“Services were commenced at Port Jefferson a year ago.”With these words to the Diocesan Convention in 1873, Bishop Little John gave recognition to the beginning of Christ Church Mission.The first service was held in “Good Templars” Hall (Temperance Hall) on February 25, 1872, conducted by the Rev. Thomas Cook of Riverhead.It was first under the charge of the Associate Mission at Riverhead, and in 1877 became attached to Caroline Church, Setauket.
Rev. Cook and lay readers continued to supply services to the tiny congregation during the next several years, meeting in halls, vacant stores, and other churches.A valuable lot was secured for a future chapel, giving testimony to the vision of a more permanent place of worship.
The congregation continued to number between ten and sixteen communicants.1883 was a hallmark year; the Church Women raised $225 as the nucleus of the Building Fund.The following year they added another $100.The congregation had now grown to 22 communicants.
Despite this promising beginning, an oppressive discouragement took over.In the winter of 1886-1887, at a meeting of the small congregation, it was decided to discontinue holding services in “hired rooms” and not to resume until a chapel could be built.It appears, however, that God wanted to reverse that decision.The Rev. Dan Marvin was sent to be the new rector of Caroline Church, Setauket, and Priest-in-Charge of the mission at Port Jefferson in 1887.Rev. Marvin re-instituted services at Good Templars’ Hall.He also organized Sunday school and Bible class.The small spark, so close to going out, was fanned into flame.
In the winter of 1887-1888, measures were taken to erect a church building.The lot purchased 15 years earlier and conveyed to the diocese by Rev. Cook and his wife was sold, and the present site was purchased from P.T. Barnum for $150 (its actual value being $400).Appeals went out in January, 1888 with an overwhelming response.The newly constructed church building opened for services on Trinity Sunday, June 3, 1888.Appropriately, Rev. Martin preached the sermon.The yellow pine building, designed by Fred Raynor, stood on high ground overlooking both the town and the harbor.
By now the congregation had grown to 23 families plus individual members, some 70 parishioners in total and 31 communicants.The following year, Bishop Little John made his first visitation to the church confirming six persons.The early 1890’s would see slow, steady growth; communicants would continue to number in the thirties.
The next date on significance was April 29, 1893 when the church was separated from Caroline Church and made a mission of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk County.The Rev. W.G. Webb (Deacon) was appointed as Minister-in Charge.It was reported that since becoming a diocesan mission, “notwithstanding the forebodings of some of our pessimistic friends, the work has steadily advanced.”
The number of services increased, Sunday school teachers were added and 16 children were enrolled.1894 was marked by the gift of a two manual organ.Rev. Webb resigned in 1895 and supply priests and lay readers led the congregation for the remainder of the century.
In 1901 the Rev. Arthur Fenton was appointed Priest-in-Charge.The “Consecration of Christ Church by the Diocesan” -- the Right Rev. Frederick Burgess, -- was celebrated on July 23, 1902.Following the death of Rev. Fenton in 1906, the Rev. J. Morris Coerr became Priest-in-Charge.Other gifts and bequests permitted the erection of an enlarged sacristy and sanctuary, addition of a choir room and the finishing of the basement.New pews and choir stall plus a fresh coat of exterior paint would allow the congregation to report to the Diocesan Convention that “the entire church property is in first class repair.”In 1908 they also reported: “the whole number of baptized persons -- 100; communicants --45.”All this just 20 years after the erection of the building.
And yet things quickly changed, and it appears the same spirit of discouragement from 1886 resurfaced.Very little appears in the archives covering the next forty or so years as the congregation was served by resident Priests-in-Charge, and eventually by priests from Caroline Church, to which the mission once again became an auxiliary chapel.Regular reports to the Diocese merely attest to the repair and upkeep of both the church and the rectory.
The aftermath of World War II resulted in a steady migration of people to Suffolk County, and Christ Church would share in this growth.Significant to the growth is the fact that from July 1949 to the 1993, there have only been two Priests-in-Charge: the Rev. Robert Capon (7/1/49 to 1/14/77) and the Rev. Jeff Simmons (9/1/77 to 1/1/01).Fr, Simmons was assisted by the Rev. Robert Brandt from 1983 to 1985 and years later returned to us.But numbers alone did not create the changes that have come to be our history.
When the Renewal Movement reached the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island in the mid-seventies, one of the first places affected was Christ Church. A Body was being created whose primary drive was to know the will of God and to act on it.Tentatively at first, then with increasing courage, this Body tried to explore all the Lord was offering.The initial signs of renewal; heightened worship and praise, increased Bible study and community outreach were all apparent.
Before long, Christ Church sensed that the Lord was planning to do more.He seemed to reach deeply, rooting out things He wanted removed, and replanting more in accordance with His will.Basic changes were made: the Vestry became convinced of the need for unity in their decision making; now no action is taken until unity is reached.The tradition of Every Member Canvass is no longer used; instead individual members pray for each other, asking that God lead each in his or her giving.(Not surprising, giving had increased dramatically.)
A Statement of Mission was adopted in September, 1984:
“Christ’s Body was broken for us in order to reconcile us to the Father. Christ incarnate embodies our broken humanity in order to make us whole in body, mind and spirit.By Christ’s healing our brokenness, we at Christ Church are a holy people.We are a royal priesthood commissioned for the work of healing within our broken bodies, within the fragmented community, within our pluralistic diocese and within the alienated world.”
