History of St. John’s
On Christmas Day in 1853, a small group of Williams College students met in a private home on North Street for a service from the Book of Common prayer, led by a Williams first-year student, William Tatlock. Though Anglican circuit-riding preachers must have visited the town in the 18th century, this was the first known celebration of an Episcopal service in Williamstown, MA.
St. John's Church was organized as a parish on October 24, 1894, with The Rev. Theodore Sedgwick as the founding rector. Bishop William Lawrence wrote that year of his first visitation as bishop:
“...the mission chapel was so crowded with people that during the second lesson the whole structure dropped an inch or two to the fright of the congregation.”
— Bishop William Lawrence, Oct. 24, 1894
Immediate plans were made to build a church. Harley T. Proctor donated for the project glacial fieldstones from Stone Hill (above the present Clark Art Institute). The first service was held on Easter Sunday 1896, and the church was consecrated on October 6th of that year. The handsome building has become a community landmark in the center of Williamstown surrounded by the Williams campus.
President Woodrow Wilson visited St. John's in May 1915 when he served as godfather to his first grandson, Francis B. Sayre, Jr., who would become Dean of the National Cathedral.
St. John's stained glass windows are the parish's "family jewels," surrounding the worship space with rich colors and telling many a story of faith, hope, and love. A few date from the early years and represent both the American Arts and Crafts movement and the British Edwardian fascination with classical themes and architecture. But the finest windows were acquired in the years following both world wars and came from the Boston studios of Charles Connick.
The present church school and office building was added in 1955. In recent years, the parish has worked hard to restore and preserve the church building, and to find ways to create spaces that encourage growth, foster community involvement, and enhance the church's ability to offer welcoming hospitality.
We are a multi-generational congregation of about 300 communicants, committed to building and maintaining a spiritually strong and active Christian community. We have a growing youth program for children and teenagers, and a vibrant presence of Williams College students who call us a spiritual home-away-from-home. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, we welcome you.