Welcome to St Ann’s Episcopal Church! Serving the hamlet of Bridgehampton and surrounding villages, and all who walk through our doors, St.Ann’s is a parish in the Diocese of Long Island, New York, USA.
As an open, loving, and caring Christian community of faith, we come together to worship God in Christ through the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments. Our church reflects, embraces, and celebrates its rich diversity. All are welcome here!
WHO WE ARE
Our congregation is a parish in the Episcopal Church, USA, whose membership numbers approximately one and three-quarter million.
The Episcopal Church, which has roots in the Church of England (founded by King Henry VIII, when he broke with Rome during the Protestant Reformation), was established shortly after the American Revolution. Until then, it was essentially the “Church of England in North America.” When the colonies became the independent United States, an administrative problem arose for the Church in the U.S. All priests and bishops in the Church of England had to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, because Henry had made the sovereign the head of the Church, and promising this allegiance was no longer acceptable in the newly independent United States. So a new, independent but affiliated church was formed in America. Most Church of England priests in the U.S. renounced their oath to king, and they, and their congregations, established what would become the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians are part of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide group of 38 national and regional churches, all with roots in the English Church, which, with some exceptions, share the same theological principles and liturgy.
St. Ann’s parish was born in 1906, in the parlor of Bridgehampton’s oldest dwelling, the Ezekiel Sandford house (dating to 1680). Its first services were then held in a converted golf clubhouse. It existed briefly in the remnants of what was once a hotel and later, a boarding house. Today, St. Ann’s stands as a proud, though small, parish church in the heart of town, where the local militia drilled in pre-Revolutionary times.
OUR CONGREGATION AND WHAT WE DO
St. Ann’s is a small but active church community, and we have always been committed not only to worship, but also to “living out our faith” through involvement with, and service to the community.
For many years we have provided financial support to three local service organizations (Maureen’s Haven, The Dominican Sisters, and East End Hospice), and made a scholarship grant to a qualified, local high school graduate in need of assistance for college expenses.
Our fundraising efforts to fund this support have included a house tour, an Antiques Appraisal Day, and theatrical performances. In addition to financial giving, we have partnered with the Bridgehampton School and Children’s Museum of the East End to provide volunteers to assist them in their service to the community.
We make our buildings available for concerts, meetings by addiction groups, an English as a Second Language class (taught by a church volunteer), and for many years hosted the Bridgehampton Food Pantry until it recently moved to larger quarters in the Community House.
St. Ann’s originated with the founding of a summer colony by several wealthy industrialist families, led by the Deshler and Sherlock clans, from Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio.
The first reported appearance of the Deshlers summering in Sagaponack is an account in August 1891 of members of the William G. Deshler family participating in the summer entertainment of putting on a play (Sag Harbor Express, August 20, 1891).
In the summer of 1898, William Deshler’s son, John, bought eight acres on the Southeast corner of Sagg Main Street and Parsonage Lane (approximately across from the present-day Sagaponack School), while his brother-in-law, Randolph Warner, bought an adjoining parcel.
By the mid-1890s, the Deshlers were joined by a circle of other Ohioans, mostly from Cincinnati, including several members of the Sherlock clan. Thomas Sherlock was an Irish immigrant who became wealthy in Ohio operating riverboat steamers for mail and transport. His wife was a descendant of Jerusha Sandford, an early settler of Bridgehampton, in the 1600’s. Through a combination of inheritance and purchase, in 1890 they came into possession of the Ezekiel Sandford house (1686) on Bridge Lane, near the Southeast corner of Ocean Road and Bridge Lane. (Sandford, incidentally built the bridge across Sagg Pond that gave Bridgehampton its name.)
The Sherlocks summered in the Sandford house, and later their daughter, Hanno Sherlock (1861-1912) established herself as a year-round resident.
