Sunday, March 30, 2008

West Haven Connecticut-Christ Episcopal Church

Frank Hoeffer and Jeannette Crowe were married in this church, on August 6, 1938.

A little about this church:

Christ Church is proud of its heritage and tradition. The
church is the second oldest Episcopal Church in the state and
considered the Mother Church of central Connecticut. Christ
Church is also a growing community that is striving toward the
future. Founded in 1723.

A brief history

On December 19, 1606, the Virginia Company of London, formed by charter of King James I, dispatched to the New World three ships – the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery — for purposes of colonization and in pursuit of trade routes to Asia.

With some 105 aboard, the ships entered Chesapeake Bay and made landfall on April 26, 1607, at a coastal point the settlers named Cape Henry, near what is now Virginia Beach. This “First Landing” is memorialized by a stone cross at Cape Henry, now a centerpiece of the surrounding First Landing State Park. The monument commemorates the site where, upon their safe arrival, the settlers erected a wooden cross.

Among the settlers was Robert Hunt (1568-1608), priest of the Church of England, from which the Episcopal Church is descended. It was under his leadership that the group offered its first prayer services in the New World, notably on May 13, 1607, when the settlers reached the point they would call “Jamestowne,” the first permanent English settlement in the Americas

At Jamestown the settlers later built a church, but for their first service they suspended “an old saile” between several trees to shelter the congregation, and are said to have fashioned a communion rail by affixing a sapling to two trees. There, the Rev. Mr. Hunt conducted the prayer service, likely from the 1604 Book of Common Prayer. He later led the first service of Holy Communion, in June 1607, on the third Sunday after Trinity Sunday.

The region’s spiritual and cultural history also includes the traditions of the indigenous First Nation peoples, whose contributions are documented by local historians and museum. They are also recognized by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Native American Ministry.

Organized in 1607 as part of the emerging English colony, the Jamestown Church
became the fi rst Protestant congregation to endure in the New World — the
parish to which the Episcopal Church traces its origins in the Americas. The 400th
anniversary of these beginnings will be marked in spring 2007 with civic and religious
observances, the advent of which invites Episcopalians to learn more about the history
and heritage of their unique faith tradition.
This parish church helped to form American Episcopalians’ commitment to common prayer and Anglican “comprehensive”
theology – and a resilience of faith and mission that has been strengthened by the challenges of the American Revolution, the
Civil War, and the civil rights achievements of more recent years.
The Jamestown Church today has a unique national “congregation” all its own, and among those
engaged in local ministry is historical interpreter Anne J. Conkling, a local lay leader and expert
docent at sites including nearby Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish with origins dating from 1633.
At the Jamestown Church, Conkling does more than lead tours rich with insights about the early
colonists and indigenous people, and the sanctuary’s historic tower and origins. Indeed, she helps
guide hundreds of visitors each year into deeper understanding of their own spiritual heritage.
Sometimes these connections are made during prayers that Conkling is asked to lead on the
historic site.
The church tower is the only 17th-century structure still standing in Jamestown, and the present
Memorial Church building itself is a replica built in 1906 by the National Society of the Colonial
Dames of America. The structure’s footprint approximates the earlier churches’ original foundations,
parts of which are visible through fl oor panels of glass.
The fi rst Jamestown church burned in 1608, and the second church, built of wood, was where
Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married. A third church was the site in 1619 of the fi rst representative legislature meeting in
the New World, and the fourth church – featuring the present tower – burned in 1676 during Bacon’s Rebellion. A fi fth church
was built a decade later but abandoned in the 1750s before falling to ruins. The tower stood as a quiet monument throughout
the 19th century before the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) acquired the site in the 1890s and
commenced signifi cant restoration and archeological work (
Although weekly liturgical services were long ago assumed by neighboring Episcopal parishes, the Jamestown Church
remains a signifi cant center of spirituality, as Conkling observes as she interacts with the many visitors to the site. “Much,” she
said recently, “is exchanged in the questions and answers.”
The Anglican rites at Jamestown should not be construed as the fi rst in the New World. In the 1580s, services – including the
baptism of Virginia Dare – were held at the Lost Colony, Roanoke Island, along what now forms North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
A chaplain also accompanied English explorer Martin Frobisher on his expedition to Newfoundland, and prayers were offered
when Sir Francis Drake made landfall in 1579 near San Francisco Bay.
Emanating from a 1584 expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh, the Roanoke Colony – then part of Virginia — was the fi rst
English settlement in the New World. (While St. John’s, Newfoundland, was claimed for England in 1583, immediate settlement
did not follow.) The region then known as Virginia was so named in honor of Elizabeth I, the so-called “Virgin Queen,” who
had granted Raleigh his original charter for the area’s colonization, and also united Protestant and Catholic traditions within
the Church of England. While the Plymouth Colony later came to refl ect many Puritan ideals of the Reformation, the Virginia
colonies were fi rmly rooted in spirit of the late Renaissance and Elizabeth’s reign of 1558-1603.

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