History

St. John’s has a rich and fascinating history with roots that are deeply embedded within the fabric of the Town of Essex. In about 1835 Henry Howard Ross constructed a simple Gothic Revival schoolhouse for his children and those of his friends and neighbors.  He did so with every expectation that another, larger school would soon be built and the original building would be converted to a church.  At this time the growing number of parishioners worshipped primarily in the schoolhouse or at Hickory Hill, the Ross family home that still sits directly above today’s church.  In1853 this group of faithful Episcopalians formally incorporated as St. John’s Church in the Diocese of New York, and in 1854, upon completion of the new brick schoolhouse down the street, the vestry leased the old schoolhouse and used it as a place of worship.  By 1870 there was a movement to disband the then church building and to build a new one in a different location.  However, in 1880 the vestry voted to simply purchase the lot next door and move the church uphill a bit, thereby allowing for the construction of a rectory on the former church site. The St. John’s Church that you see today is largely the design of John Henry Hopkins, former rector, who coincidentally wrote hymns including “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. Today’s church reflects the heyday of Gothic Revival architecture that was so admired in the mid 19th century.

Over time St. John’s parish grew. It established a mission church in Boquet in 1853, a yoked church in Elizabethtown in 1882, and another mission church called St. Mary’s in Willsboro in 1903.  During these years spiritual leaders came and went, each leaving their mark upon the architecture and furnishing of the church.  The current chancel was built, a new altar and the beautiful Tiffany-style windows were installed, gaslights were converted to the Gothic lanterns, and an organ was installed in the early years of the 20th century.  The church in which we worship today is much as it was at the turn of the 19th century.  The historic roots of St. John’s remain a powerful underpinning for the church today, and additions and changes are made with great respect for the legacy of the church’s forbearers. We treasure and respect the rich history of our church.

St. John’s as a Parish recognizes and welcomes individuals of the LGBT community and supports their rights to marriage or civil union.  Our Bishop and the Diocese of Albany are not in agreement with our point of view. After much prayer and several particularly thoughtful exchanges with Bishop Love, St. John’s Vestry and the Parish community elected to request Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) from the Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont.  DEPO was granted in 2012 and St. John’s continues under that arrangement today.  We at St John’s are grateful that the House of Bishops created a mechanism like DEPO to allow parishes with theological points of view at odds with their canonical Bishop’s to address and resolve the resulting conflict.

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