History of the Massachusetts Conference

The churches of the Massachusetts Conference represent the oldest and largest Protestant denomination in the Bay State. Most of our churches are of the Congregational tradition, and direct descendants of the churches founded by the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Forty of our churches were organized before 1699, and another 150 before 1799. Until 1833, the Congregational Church was the official, tax-supported church of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Conference itself finds its roots in the founding of the Massachusetts Missionary Society in 1799, when 38 Congregationalists banded together with plans to spread “the knowledge of the glorious Gospel of Christ among the poor Heathens.” The following year, the Society sent out its first missionaries to remote areas of Maine and New York where they set about planting new churches. The Society later merged with a clergy group, the General Association of Massachusetts, at which point its focus began to broaden into what it is for the Conference today: to bring churches together to support one another in ministry and mission, to start new churches and grow current congregations, and to work for positive changes in society.