Our Church was founded in 1820 incorporating as the Second Religious Society of Waltham. Our official name soon became The Trinitarian Church of Waltham to clearly distinguish the congregation's faith as Trinitarian. It was led by Pastor Reverend Sewall Harding whose strong Trinitarian beliefs formed the religious foundation that is still preached today.

The first church edifice on Heard Street eventually proved inadequate for the need of the congregation. They built the present magnificent building in 1870. In 1989, this beautiful structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

During the tenure of Rev. Frederick Harlan Page (1906-1925) the church abandoned the old system of church government and incorporated itself as the First Congregational Church of Waltham. Our first annual meeting was held in 1907 with 300 members present.

The First Congregational Church became a member of the United Church of Christ in 1957 but withdrew in 2006 when the congregation voted to establish itself as an independent, trans-denominational congregation. Our name was changed to Trinity Church to emphasize our Trinitarian faith and heritage.

Our current Pastor, the Reverend J. Howard Cepelak, was installed on May 3rd, 1993.

Worship in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit lives at the center of life at Trinity Church. Hence, we emphasize the Sunday Morning Worship Service. As is the case in most Protestant churches, the Gospel centered sermon focuses the congregation on the Word of God. We sing traditional hymns, rejoice in sacred music, and speak with God in prayer. The Sacrament of Holy communion becomes the center of our worship on the first Sunday of each month and on other special occasions. And of course, we enjoy good fellowship at our various social functions, coffee hours, workshops, meetings, and dinners, which have long been a tradition in the church.

May we serve faithfully and well in the future years ahead, showing the same courage, faith, and steadfastness of purpose that brought through us through the first century of our history. In the words of Pastor Cepelak, "Onward and Upward."

Click dates below for more detailed history

Show 1894-1945 Show 1946-1970 Show 1971-1995


On October 1, 1894, Rev. Charles Harrington, D. D. was installed as Pastor, and the following year in September, the Trinitarian Congregational Church celebrated its 75th Anniversary. It included a reception for the elderly members, a supper, roll call of members, reports from the church organizations, a Sunday School Rally, and an historical address by the Pastor. The membership was 538. In 1896, it was voted to give Bibles to all the children seven years after they had been baptized.

In 1899, the auditorium, as the sanctuary was known at that time, was entirely remodeled. New windows were installed, and carpeting laid down. The ceiling was lowered below the rafters, and the large pillars which we see today were put into place. A Service of Rededication took place on November 28, 1899. While this work was being carried on, both the Baptist and the Unitarian Churches offered the use of their buildings. It was a period of time when friendly feelings were evident among the Waltham churches

Dr. Harrington tendered his resignation, and was dismissed September 28, 1905. In March, 1906, the old system of church and society government of the Trinitarian Congregational Church was abandoned, and the First Congregational Church of Waltham came into being as an officially incorporated church. It held its first Annual Meeting on January 18, 1907 with 300 members present.

Just three months previous to this event, Rev. Frederick Harlan Page, D. D., had been installed as Pastor on October 2, 1906. His period of nineteen years of ministry was a productive one. Both he and his wife were very active in all phases of church life. He was especially faithful in making pastoral calls. They numbered over 500, and he was transported by his bicycle. A Bible study group, the Baraca Class, for young men was begun as was the Golden Rule Brotherhood. Both of these men's organizations thrived and existed for many years. During the 1920's and 1930's, the Baraca Class sponsored a basketball team, known as the B.A.C.'s, which competed in a Waltham City League comprised of all the Protestant churches. The Brotherhood organization was unique since its membership consisted of two classes, beneficial and social. Beneficial members paid fifty cents per month for dues, while social members were charged twenty-five cents. If a beneficial member were disabled for more than a week, he was paid $5.00 per week in benefits for not more than four weeks. Upon marriage, or upon birth of a child, he received a gift at a cost not to exceed $5.00.

Other organizations which were very active during this period were: The Women's Foreign Missionary Society, The Neighborhood Committee, which was a missionary society for young boys and girls, the King's Messengers, the Knights of King Arthur, and the Congregational Club, which put on an annual music concert. In 1912, the membership in the church was 614, comprised of 79 men and 444 women. Membership in the Sunday School was 621. The Pastor's salary was $2,500, the property was valued at $58,500, and the debt was $1,800.

When World War I broke out, 78 men and one woman answered the call. The woman was Yeowoman Edna Bates Oliver Whidden. Of this number, 33 served in France, and one died as a result of battle wounds. His name is Sergeant Walter T. Jansen. An appropriate service was held after the war to honor those who had served their country. At 9 o'clock on the evening of April 29, 1914, a fire broke out in the basement of the church in a room used by janitor, Frank Moore, possibly from a lantern. It was promptly extinguished by the fire department. Fire and smoke damage was confined to the basement and the partition walls beneath the floor of the Chapel. Damage was set at $700 which was covered by insurance.

Our 100th Anniversary Celebration was held in 1920. Special services were conducted on September 26-28. These included a Sunday Service, a tree planting ceremony, an antique exhibit, an organ concert, a young people's social, and a children's party. Dr. Page resigned in 1925 to become President of the Massachusetts Congregational Conference and Missionary Society. His resignation was accepted with regret. The years 1923 and 1924 saw more renovations to the building. Sunday School rooms were added in the rear, a kitchen was added to the basement, adjoining a dining hall, space was provided for classrooms on the second floor, and the Pastor's office was put into a room at the top of the old stairway to the right. At this time it was noticed that the steeple was dangerously tilting to the East. William Wilson, a member and a carpenter, made the difficult correction. He sawed appropriate timbers from the balcony location to the top of the spire. By inserting jacks, he raised the leaning side of the steeple a few inches, which caused it to become straight again.

On October 1, 1925, a fire badly damaged the newly renovated church. It started in a closet in the vestibule, shot up the wall into attic space, across the top of the sanctuary and out of the roof. The women were working in the kitchen preparing for a reception for Dr. Page, and so the fire was promptly discovered. Their quick work enabled the firemen to save the steeple and the rest of the church. The organ was a total loss. Charred timbers still can be seen in the attic as a reminder.

In 1925, Rev. Walter H. Commons, D.D., was installed as Pastor. He assisted in the renovation of the fire-damaged areas. A new organ was installed, guided by Fred Bearce, our long-time organist. In 1933, Dr. Commons retired, and Rev. A. William Loos, who had been a student, worked and served as Pastor until 1937. Rev. Charles Reidt accepted the call and was installed in May 6, 1938. It was during this time that the country was beginning to recover from the effects of the Great Depression. The church found its financial affairs at a low point, holding a mortgage of $26,760. Trustees, William F. Farley, William H. Slayton, and George P. Davis, devised an annuity plan to raise the money. An insurance policy was issued in the amount of $33, which was worth $500 at maturity in 35 years. In the event of death prior to that time, the subscribed amount was paid to the estate. The Golden Rule Brotherhoods subscribed $1000. About 75 policies were issued to individual church members, and the mortgage was paid off. This was a bold step to take at that time, but it demonstrated the determination and faith of those members.

During World War II, 59 men and 2 women who were members, and 36 men and 2 women who were parish members, served in the armed forces. Parish members were those who attended church, but were not active members. Rev. Reidt carried on an extensive correspondence with many of those in the service, and after the war several said that his letters kept their spirits up while they were away, and that they were thankful for his support. His letters, and many of the letters of service men, were saved and remain part of the record and history of this church. The same year that World War II ended, our 125th Anniversary was celebrated, which was an especially happy one. There were several events during the year, including an Organ Recital by the Waltham Musical Club on November 5th, and the presentation of Handel's, "The Messiah", with 123 voices on December 16th.

First Congregational Church became affiliated with the United Church of Christ in 1961. Building renovations dedicated on October 7, 1962. By January 1, 1970, the membership was highest, 705.

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The numbers of members in our congregation during the mid-forties averaged about 517, and throughout the next 25 years, a steady growth was enjoyed. On January 1, 1970, the membership was 705. Christian Education was well supervised from nursery to Senior High and Junior High Pilgrim Fellowships. It included an average of 200 children and youths. In 1946, Christian Education was under the supervision of the Pastor's wife, Mrs. Charles Reidt. When Rev. Reidt retired, Rev. Harold Leland was installed as Pastor in 1947.

