A daughter church of First Baptist Church in Cambridge, our congregation gathered in the (then) village of “Old Cambridge” in 1844. In 1868, the congregation constructed its present edifice at 400 Harvard Street under the direction of architect Alexander Esty. In its earlier history, the church was the home of middle class Cantabridgians as well as ex-slaves. A number of famous theologians and preachers, including Episcopalian Phillips Brooks (he of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” fame), Lutheran Paul Tillich, and Roman Catholic David Tracy, have spoken at the church. Samuel Miller (who later became the Dean of Harvard Divinity School) was its pastor for many years. The church has claimed American theologian Harvey Cox among its membership for many years, and he has often preached from its pulpit. In the 1970’s, Yoko Ono and John Lennon sang from the church's chancel.
At about this time, the church became a center of protest in the civil rights and women’s movements and also of anti-Vietnam War activity. Refugees from Latin America, Africa and other areas, would find a home within its walls. The movement for the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people took root at Old Cambridge beginning in 1983 when the congregation officially proclaimed itself to be welcoming and affirming of sexual minority persons.
In 2001, the church began what would become a forty-year contract with the José Mateo Ballet Theatre which now finds rehearsal and office space throughout the building. The church also leases office space to various other organizations, many of which are involved in social justice.