– Rev. Davis Smith Brainard, First Congregational Church, Lyme, CT, ca. 1860
New churches grow like an infestation.
They challenge tradition, cause rivalries.
It’s rather like that man Darwin’s theory:
the strongest church survives. Pitted against
Methodists, Baptists, and a few Catholics,
First Congregational has held its own,
even as our members are tempted to err,
to worship incorrectly, even to join
I have been forced
to excommunicate several of our
company: young, energetic members
of our own family, who had turned away
from the path of quiet sobriety.
Despite that drain of hope, our spiritual life
stretches the rafters of the meeting-house
when our voices rise together in a hymn.
Are not the deep questions of ship-builders,
venerable captains of packet-ships,
captains of whaling vessels, and their wives
equally needful of our Father’s grace
as those whom slavery has civilized?
Yet our grown children join other churches.
A church needs baptisms, not funerals!
So our council plans to build a horse-shed
for use on inclement Sabbath mornings.
We will win back the imaginative
and energetic. We’ll make people seek
the privilege of worship in our church!