A Religious Education Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Mrs. Grace Bailey, and Arthur Lazarus became the Superintendent of the Church School. Grace served for two years until Cecelia M. Spencer became chairman. Dr. Edna A. Morris became Director of Religious Education in 1949. Then Marion Viets became chairman in 1952. By 1953, the Sunday School had increased to 225, and the services of the two Harrises, Robert and Elizabeth, as Minister to Youth and Director of Christian Education, respectively, were obtained. They were followed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Shelton in 1956 and by the Templins, Dorothy and Alton until 1962. Rev. James Fisher became Minister to Youth and Janis Rand became Director of Children's Work. Jim was particularly effective in working with the Senior High Fellowship. In the summer of 1963, he led a large group on a one-week trip to Bricks, North Carolina at the United Church of Christ Franklinton Conference Center. Here the members worked with concern and enthusiasm along side of black residents in renovating homes, harvesting in the fields, and engaging in a meaningful "Youth Ministry". On September 18, a reception was held for Mary Anne Neevel in her capacity as the new Director of Christian Education. She served until May 1, 1967.

After twelve years of loyal service and a very successful pastorate, the church accepted Rev. Leland's resignation on Palm Sunday in 1958. He was followed by Rev. Laurence Barber as Interim Pastor until the installation of Rev. Paul E. Barnes on October 18, 1959. He remained pastor until October 15, 1968 when the services of Interim Pastor Rev. Pierson P. Harris was obtained.

Music has always played a significant role in our church's history, and there were many changes during this period. On June 14, 1947, Miss Marjorie Cleaves resigned as Choir Director and Soloist after eight years of service. Mr. Edward F. Gilday became the new Director of Music. At this time, the Senior Choir had an enrollment of 38 voices. We also had a Junior Choir of approximately 25 voices. They were kept busy singing at yearly appearances at Grover Cronin's Department Store, at local schools and Parent Teacher Association meetings.

A reception was held in the fall of 1954 to honor Fred Bearce who resigned after serving as our Organist for 62 years. Mr. Bearce, at the testimonial in his honor, was elevated to Organist Emeritus. Mr. Edward Gilday became the Organist/Director until his retirement in June, 1955. The Music Committee then acquired the services of Rev. Flagler Fultz, and under his direction, a Junior, a Junior High, a Solo Choir, and a Men's Chorus were formed. Rev. Fultz resigned on September 1, 1966, and John Miller became Interim Director, when Taita Grinbergs became Organist until 1969. On June 19, 1969, C. Emerson Fox became Organist. There were many active organizations during this period, some of which were new. The Young Adults Club was formed in November of 1946, for the purpose of bringing together the church's young people who had outgrown the Senior High Fellowship. The members were mostly of college age whose purpose was to participate in social activities, yet to support the church and its interests.

The Merry Mates were formed in 1952, a group open to all married couples. By 1960 the membership consisted of 50 couples meeting monthly for dinner, fun, entertainment, and relaxation from the busy world. Among the groups which had been formed in earlier times were the Golden Rule Brotherhood, which was begun in 1907, and the Women's Association, organized in May 1935. By 1947, the membership of the Golden Rule Brotherhood was 119. It held a monthly dinner meeting with prominent speakers, participated in communion breakfasts,helped to support the church financially, and supported a Boy Scout Troop and the oldest Bowling League in Waltham (1935) which is still active. The Women's Association was probably an outreach of former societies such as The Ladies Benevolent Society and the Philathea Society. Its purpose was to enlist the women of the church in a fellowship of worship, service and contributions to the programs of the church, such as the Steeplecock Fair, and Miss Gertrude Chandler, our Missionary in India at the time. The Association, which numbered approximately 300 members, was divided into six smaller groups which generally met monthly at various homes. They also sponsored a Girl Scout Troop and Brownie Troop.

The annual Steeplecock Fair had its origin during this time. In November, 1948, a Special Projects Committee of the Ways and Means Committee conducted a Steeplecock Trading Post. It realized a profit of $1,595.60. Another committee, the Parsonage Committee (now defunct), was kept busy in upkeep and maintenance problems of the parsonage, which at that time was located on Greenwood Lane. It was sold in 1968 and a new one was purchased on Goldencrest Avenue.

Several individuals deserve mention in terms of longevity of service. Elton Stearns served as Clerk for 14 years before his resignation. Miss Emily Sweet served to arrange the scheduling of Sunday Altar Flowers until 1959. After her passing, Miss Charlotte Towne took up the task until 1998. Mrs. Eleanor Tishkins, who replaced Miss Chandler as Missionary in India, served for eleven years in that capacity. The formation of a new denomination, the United Church of Christ, took place and for us it was a difficult decision involving several years of discussions. It called for the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical Free Church. At a special meeting on February 29, 1948 two votes were taken. The first was a vote 40 to 20 that we approve the union according to its proposed constitution without any reservations. The second vote 52 to 8 was to approve the unity on the condition that we could reserve all rights as a local church, which we held as a Congregational Christian Church. In 1955 a special committee was formed to study the union further. The committee recommended that we reaffirm the vote of 1948. However, discussions continued especially within the Diaconate and the Special Union Committee, chaired by Richard Pontz. It was not until 1961 that a final affirmation vote was taken.

