Old South Church votes to elect

Rev. Nancy Taylor,

head of Mass. United Church of Christ,

as minister

Nancy Taylor
(Click on Photo for Hi-Rez version)
Photo of Nancy Taylor 
by George Delianides
BOSTON, Oct. 3--The congregation of the Old South Church in Boston, a towering architectural landmark in Copley Square and one of the nation’s most historic
churches, today elected the statewide head of the United Church of Christ, the Rev. Dr. Nancy S. Taylor, to be its twentieth senior minister. She is the first woman
senior minister in the 335-year history of the church, which was founded in 1669. 

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is the largest Protestant denomination in Massachusetts with nearly 100,000 members in 425 churches. The roots of the UCC, which was formed in 1957, go back to the Puritans and Pilgrims who founded the state. Nationally, the UCC includes 6,100 congregations and 1.4 million members. Taylor served nationally as moderator of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ from 1999 - 2001. 

Taylor, 48, has served since 2001 as the Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC, based in Framingham. Old South Church, founded in 1669 and located at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth Streets, has about 500 members from Boston and the Greater Boston area. She will resign from her present role and take office at Old South Church on Monday, Jan. 24, 2005.

The overwhelmingly favorable vote occurred in an afternoon congregational meeting following Taylor’s “candidating sermon” to the congregation about “ A Vision of Community.” 

“Today, on World Communion Sunday,” she said from the pulpit, “a remarkable thing is happening. Christians around the world – Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant– are gathering to share Christ’s meal in a symbolic expression of our unity, despite our differences, despite our diversity.” 

She noted the words, “Behold I have set before thee an open door,” which are carved in stone on the Boylston Street porch of Old South Church. Here, she said, “The table is spread for all, all, all: rich and poor, wise and foolish, lost and found, homeless and housed, gay and straight, member and visitor, saint and sinner.” 

She continued, “Here, together, we build faith–not in the in the things of this world, not in the false security of arms and armaments, but in the power of God’s mercy to save us even from ourselves.” 

Lawrence Bowers, the chair of the search committee, commented, “She is a superb preacher, a thoughtful pastor, an accomplished leader and a respected public voice on social justice and religious issues, who affirms every person as a child of God.” Taylor will succeed the Rev. James Crawford, who retired in 2002 after 28 years as senior minister, and the interim senior minister, the Rev. Carl F. Schultz, Jr. “She will continue Old South’s long history of distinguished preaching, excellent music, and strong social outreach,” said Bowers. 

Taylor commented, “Old South has an extraordinary history and legacy. Its story is entwined with the story of this nation: in the creation of democracy, in the pursuit of religious liberty and freedom of speech and assembly. The church’s past is proud and secure. But it is the congregation’s commitment to the present and future that inspires me.” 

“As a non-coercive church, the UCC is a roomy tent of religious and social beliefs,” she said.  “ For instance, a few weeks after same gender marriage became legal in Massachusetts, I asked a group of 50 UCC clergy whether they would officiate at same-gender marriages. Ten raised their hands that they would, 15 indicated they would not, and 25 didn’t indicate either way. There is no bishop to tell them what to do.”

“We believe God is still speaking to us and did not stop speaking when the Bible was written. We are still listening and learning, changing and growing. We are convinced that the clash of competing ideas in uneasy proximity to each other makes for spiritually alive, intellectually agile and deeply engaged Christians. Indeed, it is the unique genius of the UCC that we are able to move in different directions as long as we agree on this: that Jesus Christ is the sole Head of the Church. This is the United Church of Christ.”

Taylor has served churches in Oxford County, Maine; in Hartford, Conn.; and in Boise, Idaho. In Idaho, she received the Hewlett-Packard Award for Distinguished Leadership in Human Rights in 1999 for her work in co-founding two organizations, Idaho Voices of Faith for Human Rights and the Idaho Human Rights Education Center.

Nancy Taylor
(Click on Photo for Hi-Rez version)
Photo:Nancy Taylor 
by George Delianides

In Massachusetts, she was instrumental in the creation of a new state law that mandates clergy to report suspected child abuse. She also played a significant role in establishing an ongoing interfaith dialogue between Christian and Jewish leaders following the events of 9/11. Under her leadership, the Massachusetts Conference was host sponsor for the October 2003 visit to Boston harbor of the Freedom Schooner Amistad, which celebrates a turning point in the movement to abolish slavery--the US Supreme Court’s 1841 decision awarding freedom to 53 Africans who had been kidnapped to be sold as slaves.

Under her supervision, the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC published a revised manual for church renewal and growth and secured a $1.5 million grant from the Lily Endowment for a five-year program, “Developing and Sustaining Pastoral Excellence.”

Taylor, who is from Long Island, New York, graduated in 1974 from Emma Willard School and in 1978 from Macalester College.  She holds a master of divinity degree from Yale and a doctor of ministry degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary.  She was ordained into the United Church of Christ in Northfield, MA, where she was the chaplain intern at the Northfield Mount Hermon School.  She is married to the Rev. Peter Southwell-Sander. They are members of Grace Congregational Church in Framingham and currently live in the Conference parsonage in Framingham.

Peter Southwell-Sander & Nancy Taylor
(Click on Photo for Hi-Rez version)
Peter Southwell-Sander & Nancy Taylor 
Photo by George Delianides
The history of Old South Church includes the names of Benjamin Franklin, revolutionary patriot Samuel Adams, judge and diarist Samuel Sewall and America’s first black poet Phillis Wheatley. The Old South Meeting House in downtown Boston, its home from 1730 to 1875, was a center of revolutionary activity in the struggle for liberty from the British, including the famous Boston Tea Party. Since the 1970s, the church has been particularly active in Boston housing issues and helped fund the start of the Tent City Corporation  which built mixed income housing next to Copley Place.

For more information about Old South Church and the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC, see <www.oldsouth.org> and <www.macucc.org>.

For downloadable photo: Old South Church Exterior View from Copley Square

(photo by Sonya Ann Abbott).

Contacts:  Lawrence R. Bowers (Chair of Senior Minister Search Committee)
or please contact us if you would like phone contacts for any of our staff, committee members, or to interview Nancy Taylor, please click here for our Press Liaison: Ken Campbell

Also see:  History of Old South Church & Sanctuary Tour with multiple photos (best viewed with DSL or cable modem connection)

Old South Church
645 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617)536-1970 Tel (617)536-8061 Fax

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