The First Universalist Church in Providence

Welcome to The First Universalist Church
in Providence

A warm, traditional congregation of believers in the heart of historic Downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Whether you are visiting the area, looking for a church home, or simply interested in what we do, we invite you to join us for Sunday worship (weekly at 10:30 a.m.) and our special seasonal services throughout the year.

The Balcony Flags

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From left to right, facing the Balcony (and the Four Evangelists’ Windows overlooking Greene Street):

   The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  The flag’s State Seal comes from Hebrews 6:19, in the chapter used after 1636 by the Colony’s founding Baptists (many of whom were refugees from the Bay Colony) to organize many of their free churches: We “have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus”.  Thus the Seal is “HOPE” under an anchor for this, the Ocean State, surrounded by thirteen stars for this Thirteenth (and final) Original Colony which on 29 May 1790 joined the new United States of America as its Thirteenth State. It was given to the Church in the mid-twentieth century by the Rhode Island Independence Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in honor of our Church Member Susan S. Carrique.  (The Reverend Richard Carrique of Attleborough was an early Universalist minister who preached in Providence [1820-1821] in the years just prior to our Church’s founding.)

   The City of Providence.  The flag shows the City Seal on an ocean-blue field for this First [spring 1636] and later Capital City [1 January 1900] at the head of Narragansett Bay, located opposite the Seekonk River, across from the then-Plimoth Colony [21 December 1620].  The City’s founder, the Reverend Master Roger Williams, is shown being greeted by local Narragansetts as he crossed that River (at the spot now marked by Fox Point’s Slate Rock in the What Cheer Park bounded by Gano, Roger, and Williams Streets on the East Side of Providence’s South Neck), hailing them in the local dialect, “What cheer, Netop [what’s the news, friend]?”  He was fleeing from authorities in the Massachusetts Bay Colony [2 September 1630] (where he was Pastor of the First Church in Salem [6 August 1629]), and had been warned and helped by his friends at Plymouth’s separate Colony to get outside the existing jurisdictions. (He had served The First Church. [1606] there from about 1631-1633.)  He, “having a sense of God’s merciful providence unto me in distress, called the place Providence” (a theological term indicating God’s benevolent governance of the world), and wrote of his flight and deliverance in a hymn based on Psalm 78:19-20: “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?  Behold, he smote the rock, that the water gushed out, and the streams overflowed”.  He settled along the Moshassuck River (now 235-237 North Main Street), where he had discovered the gushing of sweet spring water near what is now the Roger Williams National Memorial at 282 North Main Street. The Town of Providence incorporated as a City on 4 June 1832.


   The Providence In-town Churches Association (PICA).  Founded in 1974 citing Jeremiah 29:7 (“seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”), the Providence In-town Churches Association consists of the eight oldest churches in or near the downtown Westminster/Weybosset Hill districts: First Baptist [1638], Beneficent [1743], Cathedral of Saint John [1810], us (First Universalist [1821]), Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul [1837], Mathewson Street Methodist [1848], Grace [1849], Gloria Dei [1890]; and Saint Francis Chapel [1956] and All Saints Memorial [1846].  The flag features a quilt backing a pineapple [long a maritime New England symbol of hospitality], a bowl, and a house.  Adopted in the early twenty-first century, the symbols on this logo refer to PICA’s members [the nine churches, and then the larger community, stitched together] and its three social ministries of Community Meal, Food Pantry, and Outreach Services.  On the Tenth Day of Christmas, Tuesday 3 January, 2006, Outreach & the PICA Office relocated to our Church Hall; on Saint Andrew’s Day, Tuesday 30 November, 2009, PICA dedicated (and moved into) the new Pantry and Office/Outreach space which our Church sponsored and built here downstairs earlier that year.  

