Minnie Douglas Bennett
for the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the building of the present meetinghouse
Revisions and Additions by
Bruce J. Crowther
Richard J. Ross
Earle T. Stewart
For the celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the Church
This post is part of The History of the Original Congregational Church of Wrentham series. Previous posts can be found here.
David Avery became the fourth pastor, but served only eight years, 1786 to 1794. This graduate of Yale, a renowned chaplain and soldier of the Revolutionary War, caused great dissension among his parishioners because of ecclesiastical polity. Among other things, including that the atonement consisted in the obedience of Christ, and that Christ's suffering and crucifixion made no part of it was at variance with the preaching of former ministers, and was believed to be contrary to the Scriptures. He was dismissed, and with those members who adhered to his beliefs withdrew to establish a church in the north precinct (now Norfolk), in 1795. He left behind a weak, distraught and divided congregation. Mr. Avery was a brilliant man and a dedicated patriot who, right or wrong, had the courage of his convictions. Two of his sermons on "The nature and evil of professors of religion not bridling the tongue", are available and show the tenor of his thought.
The dissension in the Church spurred a far-reaching controversy; whether the Town should join with the Church in the call of its pastors, as had been done for over a century. Dissenting members objected to the tax levied by the Town to pay the minister's salary. To remedy this, the Congregational Society was established in 1799 by an act of the General Court to provide the funds to pay the pastor and allow the Church to conduct its affairs on a separate basis. Thus ended the close relationship of the Town and Church. To some, victories had been gained, but the cost was great. After five years without leadership, it was a Church reduced to but ten members, who i