By Seth Daniel
The old St. John’s Episcopal Church doesn’t look a day over 150 years old, but its appearance belies its true age of 175 years, and this coming week, on Sunday, Nov. 6, the Parish community will come together to celebrate that major milestone.
Rev. Tom Mousin told the Patriot Bridge that the Parish plans a grand celebration this week to mark the completion of the church on Nov. 10, 1841 – a pre-industrial church building project that started in May and ended, astonishingly, in November. “The Parish was actually founded in 1840 and last year we celebrated the anniversary of that founding,” he said. “However, the church building was built in 1841 and completed on Nov. 10. We’ll be celebrating the 175th anniversary of the completion of the church and dedicating it to its next chapters.”
Mousin, church members, the community and Rt. Rev. Bishop Alan Gates will be on hand for the dedication at 4 p.m., followed by a collation in the Parish House afterward. He said there is a great amount of excitement in the Parish and a sense of renewal at the same time that the old milestone is marked.
“The Parish has been excited about the anniversary,” he said. “It has reminded us of what a rich heritage we have in these buildings. The vestry even recently completed a new mission statement that reads, ‘Hear the Spirit, See God’s beauty, Act in Love.’ That came as a result of preparing to celebrate these buildings and look at how they have contributed to the community of Charlestown and the importance of maintaining and preserving them as a place of beauty…We’re very excited for the whole community to join us on this occasion.”
The Parish in Charlestown began as a result of a call during the 1839 Diocesan Board of Missions meeting, where new Parishes were called for in Charlestown and Worcester due to major growth in the populations there. The first meeting came in 1840 when an Episcopal clergyman serving in the Navy Yard helped organize a few men from the Town to have a meeting. Later they hired a full-time minister at the price of $345 a year. The first services were held in Fuller Hall at City Square on Sunday, Jan. 4, 1840.
When the new Parish was still in its infancy, a committee was formed with the task of raising $10,000 to build a suitable house of worship. In less than one month, the committee raised $6,000 and called on the rest of the Boston parishes to raise the necessary $4,000. Nothing came of that call, however, and the committee then turned to Charlestown for more funding and got it.
In the fall of 1840, the land where St. John’s now sits was purchased, and in May 1841, the cornerstone was laid. The finished building was consecrated on Nov. 10, 1841 in a special ceremony officiated by a Bishop Griswold. Mohsin said the Parish has recently replaced the heating system and several other key pieces of the historic church.
“We still have much to do though,” he said. “It’s really impressing us to look at other renovations and improvements we want to make.
We are in the midst of planning a capital campaign to make sure this building serves the residents of Charlestown for decades to come.”
He added, “The Parish has a deep appreciation for our architectural heritage, but also a commitment to serving the community today and in the future. It’s really about reaching beyond our walls.”