18th Century – Founding
Christian worship began in Dorset in 1768 with the first settlement there. By 1773 regular services were held in a crudely constructed wooden building called the “Lord’s Barn,” located in what is now the Dorset Cemetery. By 1784 religious worship had become more organized, and on September 22 of that year the Congregational Church of Dorset, Vermont was officially formed.
19th Century – Growth and Change
In 1796 the Rev. William Jackson was asked to become the church’s permanent minister. Shortly thereafter the Lord’s Barn was moved to the west part of the village, where it burned some years later and in 1832 was replaced by a new brighter building at a cost of $3,250. The new building was dedicated on February 6, 1833.Dr. Jackson died in 1842, shortly after the Parsonage Association was formed and a manse was built. A succession of different ministers served the church until 1856, when Rev. P.S. Pratt was called to be pastor. His first four years were served under an annual renewal agreement, and in 1860 he accepted the request to become the settled minister. A ceremony was held on Christmas Day, along with the rededication of the church building, which had been entirely remodeled. Rev. Pratt served the church for 40 years, retiring in 1896.
In 1865 the first organ was bought (from the Rutland Episcopal Church). Simeon P. Cheney was for many years organist and choirmaster of a choir numbering about 60 members.
Meanwhile, Dorset was growing and changing from an isolated farming and quarrying country town, as more and more visitors from the city moved to the town, many of them as “summer boarders.”
20th Century – Buildings Anew
In 1901 the Rev. Charles Carhart accepted the call of the church and was able to accomplish many renovations to the old church, including the addition of a Sunday School area and kitchen in the basement. He also instigated, in 1904 the incorporation of the Congregational Society of Dorset and East Rupert, replacing the old Meeting House Association, which had functioned since 1860.
On November 24, 1907 a fire started in the church’s basement and totally destroyed the building and everything in it. Services were held for a time in the school hall, while a building fund grew with the purpose of replacing the building. In July of 1910 the new marble church was completed, with a dedication ceremony held that August. In September Rev. Carhart resigned to accept a professorship in Beirut.
In 1911 Rev. E. A. Hunt came to the church and stayed for about a year, during which he managed to have a church manual prepared with a list of members, a summary of the incorporation, and including the by-laws of the church. The next called minister, W. Leroy Haven, reorganized the Sunday School and established a Boys and Girls Club, Camp Fire Girls, and a Pastor’s Class. A new organ was purchased in 1915.
From 1927 to 1968 the church was served by nine different ministers. In 1968 Hal Miller came to us and stayed until the mid 1990’s. During those years a new large building was attached to the rear of the church, containing classrooms, a pastor’s study, two modern lavatories and storage areas. Also, the Church Constitution was revised with the establishment of the Cabinet, with extensive duties in managing the affairs of the church.
21st Century – Today
Our current pastor, Rev. Dr. James Gray, has succeeded in revitalizing our participation in the religious life of surrounding communities, growing our congregation, establishing a thriving youth group, and building on the different committees of the Cabinet, which are the lifeblood of the church. Our current choir numbers in the 20’s and is led by the gifted and talented Music Director, Jane Wood.