Milestone year for St. John’s

Published 9:25 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Suffolk church is celebrating a huge anniversary this year.

The congregation reveled on Sunday, as they celebrated the 375th anniversary of the founding of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chuckatuck. But the celebration has only just begun.

St. John’s will host a community open house this September, sharing artifacts and written records that date back to the 18th century. An informational tour will take guests through the grounds. The open house will give visitors a taste of colonial times, while giving the church a chance to introduce itself to members of the community who might not be familiar with what takes place there.

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Sunday’s celebration was a recognition of the importance of church history.

The first St. John’s church was first built on the property in 1642. That structure was torn down and rebuilt in 1700. It was rebuilt again in 1753, and that building has held parishioners and their services to this day.

“I’m very excited about it,” the Rev. Les Ferguson said of the anniversary. “It’s helped me take a look at my ministry and what it means to be a church, and it’s helped the church reflect on how we’ve gotten to this place.”

Ferguson said more than 80 Suffolk community members who were part of the church’s history attended the Pentecost Sunday service and lunch. Retired Rev. Wayne Wright preached as a former pastor of both St. John’s and Glebe church in the 80s.

“It was about two and half hours of fellowship and homecoming activity,” Ferguson said.

St. John’s was founded around the same time as Glebe and St. Paul’s Churches. Many generations of families have called themselves members.

Ferguson said his church has about 45 active members today, with about 20 at each Sunday service on average.

“In this church, quality will never be counted by numbers,” he said. “It’s counted by the faithfulness of the church’s message.”

Part of that message is focusing on the original purpose of the church in the 1600s. Like many others at the time, the church was responsible for local education, taking care of widows and orphans and settling land disputes.

“The church is more vibrant as it looks outside its walls to assist the community and be a neighbor, rather than look inside itself,” Ferguson said.

This has motivated the worshippers to build relationships with 15 other churches within five miles of downtown Chuckatuck. The church also invites high school students to play instruments and sing to their congregation, with positive feedback in return.

“They’re allowed to come and practice their trade in a place they can be accepted for who they are and appreciated,” Ferguson said.

Their open-door approach to other churches has allowed them to cut through boundaries and connect with more worshippers in the community.

“It allows us to have conversations with people that we’ve never really met,” Ferguson said.

He said that the future of the church will follow their simple yet effective traditions, as they urge others to work as a team for their shared goals.

“We’re all one group of people trying to make our community better,” Ferguson said.