St. John’s Episcopal Church in New City was incorporated three days after Christmas in 1866. At the time, the Reverend E. Gay, Jr. held services at the Rockland County Courthouse. The following year, the congregation began erecting its own church building a few blocks away on a 1/4 acre corner site on Main Street in New City donated by Charles W. Root. The quaint wood frame structure reflected the rural tenor of the surrounding countryside.
The first “Resident Rector”, Reverend Keane, was called in 1908, when transportation was still mainly by carriage. The Reverend Keane continued to serve as Rector of St. Paul’s, Spring Valley, as well, with his $600 annual salary augmented by a Carriage Hire Fund of ten cents per week contributed by each Warden and Vestryman. St. Stephen’s in Pearl River was later added to his rounds.
It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that St. John’s was finally able to obtain a full-time rector. This was due to the area’s influx of World War II veterans and their families, changing the area into a suburban community. By 1956, a new rectory was added behind the church, and the following year discussions began of raising money for a new church. The opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River in the late 1950s began a surge of new housing development in Rockland County, and spurred the interest in the need for larger quarters. In 1960, land was donated adjacent to Lake DeForest, and by January 1963, the church was completed, with the rectory built by December of that year. With 155 children attending church school by 1966, the addition of an education wing was contracted in late 1967. Stained glass windows were designed for the church in 1968.
In early 1969 the Reverend Robert E. Morisseau was called as rector. Through the 1970s, the parish continued to grow, but by the 1980s, as witnessed in many denominations throughout the country, the size of the congregation began to level out and eventually decrease. Along with the decreasing size of the parish came increasing expenses. For many years, St. John’s had the benefit of volunteer Associate Clergy, the Reverend Anthony Macombe and the Reverend Allen Attenborough. Father Morisseau retired in 1994.
At the end of the self-study period in 1995, this parish came together to discern a vision for our next eight to fifteen years and as a result, the Reverend Susan Auchincloss was called to be our rector in 1996. She retired in the summer of 2004. Her legacy is the healing ministry which has helped many families through personal crises, outreach into the community, and the rehabilitation of much of the physical plant.
At the end of the search process the vestry called The Rev. Frances R. Twiggs as Rector. Pastor Twiggs took up her responsibilities in November of 2005 at the beginning of Advent. In the summer of 2011, Pastor Twiggs left St. John's to devote full-time study in the Doctor of Ministry program at The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. During her tenure she welcomed and encouraged lay ministries in the parish.
The Rev. Karen E. J. Henry was called as Priest in Charge at St. John's and began her ministry in October 2014. She retired in December 2017. During Mother Karen's years at St. John's the parish refocused its energies in Outreach and Christian Formation and completed the RenewalWorks program. Renovations of the physical plant were completed and the parish celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1866.
The Rev. Victoria Duncan began as Priest in Charge in October 2019.
The Episcopal Church in The United States
Our Episcopal Church in the United States is a direct outgrowth of the Church of England. A common misconception of how the Church of England began centers on Henry VIII wanting a divorce, but there were more complex issues going on in the 16th century than Henry's marital problems which included his need for a male heir. Some of them political, and some theological. Henry wanted his people's undivided loyalty and had other uses for the English money which supported the Catholic Church in Rome. Henry broke from Rome and England suffered as Catholics and Protestants battled for control of the church and the government which the Protestants eventually won. His only child was his daughter Queen Elizabeth I who devised religious and political arrangements that left the English church with both Roman Catholic and Protestant characteristics. Walking this middle line between the traditions makes us a sacramental church that promotes thoughtful debate about what God is and is calling us to do and be as followers of Christ.
The first notation of the Episcopal Church in North America, occurs when Sir Francis Drake read from the Book of Common Prayer in 1579 after landing near what is now San Francisco while circumnavigating the world. The first congregation of the Church of England was established in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. From Virginia, the church spread across the American colonies. By 1775 there were about 300 independent congregations throughout the colonies.
The Episcopal church formally separated from the Church of England in 1789 so the church would not have to accept the supremacy of the British monarch, the monarch being the head of the church in England (not the Archbishop of Canterbury). The first Episcopal bishop outside the British Isles was originally consecrated in Scotland and moved to the United States. The American bishops, thus descend in apostolic succession through the non-jurying Bishop of Scotland and the nine crosses which symbolize ECUSA's nine original dioceses in it form a St. Andrew's cross (St Andrew being the patron saint of Scotland) commemorating the Scottish link.