Meanwhile, in 1900, the Deshlers, Sherlocks and others, following the fashionable recreation of the wealthy at that time, founded the Sagaponack Golf Club on the east side of, and overlooking Sagg Pond. They built a clubhouse and placed it on Bridge Lane near the pond. It was a “flat and uninteresting affair,” according to one contemporary chronicler, “with a small wooden building painted green, which served as a golf house.”
In August 1906, the sisters Hanno and Anne Sherlock initiated Episcopal religious services in their home and named the “Mission” St. Ann’s, in honor of their grandmother. (St. Ann herself, according to early (around 150 CE) Christian writing and both Christian and Islamic tradition, was the mother of the Virgin Mary, and the therefore the grandmother of Jesus). The mission was at that time a satellite site of St. Luke’s Church in East Hampton. Hanno persuaded the Rev. Robert Merriman, rector of St. Luke’s, to conduct a service of morning prayer in the parlor. During winter months, services were conducted at the home of Dr. Silas Corwith, on Lumber Lane near the Sag Harbor Turnpike.
Sad to say, the Golf Club was not as successful. Facing competition from the more challenging Bridgehampton Golf Grounds and several other courses, the club failed in 1906 due to a lack of membership.
Deshler and Sherlock, sensing the need for more space for religious services, and with an empty building on their hands, arranged to have the clubhouse hauled across the frozen pond in early 1907 and relocated to Bridge Lane on the west side of the pond, alongside the Sandford homestead. Stephen Hedges, a local carpenter, mounted a wooden cross on the building’s peak, to indicate to passersby that it was more than just an ordinary farm outbuilding. This was the first of two moves for the building.
That spring, 1907, the Rev. Samuel Fish, age 25, who had just completed his theological training, came to East Hampton as an assistant to the rector of St. Luke’s. He was given responsibility for the Bridgehampton mission, and held the first service in the chapel on June 30, 1907, at which three young girls were baptized. He continued his ministry through the summer, using his bicycle to make parish calls.
By the end of summer, it became clear that the community needed to hold services in a more central location. So later that year the Sherlocks and Deshlers purchased Atlantic House, a public house/boarding house located on one acre adjacent to where St.Ann’s now stands. In November 1907, the Greenport newspaper reported: “Episcopalians have bought the old Atlantic House in Bridgehampton with an acre of land. There has been enough rum poured here to float the hotel.” Some alterations were made to provide a temporary winter chapel, quarters for a Men’s Club and lodgings for Father Fish, who promptly moved in, and severed his connection with St. Luke’s. He was ordained a priest on May 28, 1908.
During winter months, services were held in Atlantic House, dubbed the Mission House, and in summer they were held in the Golf House chapel on the Sandford property.
The following year, 1909, the Golf House chapel was moved to the Atlantic House property, and renovated at a cost of $2,500.
On Easter morning, 1910, Father Fish appealed to the congregation for a final $950, which would pay for 14 stained glass windows, wainscotting and stuccoing the exterior, and other improvements. That’s when a dollar was a dollar!
The church has been renovated and expanded several times over the course of more than a century, but the completed 1910 structure remains the core of our church to this day.
The generous Deshler family can also be credited with the addition of the rectory.
In 1911 John Deshler built a cottage as a present for his daughter Ann Elizabeth, who had married Columbus surgeon William Hamilton, in 1897. It was sited on the property adjoining the Deshler home in Sagaponack.
In 1913 the Deshlers presented the house to St. Ann’s to serve as its rectory. The Former Atlantic House was torn down, and the new rectory was moved to the Mission House property, where it stands today. After alterations were completed later in 1913, the Fish family moved in.
Over the course of the last century, the rectory has fulfilled several functions. It served as the residence for approximately six rectors and their families for nearly 70 years. It was remodeled in 1980 to house the St. Ann’s Thrift Shop on the ground floor and a two bedroom apartment on the second, first occupied by the new rector, Rev. Fred Rapp. Mr. and Mrs. Rapp had grown, independent children, had retired to their home on Shelter Island, and only needed an apartment near the church. Since that time, rectors with families have purchased their own homes nearby, with St. Ann’s providing a housing allowance in lieu of a rectory.
