From: "Gloria Korsman" 
Date: December 16, 2005 3:07:48 PM EST
Subject: Separation of Church and State in Massachusetts

Dear Jan,

According to Harold F. Worthley's An Inventory of the Records of the Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts Gathered 1620-1805 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), your congregation was gathered in August of 1640 and incorporated on the West Side of the River in 1708.

In 1820, there was a Constitutional Convention in Massachusetts to consider alterations to Article 3 of the Constitution of 1780 which was concerned with taxes to support "public" worship. In Massachusetts, the congregations supported by tax funds were Congregational, either Unitarian or Orthodox. This practice did not please Baptist, Catholic, and Quaker taxpayers, just for starters. William Gerald McLoughlin's New England Dissent 1630-1833 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971) describes how the first of several resolutions at the convention involved the phrase "incorporated or unincorporated", thus linking Article 3 to the Religious Freedom Act of 1811. The explication continues. This is complicated stuff to summarize briefly, and so I invite you to visit this library and browse McLoughlin's detailed description of the 1820 Constitutional Convention.

Conrad Wright briefly describes this period of history starting on page 34 of Congregational Polity: A Historical Survey of Unitarian and Universalist Practice (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1997). There might be a copy kicking around your congregation or maybe your minister will have one. Congregational Polity PDF

In none of the sources I consulted related to New England church history do I find any reference to Chapter or Article 20.

In the event you have some free time this weekend, I will leave some materials for you at the Reference Desk at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library. We are open Saturday 9am -- 9pm and Sunday 12 noon -- 11pm. For a fuller description of hours and directions, please consult our website at . If I may be of further assistance, please feel free to call again next week.

Best regards,

Gloria J. Korsman
Senior Reference Librarian
Andover-Harvard Theological Library
Harvard Divinity School
45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge MA 02138-1994