The history of Saint John's Parish began when a priest from All Saints, Fredericktowne, Maryland, rode over the mountains in 1744 to conduct services of worship and bring the sacraments to those living in what is now Hagerstown. The parish's first home, built in 1747, was known as "Chapel of the Woods".
The construction of a new church on Mulberry Street was begun in 1785, and the original cemetery is still maintained on that site. In 1786 Saint John's divided from its parent parish and elected its first vestry April of 1787. The building was consecrated ten years later by the first Bishop of Maryland, John Thomas Claggett.
As the congregation continued to grow, the fourth rector of Saint John's Parish challenged the membership to build another church building. Land was purchased and a handsome building of stone and brick was constructed on the northeast corner of Jonathan Street (now Summit Avenue) and Antietam Street. It was finished in 1832 and consecrated two years later by the second Bishop of Maryland.
A fire in the town's business district destroyed the building in December of 1871. The following year, under the leadership of the thirteenth rector, the cornerstone was laid for our present beautiful American Gothic church building. In 1891, the property adjoining the church became available and was purchased for a new rectory.
The most striking interior appointment of Saint John's is the magnificent carved oak reredos with a central bronze panel. This, along with a communion table, a bishop's chair, credence table, and Resurrection window in the sanctuary were gifts of Mrs. Henry Rosenberg, the former Mollie MacGill, in 1898, as memorials to members of her family. The reredos and communion table produced by Swiss wood carvers in the Black Forest of Germany had been brought to this country for display at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.
Saint John's also has a magnificent organ Built by the M. P. Moller Company (1927) with 68 Stops; 60 Ranks and 3,377 Pipes.
Parish buildings have suffered fires twice in the last century. In 1907, the chancel roof burned, and in 1955 the original Parish House was destroyed. Construction was begun immediately for the present building, and at that time the rectory on Prospect Street was remodeled for use as a parish office with additional meeting rooms.
In 1996, the parish undertook a Capital Campaign to update and improve the existing facilities. In 1997 an elevator made the buildings handicapped accessible, air conditioning of the nave provided comfortable worship in the summer months, and a new parking lot gave both parishioners and visitors easy access to the buildings. All of these improvements were dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, thirteenth Bishop of Maryland.
Bricks, stone, mortar, and buildings, however, do not entirely account for the life of a parish. The real history of Saint John's Parish is written and will continue to be written in the lives of faithful people who gather here to receive the sacraments, bear witness to our Lord Jesus Christ, and go forth to minister to the community and the world in the service of Our Lord.
We Are Episcopalians
The Episcopal Church is a branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Like all churches in the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church owes its existence to the Church of England, from which it originated.
The Episcopal Church is both Catholic (that is, true to the historic Christian faith) and Protestant (that is, truly reformed and evangelical). Two creeds are used in our worship: the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Through baptism, we are accepted into the Christian community (the Body of Christ). Infants are baptized in the Episcopal Church, with the parents and the congregation at large being responsible for guaranteeing that they will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him. Individuals who have been previously baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in other denominations are not baptized again upon joining the Episcopal Church.
The central act of worship in the Episcopal Church is the Holy Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion or The Lord's Supper). Our worship is liturgical in nature and follows the rites outlined in The Book of Common Prayer.
In accordance with our Anglican heritage, the Church views scripture, tradition, and reason as essential to its understanding of the Faith. The Episcopal Church comprises a wide range of individual beliefs and welcomes individuals at all stages of their faith journey.
You can find a more detailed description of the beliefs held by the Episcopal Church in "An Outline of the Faith" which may be found on page 845 of The Book of Common Prayer.