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Church of the Holy Spirit
Episcopal Church



History of Christ Church 

In 1722, the New Haven community was shocked to learn that several Congregational leaders had decided to become Episcopalians. After much study of the Book of Common Prayer, the Rev. Timothy Cutler, President of Yale; Mr. David Brown, a Yale Tutor; the Rev. Samuel Johnson, the West Haven Congregational Minister; and the Rev. James Wetmore declared that their Congregational ordination was invalid. Their decision was announced at Yale’s Commencement, as they affirmed their belief in Episcopacy. Many pressures were brought to bear on these men.


Undaunted, they sailed to England to be ordained at the hands of an English bishop.  There the Rev. Brown, a very promising West Haven native, died of smallpox.  Had he returned to Connecticut with the others, he would probably have become founder and first minister of the West Haven parish.  It fell to the Rev. Samuel Johnson, founder of the church in Stratford, to be the missionary to encourage West Haveners to form an Episcopal society in their town.  For several years, these dedicated families met in each other’s homes, strengthened by an occasional visit from the Rev. Mr. Johnson. He was at the time the only missionary in Connecticut and had to travel widely. Many other Episcopal societies were started by him and his successors. Under their spiritual leadership, Christ Church thus became the Mother Church for the central Connecticut area.


Construction of the first building began in 1739, in part from oak timbers hewn on the present Green.  “By 1742, services were being held in the building.  The parish owned its own folio Bible and Prayer Book, presented by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and now in the Diocesan Archives.  The parish also owns, and takes great pride in, a handsome pewter chalice and paten, made in 1744 for Christ Church by Joseph Leddell.  Such time-honored possessions form a visible link with those loyal church-members of the past.


Through the span of years, the parish suffered reverses, actually closing from 1830 to 1837. Eventually this valiant parish opened again to renewed service and usefulness.


In the mid-nineteenth century, the church at last had its own rector, not shared with other parishes as had been the case previously.  The small building was enlarged several times and it was a struggle to meet expenses.  Many outstanding spiritual leaders gave the parish impetus and guidance during this era, among them the Rev. Alonzo Chapin, Edwin Lines (later a bishop), Hobart Whitney, and Richmond Gesner.


In 1900, a dynamic young rector, Arthur J. Gammack, led the parish to the goal of a new church building.  The old building was tottering and $4400 raised in part by the Rev. Lines, was already in hand.  The Rev. G. B. Morgan of New Haven introduced Mrs. Lucy Boardman to Christ Church. She offered to give $45,000 for the new church, if the parish raised an equal sum. Times were hard, but the money was found through much individual and parish effort.  The architectural firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson was chosen to design the building.


Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, architect of Christ Church, with is partners at Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, were the architects responsible for many notable structures. Prominent in their field for many years, their best-known works include the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Thomas’s in New York City and the Cadet Chapel at West Point.  They also designed, as their first church, All Saints’ in Ashmont Massachusetts.  “A significant landmark in American architectural history,” says Tucci, “All saints’ is of its type Cram and Goodhue’s masterpiece, and the model for American parish church architecture for the first half of the 20th century.”  Christ Church although on a smaller scale (often called a small gem!) has many similarities to Ashmont, the outstanding features and innovations of which Christ Church reflects.  It has been said “the wonderful charm and uplifting effect that one feels…upon entering (the building is) due to the exquisite proportions and to the presence of many arches…Devotional in every line, it rises among us like a prayer in stone.”


The handsome Gothic structure was guild on the site of the then-existing Parish House which was moved.  After completion, the new church opened with consecration by the Rt. Rev. Chauncey Bunce Brewster, fifth bishop of Connecticut. The disposal of the original building became a serious problem. Much sentiment clung to the building, but it had become an eyesore, useless for any practical purpose.  Since religious services were being held in Oriental Park (now the Thomas Street area) without a permanent meeting place, a new drive was begun.  Land was given by Martha Prudden and out of the historic timbers of the old Christ Church, the framework of the Chapel of Saint Martin’s-in-the-field took shape.  This completed mission, started in 1908 and dedicated in 1911m contained the windows, pews, and reredos of the original Christ Church.  In 1976 the mission was closed and the parish no longer owns the building.