   The First Universalist Church in Providence.  Our Society and Church have roots in the downtown preaching [1772] of the Reverend John Murray (the Universalist Church’s Founder), and in the Colony’s founding General Baptist tradition (salvation generally available [to all]).  The Church name derives from proclaiming Universal Salvation through the conquering Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity, Lord and Saviour of all (I Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”).  Our flag features the logo of the Universalist Church of America: a Cross on the Holy Bible with a Star for Christ (Numbers 24:17: “there shall come a Star out of Jacob”) and the motto “CHRIST WILL CONQUER” (Revelation 17:14: “[They] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”).  The First Universalist Society in the Town of Providence [10 April 1821] merged with The First Universalist Church in Providence [18 August 1823] on 8 May 1950.

   The Rhode Island State Council of Churches (RISCC).  The Council, consisting of most of the State’s mainline Protestant congregations (and, later, Eastern Orthodox churches), was founded [4 April 1937] in the Beneficent meetinghouse [1810, downtown’s oldest building], and incorporated in the office of our congregation’s President of over thirty-five years, the Honorable Judge Frederick Bartlett Perkins, Esquire, who was President of the Rhode Island Convention of Universalists (founded in our Vestry on 10 April 1838).  The Convention (now The Universalist Church of Rhode Island) is our historic state church body and one of the Council’s Founding Member churches.  The flag has the Council’s original logo, showing an anchor over an outline of the State’s territory, and quoting the Hebrews 6:19 passage [“hope … an anchor of the soul”] used by the Colony’s founders (see State flag, above).  The Council held its Sixtieth Anniversary Annual Meeting here [20 November 1997] to coincide with this Sanctuary’s 125th Dedication Anniversary [20 November 1872].
 
   The First Rhode Island Regiment.  The flag of this historic Revolutionary War regiment is placed here, and with a Christian Cross atop, in honor of the Reverend John Murray, who was appointed [4 July 1775] Chaplain of the Rhode Island Brigade (comprised of three regiments) by General George Washington (after whom one of our adjoining Streets is named; another being for his primary colleague, Warwick native General Nathaniel Greene, whom the new Chaplain knew well).  Murray, an émigré English Methodist, had preached in downtown Providence (at Beneficent meetinghouse) in December 1772, and was a Class Leader (Elder) in Dublin for the Methodist Church’s Founder, the Reverend Father John Wesley.  Murray became the Founder of American Universalism, and was later Pastor of America’s first Universalist church: the Independent Church of Christ (Universalist) in Gloucester, Massachusetts [1 January 1779].

   The Christian Church.  Designed in 1897 by Charles Overton and evidently influenced by the design of the U.S.A. flag, the “Christian Flag” became common in Protestant churches during the twentieth century.  It was given to our Church on 19 September 1965 by the Rhode Island Independence Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in memory of our Church Member Rose White (Mrs. Louis D., Sr.) Richardson.  Her son, architect (and Senior Deacon) Louis Dexter Richardson, Jr. (1905-1999), drew our Sunday bulletin’s cover picture of our current (third) church building [3 March 1871], which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 16 August 1977.

   The United States of America (U.S.A.).  This new country’s Independence was proclaimed in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July by the thirteen colonies’ Congress following their adoption there [2 July 1776] of “the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America”; it was ensured by their Continental Army at Yorktown, Virginia [19 October 1781]; and it was made formal by the Treaty of Paris with the United Kingdom’s Sovereign, His Royal Highness George III [3 September 1783].  (The Rhode Island Colony had already declared its Independence from Great Britain on 4 May 1776.)  The flag shows thirteen stripes for each of the original Colonies, and a star for each of the present fifty States.  Interestingly, the United States flag uses the same colors as the British Union Jack (which itself [12 April 1606] combined England’s Cross of Saint George with Scotland’s Cross of Saint Andrew [the latter shown at the bottom of our Saint Paul Window (the round one facing Washington Street)].  The flag’s design, credited to Philadelphia’s Betsy Ross, may have been influenced by (or have followed) that of the First Rhode Island Regiment (see above).  At the top of the pole is an American Bald Eagle, the National Bird and Symbol.  The flag was given to the Church in the mid-twentieth century by the Rhode Island Independence Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in honor of our Church Member Susan S. Carrique.

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Copyright © 2012 The First Universalist Church in Providence
250 Washington St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903-3615 Telephone (401) 751-1821