(Copied from papers written by former Church Historian June Foster)
 

The United Church of Bernardston has a history of separating and uniting. This church is a Federation of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ (U.C.C).

The U.C.C. part of the Federation had its origin way back in 1741. In 1676 the Falls Town Fight occurred between the early settlers along the Connecticut River and the Indians. In 1735 soldiers in that fight, and their descendants, were granted a tract of land by the General Court of Boston. That tract of land was first known as Falls Town Fight Township, later as Fall Town and in 1762 as Bernardston.

One of the requirements of the grant was that within four years the settlers "build a convenient Meeting House and settle a learned Orthodox Minister among them". Thus it was that a meeting house was built on Huckle Hill in 1739, and two years later, the Rev John Norton was settled as the "Minister of Jesus Christ". The meeting house was moved one-half mile south in 1772 and again in 1791 to a site on Bald Mountain Road.

Though the fourth minister, The Rev. Timothy Rogers, was an orthodox Congregationalist when he came in 1809, he later became Unitarian as did many members of the church.

In 1823 there came a separation. Nine members who remained faithful to their Orthodox Congregational beliefs, left the church. In 1824, they voted to form the First Presbyterian Church of Bernardston. At first they worshiped in the Baptist Society meeting house, which had been erected in 1817.

After two years they were able to have their services in a building erected on the land of Judge Job Goodale, one of the nine members who left the first church.

In 1833 the name of the church was changed from Evangelical to Orthodox (Congregational). That year Judge Job Goodale died, leaving the meeting house and land to the church he had found. This building, enlarged and modernized and beautified in many ways since then, is still in use by the United Church. In 1890 the members of the Orthodox Church changed the name to the Goodale Memorial Church.

The first uniting of churches occurred in 1912, and the name was expanded to the Goodale Memorial United Church. The union was really a federation of the Goodale Memorial Church (Orthodox Congregational) and the Methodist Episcopal Society of Bernardston.

There were Methodist in Bernardston as early as 1799. In May 1845, the Methodist Episcopal Society of Bernardston was formed. In 1852 the members voted to build a meeting house on Center Street. By 1880 there were 108 members, and the building was enlarged.

By the early 1900's the membership of both the Goodale Memorial and the Methodist Episcopal Churches had declined, and both faced critical financial problems. A federation was proposed and accepted by both churches in April 1912. Each church has kept its own identity in its Conference. And since then the members have worshiped and worked together in harmony.

Uniting continued to be a characteristic of the federated church. In 1937 most of the Congregationalist and the Christian Churches merged nationally. In 1957 they joined with the Evangelical and the Reformed Churches to form the United Church of Christ (U.C.C.). Soon afterward the Bernardston Congregationalists voted to become part of the U.C.C. and in 1965 the members of the Goodale Memorial United Church voted to change the name to the United Church of Bernardston.

Since 1965, the church has continued and expanded the activities of many groups organized in earlier years including: the Sunday School; Bible Study Classes; Youth Group; Women's Societies; Adult Fellowship Group; and the Choir. Music has become more and more important in the spiritual life of the church.

Some of the groups have projects each year to raise money for the church and for missions. Generous giving to missions has long been true of the church.

From its early beginning the United Church has sought in many ways to promote God's will in Bernardston and in the World.

Bibliography

History of the Town of Bernardston, Lucy C. Kellogg, Hall Co. Greenfield, MA 1902 pp, 8, 11-36, 101-103, 120, 130, 135-137, 149-152, 159-160,170-171

History of the Town of Bernardston, Vol 2

Townspeople, Vermont Publishing Co., Brattleboro, VT pp.1, 62-63, 67-68

The Mass Production, a brochure

Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, Framingham MA 1981