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Puritan hymnal could net millions

BOSTON – The first book printed in what would become the United States was a Puritan hymnal of psalms, sturdy enough that 11 copies that came off a wooden Cambridge press in 1640 still exist.

Now, a copy of the Bay Psalm Book may bring millions of dollars to the Boston church that owns it – if a divided congregation agrees in a vote today to sell it.

The book, combined with a Colonial-era silver collection it may also sell, could bring tens of millions of dollars to the Old South Church. Leaders say the money is badly needed to restore the historic building and keep vital ministries going.

“What we’re talking about is taking objects our forebears have given us that were used for mission and ministry, to repurpose in continuing mission and ministries,” said Old South Senior minister Rev. Nancy Taylor.

But church historian Jeff Makholm said the artifacts are more than things – they’re links to Old South’s predecessors that can’t be severed without damaging the spiritual mission they established.

“We use these things to sermonize and to inspire and to project our faith into the world,” Makholm said.