The wood panels and the wood carving in the chancel and the Lady Chapel contain much detail and symbolism, sometimes intricate yet blending into the total effect.


Many furnishings of the original 1739 wooden church structure have been incorporated into the present church and parish house, while maintaining the unity of the 1906 church design.


We have tried to maintain our church as we were urged to do when the church was new. “We owe it to ourselves,” says a parish paper from that time, “and…to the architect (Goodhue) who has given to this cause a devotion which no money could recompense, that we consider his intention and wish in further efforts to beautify the building.”


In 1909, a promising new rectorate, that of the Rev. Floyd S. Kenyon, began.  His term lasted through the Depression and the hardship of two World Wars, until his retirement in 1949.  During his early years, perhaps, the most notable achievements were the founding of the Knights of Washington and the establishment of Camp Washington.  Bishop Brewster said, “There is …no parish in the Diocese where there has been so much accomplishment of substantial result the same short span of time.  .”  Expansion took place on a large scale:  a new parish house and a gymnasium were constructed; St. Martin’s-in-the-field began missionary work in Savin Rock, and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd and its parish house opened in Tyler City.   Assisting the parish during this time was the beloved Rev. Robert H. Johnson, Curate and Vicar of the Church of the Ascension.


The Rev. Robert D. Martin, a curate with much responsibility during the difficult post-war years, became rector in 1949.  During his tenure, the Y.P.F. (Young Peoples Fellowship) was a special strength, pledge giving doubled, and a $25,000 restoration program repaired the shabby church.


  The Rev. Jervis S. Zimmerman, a chaplain at Norwich State Hospital, accepted the next appointment as rector in 1954.  Parish achievements under his leadership included a Parish House addition for expanded church school and kitchen purposes, a handsomely renovated rectory, and a deepening of parish cohesiveness, lay leadership and spiritual values. His wide background especially in counseling and pastoral care, combined with seven years in the Presbyterian ministry, equipped him for the challenges he faced during his thirteen-year rectorship.


Last, but not least, was the establishment of the Thrift Shop. Betty Williams, Sylvia and Albert Stocker and Ella Scranton suggested to Rev. Zimmerman about opening a thrift shop to help needy families as well as to help the church financially. In the mid-sixties the Thrift Shop opened in the basement of the parish house, but soon it outgrew this space and moved to the bottom floor of the house at 38 Church Street. The Thrift Shop was open for more than 40 years and became a staple for many families in the community. From used clothes to kitchenware, bric-a-brac and furniture, the Thrift Shop grew under the leadership of Sylvia Stocker and her crew providing outreach services for many people and brought in a significant income for the parish. Rev. Zimmerman resigned in 1967 to accept the new Diocesan position of Administrator of the Department of Christian Social Relations.


The Rev. Robert W. Anthony came to Christ Church in 1968 from Rhode Island. During his tenure from 1968 to 1976, Rev. Anthony brought a forceful and creative leadership. His energy was especially appealing to the youth in the parish. Through his guidance, Nebuchadnezzar’s Furnace was established. This program provided a place for young people not only from the parish but also from the community to come together on a Saturday night to socialize, listen to local bands and dance.  Finally, the parish block was unified at this time combining the church and parish house with 38 Church which used as the Thrift Shoppe downstairs and housing for the sexton and 44 Church being the rectory. 

In 1976 Reverend Anthony departed and the parish called the Rev. John C. Seville who served for five years.  During this time the church was again renovated.


The Rev. Magar Bedrosian, an experienced and forthright priest, was our priest from 1983 thru 1993.  The parish continues and endures, as it has for more than 260 years. 