Under the leadership of Pastor Paul E. Barnes, and mindful of the needs for improvements in the church building, a Future Needs Committee was formed in 1955 "to survey the present physical facilities". The committee, chaired by Charles Helper, and representatives were appointed from every church organization. The committee compiled an extensive "wish list" which was turned over to the Church Building Advancement Committee, chaired by Edwin Towne, which refined the list. In 1961 William C. Hays was appointed Chairman of a Building Committee charged with overseeing the completion of the project. Curtis Schumacher, Director of the Congregational Financial Advisory Service, was requested to conduct a fund raising campaign. An intensive drive was carried out by 80 canvassers. The cost was $147,000. Ground was broken on October 23, 1961 and the renovations were dedicated on October 7, 1962. Participating in the ceremony was George P. Davis, who was the Chairman of a 1925 Building Committee. Renovations included a new kitchen, the conversion of Page Hall vestry into a dining room-auditorium with lowered acoustical ceiling, a completely furnished church parlor, which replaced a stage, a new Chapel, which later became known as the Davis Chapel, renovated Sunday School rooms downstairs, new offices, an enlarged narthex, a chancel cross, and a fire warning system.

As the decade of the 60's came to a close, we accepted with regret the resignation of Rev. Paul E. Barnes. We welcomed our new Pastor, Rev. Norman A. Levinson whose installation was held on November 30, 1969.

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It's 1971, 25 years ago. The 26th Amendment to the Constitution gave 18 year-olds the right to vote in all elections. U.S. astronauts rode in the Luna Rover on the moon. Army Lt. Calley was found guilty in the Vietnam My Lai Village massacre. The Supreme Court okayed business and redistricting for integrating public schools. It also found state under-writing of non-religious instruction in parochial schools to be unconstitutional. Disney World opened in Florida. "Jesus Christ, Superstar", the musical, opened on Broadway. The radical way of life of the late 1960's was turning into mainstream attitudes in the early 1970's. Many traditional barbers went out of business or became hair stylists. Thirty-four percent of the people believed marriage was obsolete, up from 10% in 1969. Seventy-five percent of movie goers were under 30 years of age. Eighteen percent of women in Eastern colleges would stop working if they were to become mothers, down from 59% in 1940. Yet, many were like Archie Bunker of T.V.'s "All in the Family", longing for the time when we didn't have a welfare state and a "meathead" for a son-in-law. Here at First Church, with a membership of 640 and a budget of $43,000, the 150th Anniversary project to restore the stained glass windows was completed. Pollution regulations forced a changeover from #5 oil to #2 oil, requiring a new burner for the furnace. The parsonage, on the outskirts of town, was changed to a more central location near Piety Corner, bringing the Pastor and his family closer to the church.

Robert Macfarlane, a member of our parish, and a recent graduate of Andover Newton Theological School, was ordained in the church on June 20, 1971. William Ventimiglia, our Minister to Youth, and also a graduate of Andover Newton, was ordained in the church on December 17, 1972. In 1973, a Pictorial Directory was produced, the East side of the building was vinyl-sided, and the first of several self-introspective studies was done by the Re-evaluation Committee. These types of studies were repeated over the next 22 years. They included the H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Explore) Committee analysis in 1976, the Church Alive Committee, and the Church Growth Committee reviews in 1980, the Plan for Church Growth in 1981, and the Church Futures Committee recommendations in 1981 and 1982. Between 1987 and 1991, a Goals Committee was involved in designing and implementing plans for an affordable housing building, which would replace the rear of the church edifice with a six-story structure. This major plan was indeed inventive, hopefully by pursuing our goal of mission outreach in the community, and by producing an income to the church, thus enabling us to remain here at 730 Main Street. But, when it was learned that it would require the church and its property to secure a building loan, the members, in their collective wisdom, voted not to pursue the project.

