The Old South Church lived up to its name on Sunday, celebrating the 350th anniversary of the historic site in Copley Square.

The day kicked off with “heraldic fanfare,” a concert of trumpets that represents a new chapter, said Senior Minister Nancy Taylor.

“The trumpets in our Judeo-Christian tradition [represent] the turning of a leaf, the closing of a chapter and opening a new one,” Taylor said. “It's also a time of taking account, looking back, looking forward, so we've been doing that in this, our 350th year.”

People fill the pews inside a church, including a second level underneath stained glass windows.
Inside the Old South Church in Boston.
Tori Bedford WGBH News

The church itself began as a sort of rebellion: Dissenters broke from the First Church in Boston in 1669 to form a congregation without mandatory religious conversion to form the Third Church in Boston, which later became The Old South Church.

“We've had a lot of smart people who with great faith have weathered revolution, war, epidemic, persecution and slavery, and look to the future,” Taylor said. “I think looking to the future has always been a key for this church with our storied past.”

For the past 350 years, Taylor said the church has striven toward a progressive ideology. Notable members have included abolitionist Judge Samuel Sewall, freed slave and poet Phyllis Wheatley, founding father Samuel Adams, and prominent members of the Boston Tea Party, according to church historian Evan Shu.

“We are always pushing the frontier of being open to all people and to fight against oppression and racism and discrimination of all kinds,” Shu said.

“We're not about separating denominations or religious faiths and saying, 'We're better than you are,'” Shu continued. “We're saying, 'We're all in this together and please, we're all here to worship God and to become united as a people.'”

Shu says he attributes the longevity of the church to its ability to adapt over time.

“[Some] Christian religions are taking the Bible as set doctrine, and we're saying the message is deeper, it's one of inclusion and that we're always evolving to become more tolerant and more welcoming,” Shu said. “I think that's one of the things that has helped us stand the test of time.”

The Sunday service included blessings from Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Baha’i leaders. It was followed by a live concert by local performer Keytar Bear.

Ready for the next 350
Churchgoers wore stickers to the celebration.
Tori Bedford WGBH News