In 2016 the vestry concluded that the Hamptons real estate market might someday prevent the church from adequately supporting our clergy with appropriate living quarters. Fortunately, the solution was clear.
In October, 2016 the vestry began the project to restore the house to its original purpose as a single-family residence. The contractors returned the structure to nearly its original floor plan and replaced almost everything: windows, roof, siding, doors, electrical system, and plumbing, using energy efficient materials and appliances. Essentially, the house was stripped down to its original frame and re-built with like-kind materials and with the addition of a few modern day comforts such as central air-conditioning, more bathrooms and a kitchen fit for a splendid chef. Today, the house is once again a spacious, comfortable residence, now occupied by our rector, the Rev. Jim Erwin.
We believe this renovation will prove to be both a wise investment in our future and a point of pride on Main Street.
THE PARISH HOUSE
By 1915, St. Ann’s occupied a plot of over an acre on Main Street — the triangular plot on which the colonial militia once drilled. It consisted of the small Golf House Chapel, and the handsome Deshler House, now the rectory.
John E. Berwind was a very wealthy coal magnate, and the builder of a mansion called Minden, on Ocean Road. (Minden, by the way, is still standing. It’s the estate just south of Rte 27 on Ocean Rd., with the huge steel sculptures on the lawn.) In 1915, displaying his characteristic generosity (he had earlier met the entire cost of finishing and enriching the chapel interior, and was also largely responsible for the construction of the Bridgehampton Community House), Berwind offered to give St. Ann’s a fully equipped parish house. This is situated at the rear of the property, between the church and rectory. Designed by Arthur Ware, a well-known architect, it was completed and dedicated in November, on All Saint’s Day, 1915. The House originally consisted of a large common room with fireplace, dining room, and kitchen. Mr. Berwind’s gift included all furnishings, from fireplace andirons to pots and pans and linens.
In 1996 St. Ann’s initiated a new project, to expand the east end of the parish house, providing new office space, and to finish the basement level, which provided new meeting rooms and expanded space for the Food Pantry.
INSIDE THE CHURCH
THE BELL TOWER
By the late 1970’s, the rector, Fred Rapp, observed that many passersby had trouble finding or identifying St. Ann’s. The vestry concluded that , for this and other reasons, it was time to add a steeple and belfry.
After a lengthy search by parishioner Arthur Nagle, bells for the proposed belfry were located at a Roman Catholic Carmelite monastery/convent in the Bronx. The nuns, who were moving farther upstate and disposing of the bells, had heard of St. Ann’s need, and volunteered to donate them.
Art Nagle’s recollection is paraphrased as follows:
“I contacted the consultant who had been helping us with the search for bells, and he agreed to accompany me to the convent and inspect them. Now keep in mind that these were cloistered nuns, who forego all contact with the outside world once they take their final vows and enter the convent. We arrived at the administration building and went in. At the room’s back wall was a screened window, that the receptionist (nun) sat behind. The screen slid open and we filled in a form announcing ourselves and the purpose of our visit. The screen closed —we saw or spoke with no one. A few minutes later the prioress arrived, greeted us, and took us outside and across the grounds to the church and belfry. As we walked with the prioress, we could see nuns peeking at us from around buildings and through windows. I imagine they were interested in seeing what men looked like then — not having seen any since they were as young as 18 or 20! We climbed up into the belfry, whereupon the consultant said, ‘Oh my God, these are Meneelys.’ “
The Meneely Bell Foundry was established in 1826 in West Troy, NY, and until its closing in 1952 was a world class foundry, producing bells of exceptional sound quality. It manufactured over 65,000 bells for cathedrals, universities and public buildings around the world. St. Ann’s is extremely fortunate to have two of these bells.
