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History of Plymouth Church
In 1847, 21 men and women who were transplated New Englanders founded Plymouth Church. The New Englanders wanted a Congregational church like those that they had been growing up with a simple order of worship that was governed by the congregation.
The first pastor of Plymouth Church was Henry Ward Beecher. He was consequently beginning the most important ministry in the second half of 19th century America.
In February of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at Plymouth Church. At the time he was the as yet unannounced presidential candidate. Although the speech that Lincoln was suppose to give at Plymouth Church was moved to The Great Hall of The Cooper Union in Manhattan last minute, the meaningful speech is credited with winning him the Republican nomination for president. This was as well the speech in which Lincoln stated his place against slavery. In spite of the relocation, Lincoln did attend Plymouth Church prior the day of the speech. Three weeks later, following campaigning in New Hampshire, Lincoln worshipped at Plymouth Church again. Today his pew is now noticeable with a silver plaque. Plymouth Church is the only church in New York City that Lincoln’s ever attended.
In 1867, a group from the Church agreed to a five and a half month expedition aboard the steamer Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Land. Among the group was Mark Twain. He was a journalist and his best selling work throughout his lifetime was The Innocents Abroad, his satiric account of the pioneering tour group. Twain also spoke at Plymouth, as well as many other famous writers and activists, some including Clara Barton, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greely, and William Thackery.
In January 1963, another famous individual attended Plymouth Church. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave an early version of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the church. Presently that August, “I Have a Dream” was brought out on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In 1934, Plymouth Church joins together with the neighboring Church of the Pilgrims, the first Congregational church in Brooklyn. Established in 1844, Church of the Pilgrims had its founding pastor Richard Salter Storrs, who served the Church until 1900. Storrs was one of the most well known clergymen in America. He was known to others as a thinker, write and spokesman of note. Storrs was chosen as Brooklyn’s keynote speaker at the allegiance of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.
In the 1950’s, Plymouth Church preferred to continue an independent Congregational church, relatively than join either of two new Congregation denominations formed after World War Two. They were the United Church of Christ which is considered to be one of the most liberal Protestant denominations or the second one, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. As an alternative, Plymouth belongs to the National Association of Congregation Christian Churches, a fellowship of numerous autonomous Congregational churches.
In 1961, in acknowledgement of Plymouth Church, the National Register of Historic Places designated the Church a National Historic Landmark because of its important and unique place in American history.