Historic Church to Reopen
A rare opportunity is offered this summer to worshipers, historians, musicians and lovers of early Vermont. For months, a group of residents have been planning for the reopening of very special Saint John’s Church on Route 140 in East Poultney for summer Saturday services.
Untouched and unchanged, it is one of the two churches from the early 1800s surviving in this village. Located across from the village green, which is dominated by the stately United Baptist church, Saint 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 which dates from the 1840s made by Vermonter William Nutting. The cornerstone of Saint John’s was laid May 27, 1831; first services were held a year later. The first Episcopal Bishop of Vermont, 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. Horace Greeley learned the printing trade here, and later founded the Tribune in New York City. George Jones of Poultney started the New York Times.
The arrival of the railroad moved the center of town activity west, and members of Saint John’s Church built another Episcopal Church in the 1860s – Trinity Church, in Poultney.Saint John’s held regular services until 1931. Since then, the old church was opened only once a year for an annual service of worship. Since the closing and sale of Trinity Church, attention is again focused on Saint John’s Church, due to its quality as a historical treasure and a place for continuing worship in the Episcopal tradition.
With this in mind Saint John’s Church will be opened as a summer chapel with weekly worship services every Saturday from June 7 through August. Evening Prayer will be led by local Episcopal clergy and the rich notes of the original organ will accompany hymns at many services. Three outstanding organists have volunteered to play at the services. At other times music will be by violin, flute, guitar and folk harps. At least one service is planned around the Welsh heritage so prevalent in the Poultney area and will include Welsh elements.
The first service will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 7 . Members of the newly-formed executive committee of the Church stress that the services are open to all, and everyone is encouraged to join them as they usher in this new phase in the life of this venerable, old house of worship. For further information, call Ida Mae Johnson at 802-287-9744 or Reverend William Davidson at 518-499-1850.