A St. Mary's Timeline
Miss Sarah Gibbs of Portsmouth, a devout Episcopalian and member of Portsmouth society, was determined to bring the church to the people of Middletown and Portsmouth.
Oakland Farm, Miss Gibbs' home, had been in the Gibbs Family since 1796. In November of this year, The Rev. Hobart Williams was invited to Portsmouth to begin the establishment of an Episcopal Church in Portsmouth.
The first service of this new faith community was held on December 17, 1843, the third Sunday of Advent. The Rev. Williams described the temporary quarters of the church as a "mere shed."
Miss Gibbs donated land, 88 acres formerly known as the Potter Farm, to the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, through a deed of trust, to "furnish sites for a seminary and a church"
Bishop Henshaw presided at the laying of the church's cornerstone on September 2. The church was designed by Richard Upjohn, a famous English architect, who also designed Kingscote and the Edward King House in Newport, Trinity Church in New York City, and many other churches around the country.
On Ascension Day, May 20, 1852, Bishop Henshaw once again visited St. Mary's to consecrate the completed building. The Bishop's journal for that day reads, "I consecrated St. Mary's Church, Portsmouth, a gift of faith and love from a pious and magnificent churchwoman, Miss S. Gibbs, costing about $11,000."
The rectory, of Rhode Island colonial design, was completed.
Gibbs House, named in honor of Sarah Gibbs, was built. Gibbs House functioned as an administrative center for St. Mary's until 2012.
St. George's Episcopal Church, Newport, RI, joined with St. Mary's for shared ministry and worship.
The new parish house was completed. The parish house houses the administrative offices; a large, modern kitchen; classrooms and workshop rooms; and a common meeting area. St. George's Chapel, named after the Newport church who joined with St. Mary's in 2007, provides a place for worship and fellowship here as well. The chapel is a glorious, multi-windowed room that looks out on the St. Mary's campus. The room itself is surrounded by the stained glass windows that were in the original St. George's Church.
2017- 2022 -- The Work of this Generation
St. Mary’s restored the historic church from the basement to the top of the steeple over a five-year period. The project included gutting the basement, completely restoring the interior of the church, and replacing the slate roof. Through the generosity of parishioners and grantors, St. Mary’s was able to complete this $1.5 million project without incurring any debt. The scope of the interior restoration is recorded online. The parish and friends gathered on November 13, 2022 to celebrate this project and to worship in the 175-year-old church.
On December 5, St. Mary’s historic church was entered on the Rhode Island Register of Historic Places, a stepping stone to being entered on the National Register.
On March 23, St. Mary’s Church was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. This designation recognizes the church’s significance in American history and its being worthy of preservation.
Rectors of St. Mary's
St. Mary's has had 14 rectors, from the Rev. Hobart Williams in 1843 to our current rector, the Rev. Jennifer Pedrick. Pictures of all of St. Mary's rectors may be viewed by clicking on the picture of the pulpit, below.
Photo Credit: Murry Edwards, 2023