Sherman church recognizes 275 years
The Sherman Congregational Church is celebrating its 275th anniversary.
The church will offer four more activities to celebrate the milestone.
Offerings will include a dedication by the Book of Remembrance Committee of a new walk/patio at the church’s front entrance after worship and a special coffee hour on June 9; a potluck dinner, featuring traditional dishes from the countries missionaries from the church support, hosted by the Missions Committee on July 20 at Deer Run Shores clubhouse; a fall festival, hosted by the Deaconate on Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the church; and a Christmas carol sing-along, followed by a reception on Dec. 15 at 4 p.m. in fellowship hall.
The fall festival is inspired by the church’s popular country fair, which was held for well more than 100 years.
Earlier this year the church held an old-time church supper. The church was also represented by a float in the Memorial Day parade.
“The people are just amazing,” Barbara Hoag, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said of one of the reasons she and her husband, Bruce, joined the church 10 years ago.
“The people are welcoming and warm, and full of joy,” Hoag said.
Aimee Suhie, chairwoman of the missions committee, said she finds the church’s rich history “exciting.”
“It’s really exciting to find out about the history of the church, that the people in Sherman have been sharing the glory of God for so long,” she said.
1744: The church first begins in a small log cabin near what is now the Sherman Playhouse on Route 39. The town of Sherman isn’t formed, but is called New Fairfield North. The cabin remains in desperate need of repair for many years.
1789: The “Great Church” is built by the New Fairfield North Society. The church holds 500 to 600 individuals who come on foot, in lumber wagons, on horseback or in horse carts or carriages to listen to two-hour sermons.
1796: The Rev. Maltby Gelston comes to Sherman and finds a church of only 15 members, including five men and 10 women with the last names of Potter, Graves, Giddings, Kellogg, Hubbell and Wilcock. Many of the names are still familiar on roads and buildings, and from descendants who have remained in Sherman.
1835: Florence and Cyrus Hungerford deed the land on Church Road to the First Ecclesiastical Society.
1836: Membership has grown under Rev. Gelston and is strong enough to support a new church, after a split in the church, possibly due to bad feelings about changing locations. Stanley Hungerford builds the church with a high steeple on top and carriage sheds across the back. It is lit with oil lamps and has two wood-burning stoves, with long stove pipes hanging from the ceiling. Women and children sit on one side and men on the other.
1856: The parsonage at 17 Gelston Road is deeded to the First Ecclesiastical Society by John O. Northrop. Twenty-one settled ministers and their families have lived there since.
1887: A chapel (now the church office building) is built by Charles Evans to use for Sunday school and the noonday meal.
1891: After a dinner celebrating the Fourth of July, the church burns to the ground. Three chairs from the pulpit and the communion table, however, are saved when they were thrown out of a window. The chairs are still in use.
July 4, 1892: The bronze bell that still rings today is installed.
Jan. 28, 1893: The bell rings and the fourth and current church is dedicated. It is built by T.W. Kimlin and his brother, Henry, to the specifications of the architect, J.W. Northrop of Bridgeport. It is a Victorian style wood structure with a Bangor slate roof. Entrance to the vestibule from carriage is through the porte cochere, which protected parishioners from getting wet. The sanctuary is built on the former church foundation, and is topped by a spire some 95 feet from the ground, with a golden weathervane at its top, typical of Congregational churches in New England.
May 25, 1950: The Sherman Congregational Church vots to become a corporation and accept all the properties of the First Ecclesiastical Society of Sherman. The name of the new entity was to be The Sherman Church.
2004: The church membership votes to join the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
2010: The church holds its 115th country fair, which includes 25-cent pony rides.
August 2016: The Rev. Paul Astbury retires after 14 years.
2018-19: Twelve of the 14 stained glass windows are restored.
2019: The congregation, which has more than 75 families, celebrates 275 years.