In April 1856, Reverend Gardner Rice, then principal of the Berlin Academy, established a Methodist Episcopal Church after holding prayer and class meetings, as well as preaching services. Meetings were held in the hall over Riley Smith’s blacksmith shop, in the old Town House on the common and for a time at the “new” (1870) Town Hall. Construction of the Methodist Episcopal Church was begun and completed in 1887; the cornerstone was laid in June with a sermon by Reverend Dr. George S. Chadbourne and the building dedicated on December 20th with a sermon preached by Reverend William N. Brodbeck.
It was built on the site of the Parker Shoe Factory, which had burned in 1882. The church originally cost $4,000. At the time of its dedication, a debt of only $1,600 remained unpaid; of this total, $600 was raised in 1889 through the efforts of Reverend J. W. Barter, and the remaining $1,000 was secured in 1892 during the pastorate of Reverend S. K. Smith. A grand jubilee service was held in celebration of the church’s freedom from debt on January 19, 1893, with Reverend Chadbourne, a presiding elder, preaching the sermon.
During World War I, services were suspended, as many of the Church’s young men had entered military service. For three years (1918-1921), local members worshiped in neighboring churches. At an official Quarterly Conference in 1921, it was voted to resume services.Under the leadership of the Reverend Edson G. Waterhouse, new life came into the Church and the community. A great remodeling program was conducted, both among their constituency and in their church building. It was during this transformation that the Woodward Memorial Window was installed. The same was dedicated on April 13, 1924; which bears the following inscription: The above Window was given in loving memory of H. Wallace Woodward and C. Sumner Woodward who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War.(1)This memorial window was later removed and installed in the face of the Echo Organ at the rear of the auditorium of the First Parish Church.
Perhaps in anticipation of another war (as suggested by F. A. Krackhardt in his History of the Town of Berlin), the congregation dwindled to ten persons (seven on the average) after 1935. At an official meeting of the Church on May 4, 1940, it was voted “to discontinue the services in the Church” and “that the sale of the Church property be left in the hands of the Trustees.”
The building was sold to E. Guy Sawyer in 1941. The pews and altar furnishings were donated to the Methodist Church of Clinton, and the invested funds ($2,481.69) were given to The Preacher’s Aid Society of the New England Conference as a memorial in the name of the men and women who served in the ministry of the Berlin Methodist Church. He (E. Guy Sawyer) has since used the building for storage in connection with his well-known auctions, which he holds on the grounds … It is in rather sad condition but has lately become increasingly popular with artists. It is now probably the most “painted” subject in Berlin.(2)
Sources used in addition to footnotes below: Berlin Methodist Episcopal Church, Business Meeting Records, 1886-1940. Berlin Town Historical Collections, Berlin Town Vault. Houghton, William A., History of the Town of Berlin, Worcester, Mass., Town of Berlin, 1896. (Pgs 129-136 with photograph). Land Records, Worcester District Registry of Deeds, 90 Front Street, Worcester, MA.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Krackhardt, Frederick A., A History of Berlin, Mass. (1895-1959), Town of Berlin, 1959. 2. Bacon, Katharine Ann, “Old Methodist Church” Structure Survey, Massachusetts Historical Commission, January 1967.