Can you answer these Questions about our Church?
Can you answer these questions about our church?
As we begin our search for a new minister, consider for a minute who has gone before. Who were
they? What qualities did each possess that they shared generously with the people of Woodbridge?
Some stayed a long time, others did not. Some were considered successful. Others, we’ve forgotten their
names. But each person preached God’s word to the best of his or her ability; every person, called to serve us,
reached some families and individuals in a time of need. Each added to the long line of the faithful that brings
us to today.
Who was this person?
A leader is at the head of an organization and is trusted, because of work ethic and thoughtfulness, to
guide a course of action. The individual uses various methods of persuasion, logic, listening and assertiveness
to achieve a desired result.
This leader had all those qualities and stayed in Woodbridge because it was a growing place. The
wilderness was being pushed back and the church was shaping the life of the community. It was said that this
leader was of firm constitution, a good scholar, a wise counselor. Some people questioned that he did not take
the Oath of Fidelity, and yet he brought a dignity of character that made him a portrait of Christian virtues.
Let us think and pray about who might walk in those shoes as we move forward.
From the building of the first meetinghouse, 1742 until 2021, (a period which spans 279 years), there
have been three long standing and outstanding ministers who together spanned 109 of those 278 years. Name
the three ministers and the years they served.
Fill In the Blanks
From 1941 to 1951 the minister of the First Church of Christ was A)__________________________
During that time the minister had to provide for a growing family of three children and his annual salary was
Reluctantly he accepted a ministry in the Alameda Congregational Church in California. On August 13, 1951,
a gift of $1,500 was presented to the minister for a new car in which to drive across the country.
Submitted by Richard Jeynes, Church Historian
Answer: Benjamin Woodridge (1742 – 1784)
Giving the date of 1779 when he did not accept the Oath of Fidelity would have given away the
answer. He was loyal to the British law because it was the official law of our land. When independence was
won, he immediately took the Oath of Fidelity to our new country. Because of his leadership the town was
named for Benjamin Woodbridge.
Answers: A) Benjamin Woodbridge 1742-1784 B) Sylvanus Pratt Marvin 1864-1904
C) George Mclean Milne 1952 – 1979
Answers: A) Francis Randall B) $4000
Last year we started a section in the Parishioner entitled Who Knows? It featured little known historical facts and curiosities about Woodbridge and our church. People enjoyed it. So we will revive it with the next issue of the Parishioner.
Meanwhile some homework is in order. In 1982, our own life long parishioner, Reverdy Whitlock, wrote the first volume of The Parish Of Amity, chronicling the formation and first 150 years of our church. Most of us have a copy lying around the house, or you can get one at the Parish House. In a church meeting during the past year at which Jesse Hubbard was present, he said he’d picked up his lying-around-the-house copy and started reading it. His next comment was most informative, “Wow, did they argue a lot back in those days! They disagreed about everything!” Does that comment not quicken your heart?
Perhaps not much has changed! Perhaps that’s who Congregationalists are. Perhaps we endure in spite of ourselves. Perhaps there is something larger at work.
Differences aside and included, those early seekers, doers and believers managed to form a church that has survived for 283 years. How? Why? What is their message, down through
the ages to those of us who now walk the same land they walked, pondering, talking, hoping, praying, having faith and still worshiping the same God and serving the same
Part of the answer may be found on the back flyleaf of Reverdy’s book where he observes, “This history ends in 1904, that memorable year of Mr. Marvin’s demise. At that time the parish had had a continuous existence for 166 years marked by plowing and sowing in the springtime and gathering in the crops in autumn. It was a time of hard work on weekdays and sabbaths spent in the meetinghouse. There was in it frugality and piety, but perhaps more important – a sense of community.”
