When the Reverend Henry Caner accepted the position of Rector at King’s Chapel in 1747, little did he know he would be the last Anglican minister at New England’s first Anglican church. After almost twenty years of ministry to the congregation and active engagement with the Bishop of London to secure support for Anglican churches in the American colonies, including hopes of the continent’s first Anglican bishop, Caner’s life and career were upturned by the American Revolution. Caner was one of the many Anglican ministers with little option but to leave their congregations and flee the colonies during the war, attempting to secure the safety of their families and their parishes.
While Caner and many King’s Chapel congregants fled Boston during the Revolution, the church members who remained behind would transform the church into the first in a new movement in American religious thought. With a 24-year-old Harvard graduate at its helm, King’s Chapel sailed forward in exploring making theological changes and democratic revisions to their historic Anglican liturgy. By 1787, to the dismay of the emerging American Episcopal Church, King’s Chapel ordained James Freeman as their minister in a lay-led ceremony, becoming America’s first Unitarian Christian church and laying the groundwork for the emergence of the Unitarian Church in the United States.
The images below will direct you through the exhibit, digging into the rich social and religious history of King’s Chapel’s own revolution in the 1780s.