Old North Church Celebrates Its 300th Birthday With Free Day of Programming

On Saturday, April 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Old North Church and Historic Site, 193 Salem St. will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the laying of the church’s cornerstone with a day of special programming. Admission to Boston’s oldest surviving church will be free for all children and teens under the age of 18. A new audio tour with 40 minutes of history in both English and Spanish will launch with a $3.00 fee. All who are walking the famous Freedom Trail and pass by Old North between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. will enjoy an interactive experience with public historian Adam Hodges-LeClaire who answers the age-old question: Are you a pirate? This presentation will use 18th-century sailors’ clothing as a case-study in separating fact from fiction regarding the history of pirates.     

Old North’s free day of programming kicks off a week-long celebration, including services with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on April 16, Patriot’s Day festivities on April 17 and the historic site’s Lanterns and Luminaries on April 20, which will include a re-enactment of the famous signal that lit the way for the American Revolution and a keynote address from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed.

Nikki Stewart, Executive Director of Old North Illuminated, will be on site for interviews and can speak to Old North Church’s place in American history and the role of active citizenship in the ongoing struggle for justice and equity.

Known for “One if by land, and two if by sea” and the midnight ride of Paul Revere, the Old North Church and Historic Site is maintained and operated by Old North Illuminated.

To mark the 300th anniversary of the church’s founding in 2023 and connect Old North’s legacy to contemporary issues, Old North Illuminated is developing new programming that explores the complexity of the church’s identity as a beacon of liberty and independence alongside its deep and complex connections to colonialism and enslavement. Old North Illuminated believes that by presenting, questioning, and learning from the full and complicated span of Old North’s 300-year history, we can engage audiences in contemporary questions of equity and representation, courage for the common good, and what it means to be an informed and compassionate active citizen. For more information, visit:  www.oldnorth.com.

More events will include:

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to preach at Old North Church’s 300th year celebration

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry will be in Boston on Sunday, April 16 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of iconic Old North Church, Boston’s oldest standing church building and famous for its role in the start of the American Revolution.

On the night of April 18, 1775, Old North’s sexton, Robert Newman, and vestry member Captain John Pulling Jr. shined the “two if by sea” lanterns from Old North’s steeple as the signal from Paul Revere that the British army was advancing by the Charles River toward Lexington and Concord where the opening battles of the American Revolution erupted the following day.

Established in 1723 as Christ Church in the City of Boston, and known colloquially as “Old North,” it is now both a national historic landmark that receives some 500,000 visitors a year and an active Episcopal Church congregation.

“Old North Church holds a unique place in our diocesan life, not only for its historic connection to our nation’s history, but also for the ways in which it wrestles with vital issues of race, culture and patriotism, and the intersection of each with Christian faith and theology.  We are so grateful for Presiding Bishop Curry’s recognition of this milestone,” Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan M. Gates said.

Presiding Bishop Curry—known internationally for his dynamic preaching and a ministry whose animating vision and message is Jesus of Nazareth’s model of radical, sacrificial love—will give the sermon at Old North’s 11:00 a.m. Sunday service and then will be the honored guest speaker at the 6:00 p.m. ticketed Lantern Service, which promises to be an inspirational evening of song and rededication, culminating in the lighting of Old North’s steeple lanterns. 

“Even older than our nation, Old North stands tall as a beacon of hope and freedom.  This extraordinary 300th anniversary provides us the opportunity to celebrate not only the majestic building built in 1723, but also and more importantly the people who have shaped our history, who prayed here and called this church home for three centuries,” said Old North’s vicar-in-charge, the Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell.

The Lantern Service will illuminate significant moments from Old North’s history, including recent research on the lives of enslaved and free Black and Indigenous members in the colonial era.

“That history reminds us that for many, especially people of color both enslaved and free, liberty and freedom were far more elusive in our earliest days.  As we observe this milestone anniversary we intend to remember and honor these members of our community alongside those who lit the lanterns on the eve of the Revolution,” Cadwell said.

The Old North Chamber Choir will be joined at the Lantern Service by the Men and Boys Choir of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Ashmont in Dorchester. Anthems will include a choral setting of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Bairstow’s setting of the 23rd Psalm, and a new piece, “The Light and the Wind,” commissioned for the anniversary.

Lexington Minutemen and Paul Revere re-enactors will be among the evening’s guests, to also include several city and state elected officials and bishops from neighboring New England Episcopal dioceses.

“We are pleased to welcome Presiding Bishop Curry to preach from the same pulpit used by bishops and American presidents,” Cadwell said. “The Old North Church continues to inspire faith and hope in people across our nation and the world. We invite you to join us as we give thanks to God and look to the future in confidence and hope.”

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