First Church in Boston Celebrates 50th Anniversary in Its Modern, Rebuilt Church

Recognized as the oldest church in Boston (1630) with the newest building (1972), the First Church in Boston is commemorating the 50th anniversary of worship in its boldly modern, rebuilt church structure. A devastating fire in 1968 burned the century-old church to ash, except for the Gothic façade and bell tower. The congregation chose to rebuild, commissioning Paul Rudolph to create a design that gave versatility to the spaces of the new church.

Come join us for a weekend of FREE events on Saturday April 30 and Sunday May 1. The Festival Concert on April 30 at 7 pm will be inspiring and joyful. The Architectural Panel on Sunday from 2- 4 pm will bring together esteemed architects and architectural historians to talk about Paul Rudolph and the First Church design. Guided tours of the church are offered too.  Details are below. 

All events are free and open to the public. No reservations are needed. All events take place at First Church located at 66 Marlborough Street, at Berkeley Street, in Boston’s Back Bay. For safety’s sake, masks are required when inside the church.

April 30, 2022

Festival Concert “Remembrance, Reflection and Rebirth”* – 7 pm

Come to this inspiring program and experience a journey through music, narration and projections as it makes emotional commentary on the pivotal historical events of the First Church in Boston.

The program includes:

• John Rutter’s Gloria featuring choir, brass octet, tympani and organ

• Adolphus Hailstork’s Seven Songs of the Rubaiyat for unaccompanied choir

• Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise for cello and piano

• And works by First Church composers Larry Thomas Bell and Leo Collins 

A pre-concert reception offering hors d’oeuvres and refreshments starts at 5:15 pm.

*This concert is presented in part with grants from the Music Pension Trust Fund and the Collins Memorial Fund

Tours of the Church: 3 pm, 3:30 pm and 4:15 pm

Guided tours will explore the compelling spaces Paul Rudolph designed for First Church, from the outside amphitheater to the highest balcony of the sanctuary. Guides will highlight how the architect’s design responded to the congregation’s goals. They will share quotations from archived letters in which Rudolph explains his thinking on the use of the ruins, the importance of light and the value of rooms without square corners!  Tours run 60 minutes.

May 1, 2022

Worship Service: 11 am

The sermon ‘Risen from the Ashes’ will tell the story of how the congregation decided to rebuild the church and why they chose a controversial modern design.

The weekly service is live and in-person. All are welcome. Masks are required.

Sunday morning services are also broadcast on WERS 88.9, the radio station of Emerson College, and live-streamed on Facebook.

Tours of the Church:12:30 pm; 1 pm, 4 pm

See description in April 30 events

Architectural Panel – Paul Rudolph and First Church in Boston – 2 – 4pm

Join us for a lively panel discussion about the work of Paul Rudolph and his groundbreaking building for First Church. There will be a brief video introduction by Robert Campbell, the architecture critic for the Boston Globe.

Panelists are:

• Kelvin Dickinson, President of the Paul Rudolph Institute for Modern Architecture

• Alice Friedman, Grace Slack McNeil Professor of American Art at Wellesley College

• Eric Höweler, Co-founder of  Höweler + Yoon Architecture LLP and Associate Professor in Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

• Timothy Rohan, associate professor, Department of Art and Architectural History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and author of The Architecture of Paul Rudolph (Yale University Press, 2014).

• Justin Beal, artist and author and moderator of the panel

The First Church in Boston is a Unitarian Universalist congregation. It is a vibrant meeting place offering a friendly, open-hearted and open-minded welcome to seekers on a spiritual path. The church is fully accessible. Learn more at firstchurchboston.org.

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