The congregation formally petitioned the Diocese to be incorporated as a Parish.This was presented at the Diocesan Convention in 1986.
These and other changes occurred while the congregation was learning to seek God’s will and direction.At Vestry meetings, discernment groups, and at annual meetings, it was assumed that the Lord, through Scripture, tradition and the Holy Spirit, was eager to lead us.And so, we listened.As a body, we sensed that God was telling us when to wait, and when to move ahead.
One of the most exciting times began with a received prophesy by one of our members: Isaiah 54 especially verses 2-3:
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not, lengthen your chords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left”
At the same time, another member had a vision of a “church without stairs,” and a third, “I have put my hand upon this Church and all that worship Me here.I have put it on your heart to extend this building and will provide the money and the sources as yet unknown to you.Do not fear for I have spread My wings of protection over this congregation.”
All of this did not come easily or quickly; it was over a period of years that the Body came to accept these words as from the Lord and have the courage to step out on faith.
The resulting extension is here for all to see; we have spread abroad to the right and to the left (the former rector is now Barnabas House and the new extension had doubled the size of the original Church.)We now had a “Church without stairs” (with the use of an elevator, it is completely handicapped accessible).The needed funds were provided by a bank loan.The most difficult part was to trust in the Lord each step of the way.
We have realized the desire of our hearts; increased nursery and fellowship space and the potential to minister to any and all whom God sends.And we have realized that, due to the faithfulness and vision of a tiny group of founders, 100 years ago, and a courageous Clergyman from Setauket, Christ Church is set on a firm foundation: a Rock that cannot be shaken.
At that point, Christ Church began its second century of ministry and worship, a “royal priesthood commissioned for the work of healing.”Since the 90’s, the Decade of Evangelism, we continued to trust in the Lord as He has prepared Christ Church, the building (the addition blessed in 1990) as well as the Body to continue the ministry He has planned for us.And so He did…
In the 90’s the church continued to grow under the guidance of Fr. Jeff Simmons. We had over one hundred communicants attend services on Sunday.The Parish was very involved with the Cursillo movement and most of the communicants went to Cursillo.Fr. Gary Dalmasso from Indiana was involved through his renewal ministry.We saw many good things happen with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Bible studies continued. Sunday school was thriving. We have been and are involved which such programs as the 12 Step Program, Eastern Farm workers, and AA group meetings. The Alpha program which began in 2002 ran for ten years and on Monday nights, the soup kitchen started in the fellowship hall and continues to this day.Yearly we collect donated food at local supermarkets to aid the soup kitchen and food pantry.
We participate in the annual Dickens Festival, where people can come to see us, have a cup of hot soup and perhaps a tasty chocolate sweet.And listen to some music of the season.We don’t forget to give to those in need, more during Christmas time, including the Angel Tree network, the Elf program and gifts for the children of prisoners.
Fr. Jeff Simmons left the parish in January of 2001 to move to Peekskill NY to move on to his next calling.The church went through some tough times over the next several years, as we could not get a new rector.As a result of the delay and using different supply clergy, the church had a big decline in membership.As mentioned in 2002 we started the Alpha program and many of our congregants took the Alpha program course and invited family and friends to participate.We saw many come to know Christ and enrich their walk with the Lord.In 2003, Fr. Robert Brandt returned to us and led the congregation.Again, the numbers started to rebound during his tenure.He retired in 2011.
Once again, in 2011, the congregation welcomed Fr. Anthony Di Lorenzo who became our priest-in-charge and we are truly blessed to have him.Again congregants started to grow.Not only on Sunday, we also have a weekly service on Wednesday and a bible study on Thursday.His sermons are excellent and he is well liked by the congregation. During Holy Week, Fr. Di Lorenzo takes on character, and performs a dramatic presentation of “The Passion of the Christ,” as seen through the eyes of John the apostle.
And so our story will continue as we trust in the Lord, guided by God and continue to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.God bless us, God bless you.
Most of the above writing was composed by members of Christ Church when the addition of the Church was dedicated in 1990.Two of our long standing members of the Church completed the writing to bring this up to date. We thank all who contributed to this. We should not forget the over 20 Rectors and priests-in-charge and visiting clergy who have been our spiritual leaders over the past 140 years.We look forward to the next 140 plus years as Christ Church continues to grow in body and spirit. It is its people that make the Church, not the building.
We welcome you to “Like us” the old fashioned way and invite you to come visit us any Sunday. We are a friendly group who welcome all to come and experience the love of God.It’s Church, the way it’s meant to be.
On Trinity Sunday, June 14, 1908, Rev. J. Morris Coerr, Priest-in Charge said:
“We are witness in this village of this great truth.We offer to our fellow-men all that is good and true in any modern form of Christianity, and also what these systems do not claim either to possess or give, namely, the life-giving Sacraments and Eucharistic worship.
It will be seen by these records…that the growth of the Church in Port Jefferson has not been phenomenal; it has been sure and steady.Faith and loyalty have not faltered, and will not fail”.He further stated: “Remember this, as long as we are doing God’s Work, in God’s way we are building, alright.Only when we abandon the old Apostolic and Catholic way for some new theory outside the Church, then may God discourage us indeed.But now, we thank God for the past, let us look forward to joyful hope and good courage to the future.Our blessed duty is plain.We must “speak the truth in love” with renewed faith, labor and pray “that we all may be one.”
Christ Church 127 Barnum Avenue Port Jefferson, NY, 11777 Phone: 631-473-0273 email: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com