Homework assignment: Find the book, open it and, go ahead, look at the pictures first, then scan the table of contents looking for just one chapter that peaks your interest. Then read the
acknowledgements, take in the generosity of all those who helped Reverdy, and please note that there is still one among us who was part of that team. Wilson Kimnach, one of our church
historians, lives to tell the tale! Talk to him. Then please read the first paragraph of the Preface. After that, enjoy the one chapter you chose to read. It may lead you to others. This is the
legacy left to us. As Jesse observed, not always smooth sailing but……..we are still here, the boat is afloat, it can hold more passengers, hoist more sails, chart a new course and take on a new crew, perhaps a new community! The spirit of God abides and calls us. The future waits for us. Raise your hand! And jump in the boat.
End of Homework.
Following the initial “Who Knows?” in last month’s Parishioner, some inquisitive people asked “why” and “how” the church got started? Exactly what happened? Last month we stated that the parish of Amity (First Church) was established by the Connecticut General Assembly in Hartford in 1738. But how did they get to that point? Here’s the story.
In colonial days the part of New Haven west and northwest of the main town was called Chestnut Hill. At the same time the area in the northern part of Milford including Orange, Woodbridge, Bethany and the present day South Naugatuck (See the map from the Milford Tricentennial book, 1939) was called North Milford. The dividing line between Milford and New Haven started on the shoreline, Long Island sound, and divided the towns to the north. Today, this division line is Milhaven Rd. in Woodbridge. Due to the difficulty of travelling to worship services in either Milford or New Haven, in 1734 the general assembly of Connecticut granted the request of the inhabitants of Chestnut Hill and North Milford the right to “winter preaching” for five years and absolved them from paying taxes during those winter months.
Imagine yourself living in Chestnut Hill or North Milford in the 1730s. The hills were wilderness, back country. They were inhabited by only the hardiest descendants of the original Puritan migration. These farmers were totally self-reliant, capable of withstanding backbreaking toil in the most adverse conditions. And they were also believers. They wanted to worship year round. The granting of “winter preaching” in 1734 provided the impetus for the establishment of The Parish of Amity five years later.
Who Knows ?
1) This home (pictured above) is located at 1194 Racebrook Road. Historically significant as the home of two prominent Woodbridge families (Newtons and Baldwins). Parts of the home were built as early as 1740 as a Newton homestead. In this home was born the Reverend A)_________(1795-1865). He married in 1813 Betsy Baldwin the daughter of Silas Baldwin and Mary Smith. The First Church of Christ sponsored him along with other missionaries to help the B)______________ (name the tribe) in 1821. Unfortunately, Betsy and her infant boy died during the journey west. After being a missionary Reverend Newton was among those who settled San Antonio, Texas. He died in 1865, three years after the death of Samuel Houston. Later the home pictured became the Woodbridge Hunt Club, 1911 – 1930. (Answers in March Parishioner)
The modern First Church of Christ in Woodbridge is a Greek Revival building. The original temple fronted structure is rectangular in plan with a gable roof and a three stage bell tower. A ridge to street
wing was added in 1881 for a church parlor. The flash board facade displays a full pediment with a recessed porch defined by fluted columns, flanked by broad pilasters.
1) Which two persons built the church?
2) What year was it completed?
3) How many fluted columns does it have?
The key committee of the First Church of Christ (and most congregational churches in Connecticut) was the Ecclesiastical Society; it controlled all monetary issues and the direction the church was pursuing.
The General Assembly of the colony of Connecticut created the Parish of Amity in October, 1738 and created the Amity Ecclesiastical society. There was no church building for four years. The first temporary minister was Stephen White, born in Middletown on 8 June, 1718. He was a member of the class of 1736 at Yale.
1) Who was the first permanent settled minister who served for forty-two years? (1742-1784)
2) In what town in Massachusetts was he born?
3) Who wrote his epitaph? (the inscription on his tomb)
4) Both the first permanent settled minister and the prominent man who wrote the epitaph were in the same graduation class at Yale. What Year?
Answers can be found in the February Parishioner