6 PAYSON HILL ROAD
RINDGE, NH 03461
Way Back When
by Margaret Morabito, Church Historian
Seth Payson, Our Second
Settled Pastor 1780-1820
First Congregational Church
United Church of Christ
After our first pastor, Reverend Seth Dean, retired from his position in September, 1780, the town was responsible for supplying the pulpit on a part-time basis until a settled pastor was selected. Deacon Francis Towne, Captain Solomon Cutler and Mr. Richard Kimball were in charge of arranging for interim pastors who would serve in four-Sunday intervals. Two thousand pounds were initially allotted for payment from October through February, and in March 1781, another 2,000 pounds were raised for subsequent payments for part-time preachers. Two preachers were hired during this time: Mr. Joseph Emerson and Mr. Brown Emerson. Following them, twenty-three year old Mr. Seth Payson supplied the pulpit for a few Sabbaths.
The church and the town worked together in deciding who to call as a settled pastor. On July 9, 1781, the church voted that July 18 would be a day of fasting and prayer in Rindge for the purpose of looking to God for his blessing and direction in finding a settled pastor. After the day of prayer and fasting, on July 24, the church held a meeting and voted to give Seth Payson a call to settle. The town’s selectmen issued a warrant for a town meeting on August 7, at which there was unanimous approval to second the call made by the church.
Mr. Payson initially declined the call to serve. Historical writings show that this was connected with the church’s policy of “owning the covenant”, which allowed parents to publicly acknowledge their assent to the creed of the church, but not officially join the church, not participate in communion, nor profess any moral qualifications for membership. The reason for this covenant was so that non-members, so called“half way members”, could have their children baptized. Mr. Payson disagreed with the policy, although it was frequently accepted by churches until the end of the 1700s. In 1782, the church decided to drop the practice of owning the covenant and to once again offer Mr. Payson the position of settled pastor.
Payson accepted the offer in October of 1782 and was ordained on December 4 of that year. A large signing bonus of two hundred pounds in silver (six shillings and eight pence per ounce, to be exact) was to be paid to the new pastor upon acceptance. This was in addition to an annual salary, as was the custom back then. For a few years, Payson’s annual salary was 85 pounds silver, and then in 1795, the salary was paid in U.S. Federal money in the amount of $283.33. That was raised to $333.33 until 1816, and then increased later to $500. The town was responsible for paying his salary.
Originally from Walpole, Massachusetts, Reverend Payson came from a religious family and was well-respected within this field of service. His father, Phillips Payson, was also a pastor, as was Seth’s son, Edward. Known for having a sharp intellect, Reverend Payson earned a Doctor of Divinity degree from Dartmouth College in 1809, and he is often referred to as Dr. Payson. He was frequently asked to preach at important state and regional events. In 1799, for example, he preached the annual sermon before the New Hampshire State Legislature. He was well-known for his sermons and other theological writings, such as the popular “Proofs of the Real Existence and Dangerous Tendencies of Illuminism” (found online at http://openlibrary.org/books/OL22890789M/Proofs_of_the_real_existence_and_dangerous_tendency_of_illuminism). This book was an argument against the influence on American thinking of certain French and German societies (known as The Illuminati) that were aimed at overthrowing Christianity. Another example of his theological writing is “A Sermon On The Nature of Love to God” (online at http://www.pbministries.org/Newsletter/2000/Feb/s_payson01_02.htm). We currently have other sermons by Dr. Payson in our church archives.