Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Historic St. John’s Episcopal Church reopens for summer services

Courtesy of Cartref Taid

St. John’s Episcopal Church, circa 1831, is reopening this summer for evening prayer services.

Saturday, July 2 at 4 p.m. — POULTNEY — Historic St. Johns Episcopal Church reopened in June as a summer chapel with service of evening prayer. The second of three services will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, with the third on Saturday, Aug. 13. The services will be led by local Episcopal clergy and the rich notes of the original 1860’s William Nutting hand-pumped organ will accompany hymns. Light refreshments will be available after worship in the garden, weather permitting.

These summer services are a rare opportunity offered to worshippers, historians, musicians and lovers of early Vermont. A group of residents have been planning for the yearly summer reopening of very special St. John’s Church on Route 140 in East Poultney. Untouched and unchanged, St. John’s is one of the two churches from the early 1800s surviving in this village. It is located across from the village green, which is dominated by the stately United Baptist Church.

St. John’s is a fine example of classic New England Carpenter Gothic. It retains its gated pews, kerosene lamps, stenciled walls and a rare, hand pumped organ made by Vermonter William Nutting which dates from the 1860s. The cornerstone of St. John’s was laid May 27, 1831. The first services were held a year later, May 27, 1832. The first Episcopal Bishop of Vermont, the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, presided at the consecration of the building.

When the church was erected, East Poultney was booming. It boasted two large inns, mills along the Poultney River, a debating society and a library. The families of Clark, Hughes, Lewis, Thrall and Teetor rest in the adjacent St. John’s Cemetery. These families are still in Poultney, or as many who left only to return, who are a testimony to continuity.

The arrival of the railroad moved the center of town activity west, and members of St. John’s church then built another Episcopal church, Trinity Church, in the new hub in the 1860s. St. John’s held regular services until 1931. After that the old church opened only once a year for an annual service of worship. The summer of 2014 brought the first reopening since 1931. Since the closing and sale of Trinity Church, attention is focused on St. John’s Church, not only due to its quality as a historical treasure, but also as a place for continuing worship in the Episcopal tradition. The building is also a resource which may be offered to the community.

The services are open to all. All are welcome to join as they usher in this third summer season of worship services in the 21st century in the life of this venerable, old house of worship. Donations will be gratefully received.

Call Ida Mae Johnson at 802-287-9744 for info.

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