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Newburyport is the final resting place of one of our nation’s forgotten founding fathers. George Whitefield was the English evangelist who galvanized the eighteenth-century religious revival known as “The Great Awakening.” His revolutionary message that all people are equal in the eyes of their heavenly ruler spurred the colonists to rebel against their earthly king, and his friendship with Benjamin Franklin solidified his support for American independence.

Whitefield made thirteen trips across the Atlantic and consistently drew massive crowds. He spent much of his time in Newburyport, where his followers founded First Presbyterian (“Old South”) Church on Federal St. Each year, Old South welcomes hundreds of pilgrims from all over the world who come to pay homage to “Whitefield’s church” and visit the crypt where he’s buried.

September 30, 2020 will mark the 250th anniversary of Whitefield’s death, and in the coming months an impressive slate of events throughout Newburyport will commemorate the legacy of this important historical figure. Come learn more about the man who’s been called “America’s first celebrity”!

Most events are free, with donations encouraged. Please visit Whitefield2020.org for more information.

Spring/Summer

The Museum of Old Newbury will house a display on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, with emphasis on the local experience of this influential religious revival.

Dates TBD, Museum of Old Newbury, 99 High St.

April 25

As part of the Newburyport Literary Festival, Dr. Tom Schwanda, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and a respected Whitefield scholar, will discuss his upcoming biography of Whitefield for a Theologians on the Christian Life series.

Old South Presbyterian Church Sanctuary, 29 Federal St., 9:00 am

July 26

Curated by Newburyport Public Library and Old South Church, an “Archives Day” will feature a selection of George Whitefield’s sermons, letters, and other artifacts; the eulogy delivered at his burial at Old South, and evidence of an Old South pastor’s encouragement of young men to enlist in the Revolutionary Army.

Central Congregational Church, 14 Titcomb St., 10:00 am–4:00 pm

Summer

Newburyport Public Library will host a community read of The Printer and The Preacher: Ben Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Surprising Friendship that Invented America.

Dates TBD, Newburyport Public Library, Market St.

September 26 & 27

History Alive Salem will present an original play covering the life, legacy, and influence of George Whitefield. Concessions will be provided by Chococoa.

City Hall Auditorium, 60 Pleasant St., 2:00 pm

September 27

A special worship service at Old South will feature preaching by Reverend Emmett Price. Price is one of the nation’s leading experts on the African American worship experience and a frequent guest on various local and national media broadcasts. He will illuminate Whitefield’s influence on the black church.

Old South Presbyterian Church, 29 Federal St., 10:00 am

A jazz vespers service will be led by Reverend Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church. Walker anchored the evening news at WBZ-TV for 20 years.

Old South Presbyterian Church, 29 Federal St., 6:30 pm

September 28 & 29

History professors will lead spiritual heritage tours of Old South Church.

Old South Presbyterian Church, 29 Federal St.

September 30

A special service at Old South will mark Whitefield’s death on September 30, 1770. Speakers will focus on Whitefield’s Message, Whitefield’s Friends (eulogies that were spoken at his memorial), and Whitefield’s Legacy (addressing our contemporary challenges). There will be a special hymn commissioned for the occasion.
Old South Presbyterian Church, 29 Federal St., Time TBD

October 1 & 2

Scholar symposium. Pastors’ forum/Q&A from 1:00 pm–3:00 pm and general forum/Q&A from 6:30–8:30

Old South Presbyterian Church, 29 Federal St.

October 3

A re-enactment of Whitefield’s outdoor preaching will take place at Pulpit Rock in Rowley.

169 Leslie Rd., Rowley, Time TBD

The Boston Camerata will perform 18th Century choral pieces.

Old South Church, 29 Federal St., 7:00 pm, Tickets $25

October 4

Special worship service with Reverend Canon Carrie Headington preaching. Headington is the founder of the Good News Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Dallas that provides Christian instruction and care for the needy. She graduated from Yale and received master’s degrees in education from Harvard and in theology from Oxford.

Old South Presbyterian Church, 29 Federal St., 10:00 am

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