1755 - 1803
Haven was born on March 2, 1733 in Framingham, Massachusetts, the youngest son of Deacon Moses Haven II and Hannah (Walker) Haven. He graduated from Harvard College in 1754. While at Harvard, he was a classmate of John Hancock and one year ahead of John Adams. Haven was called to the Dedham church in 1755 and ordained on February 5, 1756. Prior to this, he was serving as interim pastor in Wrentham, Massachusetts. The church voted 40-6 to call him and the town voted 56-10 to ratify that decision. Forty years later, Haven reminisced about his early opponents that “after a little time, he had the satisfaction of numbering them among his kind, affectionate and confidential friends.”
As part of the call, he was offered £133.06s.08d in addition to an annual salary of £66.13s.8d plus 20 cords of wood “for carrying on the work of the ministry in this place”. He was also granted "the use and improvement" of a plot of land near the meetinghouse and given three parcels of land in Medfield, Massachusetts. In 1795, he was granted a £20 raise.
He married the oldest daughter, Catherine, of his predecessor in the Dedham Church, Samuel Dexter. He also had a son, Samuel, although two other children died in infancy, one at one month old and the other at seven months old. From his early 20’s Haven was periodically afflicted with bouts of fever which would temporarily disable him to such an extent that in 1774 church leaders declared a day of fasting and prayer for his recovery.
As First Church minister Haven accomplished much. To begin with, he brought a number of young men into his household to prepare for college or the ministry. During his 40-year tenure, 14 of them were educated at Harvard College. Next, he oversaw the construction of the current meetinghouse in 1762. In addition, Haven shepherded the 1793 reframing of the First Church covenant which reflected the democratizing tendency of the Age of Revolution by instituting a new method for bringing members into the congregation. The minister would propose an individual and, if there was no objection after 14 days, they became a member of the church. He also had a new creed written which had so few articles, that all persons professing and calling themselves Christians, could assent to it without any objection. Haven underlined his support for this liberalization of church rules by stating that every member should be permitted to "enjoy the right of his private opinion provided he doth not break in upon the rights of others." Also Haven sermons were said to be expressive and direct which led him to be called upon to frequently address public assemblies and to speak at ordinations. He addressed the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company at the election of their officers in 1761 and preached a sermon before the Great and General Court in 1769. He preached the general election sermon in 1766 and a sermon before the British Colonial Governor, the Governor’s Council and the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1769. Lastly, it should also be mentioned that Haven enforced a church provision requiring anyone who had sex with another before marriage to confess the sin before the entire congregation. Such confessions increased dramatically during Haven's term. During his first 25 years there were 25 such confessions. An observer remembered that “the females blushed and hung down their heads. The men too hung down their heads and now and then looked out from under their fallen eyebrows to observe how others supported the attack.”
Haven was an enthusiastic supporter of the American Revolution which he believed granted Americans "civil and religious privileges, equal, or perhaps superior to those enjoyed in any part of the world." He had contacts with influential politicians on both sides of the growing Loyalist/Patriot divide, having dined with Governor Thomas Hutchinson in December 1771 and with John Hancock at the home of his neighbor and brother-in-law Samuel Dexter Jr. in July 1773. Haven also served as Dedham’s delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1779–1780. His political influence, however, waned as his health and mental capacity grew weaker with old age. Haven did, however posthumously, continued his civic service to Dedham by bequeathing $30 to the Parish for the establishment of the town library in 1804.
Haven had been called to minister at Old North Church, but the people of Dedham convinced him to stay. He was also considered for the presidency of Yale College on account of his orthodox theology and for "Neatness dignity and purity of Style [which] surpass those of all that have been mentioned," but was passed over due to his "very Valetudinary and infirm State of Health."
Shortly before he died on May 13, 1803, Haven wrote a final message to his congregation. It was delivered from the pulpit after his death by Rev. Prentiss of Medfield. In it, Haven entreated his flock “as far as possible, to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; that you may know how good and pleasant it is, for brethren to live together in love and harmony. Let this be your care, particularly, in your endeavors to attain an able and faithful minister of the New Testament, to take the pastoral charge of you. Let there be no strife and contention in the important affair of settling a minister of the gospel of peace.”
Smith, Frank. A History of Dedham. Dedham; The Transcript Press, 1936.
Filing Cabinet: Ministers-1688-1897: First Church Papers- 1627-1965; Dedham Museum and Archive
Filing Cabinet: History: 1839-1900: History of First Church in Three Discourses by Alvan Lamson
Burgess, Ebenezer (1840). Dedham Pulpit: Or, Sermons by the Pastors of the First Church in Dedham in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries. Perkins & Marvin.
The History of Dedham: From the Beginning of Its Settlement, in September 1635, to May 1827 by Erastus Worthington: