May 17, 1992

On Sunday, August 19, 1917, on the occasion of the 275th Anniversary of the First Parish Church in Norwell, Horace Fogg, Chairman of the Parish Committee, gathered with members and friends First Parish, on this very corner, to dedicate the boulder marking the site of the first Meeting House in the history of the church. Mr. Fogg was cognizant of the fact that the country was at that time in the midst of a world war in Europe. Nonetheless, he declared, every occasion which brings men and women together to testify to a belief that we are all children of a universal creator, and every renewal of ancient covenants which affirms that belief, "make(s) the world a little better and help(s) to stem the tide of unrighteous living and unrighteous deeds....It is good", he said, "for us to gather here, with different creeds perhaps, and different faiths. We have a common origin and a common destiny."

He went on to say, "As the Church stands as a reminder of these principles and these beliefs, and as the Church which was once on this spot stood for these principles and beliefs, we are today to make this dedication." He called to mind, William Witherell, the first minister of this church, of whom he and his family were direct descendents. Though the first meeting house was no more, the records of his ministry in his own hand, were testimony to his 39 year ministry, and the congregation and parish which he helped to foster. He then offered these words of dedication and challenge to his listeners, words which still speak to us some 75 years later:

To the memory of the founding of this church we dedicate this stone....It is not enough to glory in the past. The devotion of the men and women of the past will not suffice for the future. Long may it stand as the visible token of an unseen presence. We dedicate it as the symbol of our ancient church; to the memory of each succeeding congregation; to the memory of each and every minister of this church; to the men and women who from generation unto generation have been faithful to its teachings....

Devotion to the church calls for more than contribution. It calls for sacrifice; it calls for action; it calls for deeds; it calls for church attendance. It calls for all these things today, just as it called for them in the ages past. It calls for even more, even a world wide service.

As our ancestors came from the east to the west to maintain their own freedom of thought and liberty of conscience, so now we must turn from west to east. And we must face the east with all the struggles and turmoil, and suffering that is there and face it firm in the faith of a rising sun of universal democracy, of a universal religion, which will bring to all the world a universal peace, a universal brotherhood [we would add sisterhood] of all (hu)mankind, a universal progress onward and upward forever.
One wonders what Horace Fogg would think of today's talk of a new world order and the fact that it took a second world war and countless other conflagrations to bring us to this point. Is this what was meant by "a universal progress onward and upward forever?" What price have we paid and will continue to pay for this seeming struggle never ending? Is it progress or is it devolution, evolution in reverse? East and west have come together. We all live in a global village. And it is clear that we don't all get along. Nonetheless, we all have a common origin and destiny. Our human problems of war and greed are compounded today by our seeming inability to set limits to our desecration and pollution of our one and only blue-green earth. Freedom of thought and liberty of conscience are as important as ever. And equally as of old, we are called to action and sacrifice and commitment to the ideals of our free faith, to live a life of love and justice in community, to make the world safe for democracy, and to keep the world green and growing for future generations. Let this be our continuing covenant and the rock upon which we build our church.

Spirit of the Universe, and of Life, whose children we are, keep us ever mindful of those covenants and commitments that affirm our common humanity and remind us of our common origins and destiny. May we respond to the call of compassion in human relations and may we be awakened to the need to be responsible stewards of this Garden of Eden called planet earth. Amen.