlier town were left in Massachusetts. The town voted to move the preaching to a more central location just a short distance from the present Blodgett Cemetery.

Rev. Merrill continued to preach in town until shortly before his death in 1796. A second minister, Rev. Jabez Pond Fisher, was called in 1795 and by 1802 he had resigned. For the next 15 years or so the Congregational Church became inactive and in 1816 there were signs of a union with the Presbyterians. This lasted until 1841 when the Presbyterian organization dissolved and 26 members formed the Congregational Church of Hudson. In 1842 the church purchased land at the intersection of Central Street and Lowell Road and built a meeting house which became known as “the white church.”

The Methodist Episcopal Society in Hudson was organized in 1840. For a number of years prior, many residents of town were attending services in Nashua. As the interest grew, the Rev. Abraham Folsom was assigned by the conference to organize a church in Hudson. Through his efforts, $1,250 was raised or pledged for building a house of worship. The First Methodist meetinghouse was located about a half mile east of “the brick church” on Central Street near Melendy Road. Originally placed on the south side of Central Street it was moved to the north side by 1878. This move was for convenience and logistics with the Nashua and Rochester railroad tracks which ran along Central Street.

Disaster struck the Methodist Episcopal Church in August of 1879. Immediately after service on Sunday a fire broke out in the stable. Before the fire was extinguished, both the church and the parsonage had been reduced to ashes. If not for the local townspeople and the Nashua Fire Department, a number of surrounding homes and possibly the Congregational Church would have been lost. The loss was insured for $1,500; less than half its value. Services were held in a temporary location while the church members decided what to do. Some wanted to rebuild in the same area; others wanted a location closer to the bridge as a number of members were living on the east of Nashua. When put to a vote, the site of the present “brick church,” now the HCC, was chosen. Plans were made and by Dec. 7, 1880, the Second Meeting House of the Methodist-Episcopal Church was dedicated. The parsonage building, also destroyed by the fire, was not rebuilt at this time. The church provided whatever housing they could for their pastor. By 1888 a parsonage lot was purchased at the corner of Baker and Highland streets. By the fall of 1894 the parsonage was built at a cost of less than $2,500.

This church and the women’s organization were very active in the Hudson bridge community. During World War 1, the pastor, Rev. Roy Honneywell, took a leave of absence to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. During his absence the M-E and the Congregationalists united for services in the M-E Church. As time went on there was more and more union between the two churches at the bridge. This feeling of cooperation helped lead the churches to consider merger in 1930.

In November 1937, the recently organized HCC marked its 200th Anniversary, celebrating its historical roots back to the First Church of Christ of Nottingham, Mass., and the ordination of Rev. Nathanial Merrill.

The growth of the church and various church activities, including a women’s group, Hudson Players, a men’s group, as well as church school classes led to the need for additional space. The church was looking forward to an opportunity to have a parish house, which started to become a reality in December 1953 when the church voted to begin a financial campaign to raise $60,000 for a new parish house. A building committee under the direction of Grant Jasper was established. By December 1955 work was completed and the Parish House was dedicated. Later, in May 1961, a chapel was dedicated to the memory of long-time organist Marion Joy.

The exterior of the church has remained much the same until 2012 when a handicap ramp was constructed and dedicated to the memory of John Goes. Again, early in January 2016 the front and interior of the parish house was extensively damaged when a car crashed into and through the plate glass window. The driver was without insurance; the church and the community were faced with the challenge of repairing this damage.