In 1974, Norman Levinson left for a parish in California, and William Ventimiglia left for his first parish in Haverhill. Dr. David Hottenstein became Interim Pastor. Rev. Kenneth Almeida was called in 1975, and was installed on November 23rd. Rev. Samuel Arulamplulam of Ceylon became Assistant Pastor. Sam was followed by Douglas Asamoa of Ghana who remained for a third year when Ken left for another parish. Rev. James D. Johnston became Interim Pastor in 1977, the same year that Phillip Olson, a member of our parish, and a recent graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, was ordained in June. Rev. Olson then took up his first pastorate in Ohio.

Jim Johnston was then called to be Pastor and was installed on November 12, 1978. The following year, Karen Sorenson became Christian Education Director, and in 1980 she became the Assistant Pastor following her ordination in our church on April 13th. David Peters became Christian Education Director for three years. In 1983, during Jim Johnston's sabbatical in England, we were served by Rev. Foster Freeman. In 1984, after six years of service, Jim retired, to be followed by the interim pastorate team of Carol Camp and Bill Terry. Following their departures in 1985, Rev. Harold W. McSwain served as Interim Pastor until his installation on September 14, 1986 as Pastor. He served for five more years before taking a parish call in Michigan in 1991.

During Hal's stay with us, we engaged Tom Vandestadt in 1986 to the Ministry of Missions, working with the Bristol Lodge Soup Kitchen and Men's Shelter programs. in 1989, Tom was ordained in our church, and left shortly after to become the Pastor of his first parish in Maryland. In 1986 and 1987, Bill Cunnings and Rick Fowler were leaders for our young adult programs.

Rev. Yvonne Schaudt became Interim Pastor after the departure of Hal McSwain until 1992, when Rev. J. Howard Cepelak answered the call to lead us into the future. He was installed on May 3, 1993.

During the earlier years, Donald Mitchell was the Treasurer and caretaker of invested funds. After 25 years of devoted service, he retired in 1975. Norman Poirier was the Treasurer for five years, followed by Winifred Kneisel for five years, and Ruth Anderson for the next ten years to the present. During all these years up until 1998, Malcolm Phillips has been the Collector.

The Organist/Choir Director from 1971 to 1976 was C. Emerson Fox, followed by Joseph Muise and Jonathan Bernhardt for one year each. For the next two years various organists were at the console, until we had Joyce Leuttich in 1981, and Cheryl Linder in 1982. In 1985, Frank Honey was engaged and his mastery of the organ remained with us for ten years until he retired in 1998. In 1989, the old Mueller air organ wheezed its last note, and it was replaced by a Rodgers Electronic organ with four ranks of pipes placed on the walls to the left and right of the Chancel. A three-year pledge drive from 91 donors raised the full cost $90,000. Throughout these past twenty-five years, our church has recognized and struggled with a persistent theme: That of a dwindling membership and an increasingly costly building to maintain. The unused and unoccupied rooms and spaces then became a natural source from which to seek rental income and to carry out one of the church's reasons to be, namely mission work. Thus, we sponsored many groups. They included: A Boy Scout and Cub Scout Troop, a Head Start group, a Spanish speaking church known as the Eglisia de Cristo of Puerto Rico origin, an AA group, and in 1984 Bob Hughes' Soup Kitchen, which became an adjunct of the Bristol Lodge. The Soup Kitchen has been open, serving between 70 and 90 homeless and hungry persons, 365 days every year until 1998. In 1985, we provided space in the Chapel for a newly formed church of French speaking Haitians, known as The Church of God. Other organizations included the Waltham Women's Club, The Waltham Concerned Citizens, The Waltham Housing Alliance, a Red Cross food distribution center, an expanded Bristol Lodge, and a teenage substance abuse center. From 1988 to 1994, there was a Women's Shelter in the basement which provided space for 16 sleeping quarters. This shelter was relocated to a state facility on Trapelo Road.

Following the decision not to proceed with the affordable housing project in the rear of the church in 1993, and coincidentally with the arrival of Pastor Cepelak, a renovation project was undertaken. This included the painting of the steeple, and the complete restoration of the Sanctuary. The cost was $60,000 and it was raised in one year's time from members and friends. During this period, the church took 241 persons into membership, 86 of whom came from the Sunday School. Of this number, 80 are still members, including nine who joined as youths. The membership list has been culled several times by 47 in 1972, by 197 in 1973, by 116 in 1984, and by six in 1993. Maintaining the membership roll is the responsibility of the Church Committee. It accounts for those who, for various reasons, move and retire, no longer meet their commitments of active membership, including attending worship services, participating in the fellowship of the church, and supporting the church in a financial or mission way. In 1995, the active membership stood at 154.

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