For immediate release: First Parish Church Transfers National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse to GSMD

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Plymouth, MA (December 9, 2018) – The National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse, designated as the place with the longest history of continuous spiritual worship in America, is changing hands. First Parish Plymouth, a Unitarian Universalist Church, the current denomination that holds services there, is donating the Meetinghouse to the General Society Mayflower Descendants (The Mayflower Society).

On Sunday, December 9 at 10:00 am, First Parish Church invites all to a service that will be held to commemorate the donation of the Meetinghouse to the Mayflower Society, whose members are lineal descendants of the Pilgrims. The Meetinghouse is located at 19 Town Square – Plymouth, MA 02360. Sole ownership by GSMD will occur after the transfer is approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“Our congregation is donating the Meetinghouse to the Mayflower Society so that this historic icon can be restored and preserved,” said Anne-Marie Harnett, President of First Parish Plymouth. “It was a very hard decision but the care of the 1897 church became too costly to maintain and we felt to save it, a donation to the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims was the best option available.”

Famed Boston architects, Hartwell, Richardson, and Driver designed the Meetinghouse as a memorial to the Mayflower Pilgrims. Located on the site where the Pilgrims gathered their church nearly 400 years ago, the building was designed to resemble Pilgrim William Bradford’s church, St. Helen’s in Austerfield, England. It’s Norman architecture, unaltered Arts & Crafts interior and unique stained-glass windows depicting the Mayflower Pilgrims, celebrates the freedom of worship and civil liberty established by them.

“The Mayflower Society feels a strong responsibility to restore and preserve the Meetinghouse,” said Governor General George Garmany. “The revered ground where our ancestors walked and the building that memorializes them will now be saved in perpetuity.”

In 1897, the Mayflower Society engaged in a fundraising campaign to build the Meetinghouse, commissioned some of the Tiffany stained-glass windows, and donated many items throughout the sanctuary. In taking ownership of it in 2019, the society will restore it, create interactive educational programming, and open it to the public.

“We are grateful for the donation of the Meetinghouse to the Mayflower Society,” said Lea Sinclair Filson, President of the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse Charitable Trust. “We thank First Parish Church for allowing the society the honor of preserving the Meetinghouse as a tribute to our Mayflower Pilgrim ancestors.”

As part of the donation agreement, First Parish Church will continue its legacy of holding services with a schedule of worship that is open to all.




About the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD)

Founded in 1897, The Mayflower Society, or General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with national headquarters in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Membership requires proof of lineage from one of the passengers who traveled to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Its mission is to educate the public about the Mayflower story and its impact on Western civilization. GSMD upholds the highest standards of genealogy research in verifying the lineage of the Pilgrims. The Mayflower Society operates The National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse on Plymouth’s Town Square, the Mayflower Society House, and a genealogy research library at its Plymouth headquarters.  It publishes Mayflower Families Through Generations, also known as the "Silver Books" because of the distinctive covers. Connect with us:

About First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church

First Parish Plymouth congregants have a long tradition of religious freedom and faith that dates back to the pilgrim landing and beyond. We trace our origin back to the year 1606 when a group of dissenters from the Church of England banded together in Scrooby. In 1620 part of the Leyden congregation set sail aboard the Mayflower, seeking the freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience in the New World. This history brings us a sense of pride and joy, but we also realize that the present and future need a fresh commitment to maintain a religion of the open mind and heart. Freedom of belief is foundational to Unitarian Universalism. We affirm the worth of all human beings and the integrity of individual thought and action. As a liberal religious community, we share the quest for a practical religion based on deed, not creed.

About the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse Charitable Trust

The National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse Trust was formed between First Parish Church and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD) in 2017. The Deed to the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse, located at 19 Town Square in Plymouth, MA, was placed in the trust until such time as GSMD could accept ownership. In 2019, GSMD will become the sole owner of the Meetinghouse and operate it, through the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse Trust, as its educational center to teach the Mayflower story to all generations.


Art Lavoie, First Parish Church, (Phone), 

Susan Belekewicz, GSMD, 508-746-3188,

Click here to download this press release.


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