The gift from the Carmelites was exceptionally generous. The original estimate to purchase a bell was $9,000 —$14,000. In comparison, the entire cost for constructing the belfry was $5,000. In gratitude to the Sisters, St. Ann’s presented them with two octaves of hand bells to be used in their new convent in upstate New York.
The belfry was dedicated on Sunday, October 3, 1982.
THE EPISCOPAL FLAG
Looking to the back of the nave, one can see two flags, the American on the left (the American is always on the left side, as you look – – the side of your heart), and the Episcopal flag on the right.
The red cross is the oldest symbol, dating back to the third century. The white represents purity and the red, the blood of the martyrs. The nine-cross crosslets, or Jerusalem crosses, represent the nine dioceses that convened in Philadelphia in 1789, when the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church was adopted. The nine-cross crosslets are set in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross in memory of the fact that, to avoid swearing allegiance to the British Crown, Bishop-elect Seabury of Connecticut (the first bishop of the Episcopal Church) had to go to Scotland to be consecrated by Scottish bishops. The large red vertical-horizontal cross, St. George’s cross, is in recognition of St. George, the patron saint of England, as St. Andrew is of Scotland.
THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
The six windows on the back (south facing) wall, flanking the altar, were originally clear glass. This became a problem, because during most of the year, the strong sunlight would shine directly into the eyes of the congregation, distracting them from the service. The solution was to replace the clear windows with stained glass.
Parishioner Joseph Boudrez referred the vestry to Joep Nicolas, a prominent painter, glazier and creator of stained glass. He was commissioned to create the six windows there now.
Nicolas (1897-1972) was the third generation to work in a family studio founded by his grandfather in 1855, in Roermond, Holland. Not initially interested in art, he studied law at Amsterdam University after World War I, and there began to draw and paint as a hobby. While serving in the army, he entered an art contest and won first prize, and eventually devoted himself to stained glass windows. In 1939, he moved his family to New York. “The tensions became too heavy,” he said. He had refused Hermann Goering’s (the founder of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany) invitation to exhibit in Germany, and expected violence as a result. In addition, “In 1914 [the outbreak of World War I], my wife, with her mother and three sisters, fled from Belgium to Holland, and I did not want to expose her to similar experiences.” He worked in New York until 1943, after which he moved to Islip, Long Island. “The father of modern stained glass,” as he was known here, thrived and remained in America until 1959, when he returned to Holland. Incidentally, the family tradition continues, with Joep’s daughter Sylvia, and her son Diego creating stained glass artwork in America and Holland.
The St. Ann’s windows took two years to complete, and were dedicated by Bishop Jonathan Sherman in 1958.
The windows depict some of the most prominent members of St. Ann’s family, according to the “Golden Legend” of Jacobus de Voragine, a Dominican monk in the 13th century.
From left to right, as you view the windows, to the left of the altar, they are:
• St. Joachim, husband of St. Ann. Given in memory of Robert Ferguson
• St. Ann with her child, St. Mary (the Virgin Mary). Given in memory of Hanno and Anne Sherlock. You’ll note that Ann’s name is misspelled, as “St. Anne”
• St. Joseph, given in memory of Katherine Berwind;
To right of the altar they are:
• St. James the less, grandson of St. Ann and probably a cousin of Jesus. Given in memory of Richard Sayre
• St. Elizabeth, niece of St. Ann, with her son St. John the Baptist. Given in memory of Susan Johnson
• St. John the Evangelist, one of the original twelve apostles, and author of one of the four Gospels. Given in memory of the Rev. Samuel C. Fish (the first rector of St. Ann’s
THE ORGAN AND THE PIANO
Beginning in 2004, the Vestry engaged the J.H. & C.S. Odell firm to conduct a reconditioning and rebuilding of the existing 1928 Moller Organ. The resulting instrument, a three manual Great and Swell Pipal instrument with a third antiphonal digital manual was completed in 2005. The 1929 Steinway ‘L’ grand, was acquired through a generous memorial gift.