March 6 – May 31, 2013. Exhibition: Religion in Gardner, Past and Present

This exhibition, Religion in Gardner, will offer local congregations an opportunity to
share their history and ministry in Gardner. The exhibit will show the history of faith
communities in Gardner since its founding in 1785. In the 228 years since then, faith
communities have continued to rise from the hearts and spirits of local citizens. These
“churches” have grown, split, merged, and dissolved. They have been merged and
relocated. They have addressed varied needs of the community – sacred and secular. The
people in these congregations lived out their faith beliefs while aiding Gardner’s rise to
its heyday as a manufacturing capital for furniture making. These churches have prepared
people to work all across the world, and will be instrumental in Gardner’s future in the
21st century.

Religion has been an integral part of Gardner’s ethos, both influencing and being
influenced as the community has grown and evolved. In the time of the Revolution,
petitions sought grants for forming a civic community. These petitions were conditional
on the forming of a faith community. This condition was met when the First
Congregational Church was founded in February 1786. As prescribed in the laws of the
Mass Bay Colony and later the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, church attendance
was a moral and a civic duty (including paying taxes to support the town church. –
a statue until 1833). Most town centers provided a place that addressed the needs of
the community: both civic (secular) and religious (sacred). A single building usually
met these original needs. Though the original building is long gone, the present day
Congregational church gathers in the red-brick building on 28 Green Street that rests on
the land of the original town green. The currents edifice was dedicated in 1879.