The history of The Community Church of New York goes back to 1825. It had its origin in New England Unitarianism - and yet its roots go further and deeper than that. It is rooted in the soil of all liberal religion, in the soil from which have sprung those truths proclaimed by saints and prophets throughout the ages - freedom, justice, world community and peace.
The liberal religious movement surging through our country towards the end of the eighteenth century marked the beginning of American Unitarianism. The most famous liberal preacher of this movement, William Ellery Channing, indirectly influenced the origin of Community Church. One of his sermons had so profoundly moved his hearers that they organized a Unitarian Church in New York City in 1819 naming it "The First Congregational Church in the City of New York" (later "The Unitarian Church of All Souls.") After some difficulty in obtaining a building of their own, the congregation settled in a church on Chambers Street.
Only six years later, on March 19, 1825, it was found necessary to hold a meeting of persons disposed to unite in building a church for Unitarian worship in the "upper part of the city," above Canal Street, and "The Second Congregational Unitarian Society" was formed. This was the birthday of our Community Church!
On Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, December 7, 1826, this first building in our history was dedicated. William Cullen Bryant, a member of the congregation, wrote a hymn for the occasion, and William Ellery Channing preached one of his most celebrated sermons, "Unitarian Christianity Most Favorable to Piety." Dr. John Haynes Holmes (our minister from 1907 to 1949) called this address the "dedication not of a building at all, but of the whole life and temper of an institution." It seemed a radical sermon in those days - a revolt against the theological creeds of the times - in which Dr. Channing stressed the great ideal of religious freedom, which has remained fundamental in the life of The Community Church.