In the late 1950s, many area churches were bursting at the seams. Hancock Congregational Church in Lexington was no exception, having more than 2,000 members. In April of 1957, Hancock formed a committee to consider establishing a second Congregational church in Lexington. An overwhelming majority of church members voted in favor of the plan, and in July of 1958, the new church was incorporated as “Pilgrim Congregational Church.” Pilgrim Church was born and our first settled pastor, the Rev. Whitmore Beardsley, was called in November.
While searching for a permanent home, the fledgling congregation worshiped in other churches in town and the Jewish Community Center. Eight acres on Coolidge Avenue was purchased and the firm of Royal Barry Wills was hired to design a colonial-style church. The Hancock Church Building Fund allocated funds to support our new congregation, and groundbreaking took place in November, 1960. The sanctuary was dedicated in January, 1962. Lodged in its permanent home, Pilgrim has grown in the faith ever since.
Some of the notable events in the Pilgrim Congregational Church United Church of Christ history include:
- 1963. The Rev. Beardsley declared he had achieved his goal of helping to establish the new church; and the Rev. Richard Lund became the second settled pastor.
- 1968. Pilgrim Nursery School founded by Ruth Sukeforth as a non-sectarian daycare facility.
- 1970. The Rev. Reinhold Abele became the third settled pastor.
- 1972. A Hook & Hastings tracker-action organ, built in 1897, was purchased from a church in Webster, MA. The Andover Organ Company rebuilt and installed it.
- 1975. The Rev. Francis Potter was installed as the fourth settled pastor. The Antiques Show was started as a fund-raising activity and continued for 29 years.
- 1978. An authentic 1778-style colonial worship service was held, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the church.
- 1980. The Rev. Arthur Kolsti became the fifth settled pastor.
- 1983. A 25th anniversary service was held, culminating in the burning of the mortgage.
- 1992. The Rev. Judith Brain was installed as the sixth settled pastor.
- 1997. An addition, designed by Bechtel Frank Erickson Architects, was completed. Weekly summer worship services began in the new air-conditioned space. The sanctuary was renovated the following year.
- 2001. An anonymous donation established the Equipping the Saints Fund, intended to stimulate lay leadership in mission and care activities.
- 2002. The congregation voted to become an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation.
- 2004. The Pilgrim Memorial Garden was established.
- 2007. An extensive renovation of the lower level of the church was completed, including the kitchen, fellowship hall, and the classrooms housing the former Pilgrim Nursery School.
- 2008. A 50th anniversary celebration was held, including the dedication of a time capsule in the form of a large wooden cross and the planting of a cherry tree with commemorative stone.
- 2011. The Rev. Lauren Lorincz became the seventh settled pastor. The Pumpkin Patch began and continues to this day.