As Christ Church entered 1980s and 1990s, the parish continued to be a prominent presence in the City of West Haven.  The years brought a new focus on serving the community.  Our church school students help collect items to create Easter baskets for needy children in our schools.  The Outreach Committee found many ways to help those in need.  Christ Church was the first host of West Haven’s Ecumenical Thanksgiving Dinner


As the new century rolled around, the parish noted a loss of funds which caused it to change to a part-time versus full-time rector.   The Rev. Canon K. Dexter Cheney began to serve as priest for both Christ Church and St. John’s by the Sea.  St. John’s also was suffering from financial difficulties.  Discussion began on the possibility of the two parishes me


 History of Saint Martin’s-In-The Field

In 1907, the new stone church named Christ Episcopal Church had been erected and consecrated.  The question arose as to what should happen to the church building that had been constructed in the 1720s.  Land records show that Martha Prudden of Orange (West Haven was part of Orange at that time) deeded a lot at Washington Avenue and Park Street to Christ Church for the sum of $1.00.  Ms. Prudden sole proviso was that a chapel be built on the site to “perform missionary work and spread the word of the Gospel”.  The original Christ Church was dissembled (including the rubble foundation) and rebuilt on the Park Street property (including the original cornerstone of the original church).

The chapel was under the authority of the priests that served Christ Church.  For the most part, services were of morning prayer led by lay persons of the church.  The priests did come monthly to hold Holy Eucharist.  Several current parishioners are listed as serving as acolytes at the Chapel. 


Although they were small in numbers the parish had several ongoing activities.  In the late 1950s to mid 1960s, there was a group of women known as the St. Martin Guild.  This group met once a month at different members’ homes for dinner and crafting.  Their efforts were donated to the children’s ward at Grace New Haven Hospital.  For Christmas they made stockings and filled them as well as Easter baskets filled with treats.  There was also a summer Sunday school program.


The final services were held there in 1976.  The property was sold and is now private housing.  The altar from St. Martin’s, as well as its pews, were incorporated into the building now housing Church of the Holy Spirit.


History of Saint John’s by the Sea




History of Church of The Holy Spirit


This new entity, formed from the former St. John’s by the Sea and Christ Church was created by a vote of the Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church of Connecticut in 2008.  In the beginning it was difficult.  Since Rev. K. Dexter Cheney had served both parishes in their former buildings, he was helpful in uniting people within the new parish.  One of the first uniting factors, which pre-dated the merger, was the participation of women from both parishes in a women’s retreat which is still strongly attended today.


Upon Rev. Cheney’s retirement, the parish called Rev. Dr. Lisa DiNunno Hahneman as its rector.  She nurtured the development of a strong outreach program and church school.   During this period, the parish created its vegetable garden which provides fresh produce to WHEAT in the summer.  The garden is now part of the Good News Garden program which flows across the United States.  Volunteers serve breakfast once a month at Columbus and the parish participated in Abraham’s Tent, an overflow homeless shelter program, in conjunction with Temple Beth El Kaiser from Westville.   Other outreach activities included sponsoring yearly visits from Bike to Build, a troop of bike riders who helped build low-income housing while touring on bicycles.  The parish continues to support WHEAT and the high school pantry with non-perishable food, hygiene, and laundry supplies.  In addition, we support the Board of Education program to gather backpacks and school supplies for children.


Like many churches in our community of West Haven, we have seen our attendance dwindle. In 2020 when the Covid 19 virus hit, communities around the world were forced to close to in-person church services due to the highly contagious virus. However, we did not stop having Sunday services. Thanks to modern technology, zooming on our computers became the new way to conduct our weekly services and other meetings like vestry and book clubs, etc.  Presently, as the pandemic becomes more under control, we have opened our doors again as well as providing Facebook access to our Sunday services. Also, we have been able to re-establish many of our outreach programs and fairs. Furthermore, we offer our church building to several outside organizations for meetings, such as AA and NA, and are sponsors of Troop 899.  We share our sanctuary with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.   Our two halls are available for rental.

The members of this parish comprise a strong faith community.  As we look to the future, we hope to continue to keep The Church of the Holy Spirit open to welcome all who seek God's love and grace as well as provide outreach services to our      West Haven community.                                                                                                                                                                


Priests of St John’s By the Sea

1943 – The Rev. Dr. Floyd S. Kenyon, The Rev. Robert H. Johnson (curate)

1944 – The Rev. Canon Harold Belshaw

1946 – The Rev. Richard B. Stott

1949 – The Rev. C. Lawson Willard, Jr.

1950 – The Rev. Earl Thomas Williams

1956 – The Rev. Arthur Bentham Robertshaw, III

1964 – The Rev. Frederick Harold Pratley, Jr.

1967 – The Rev. William Mulford Weber (resigned, 1974)

1975 – The Rev. Robert Williams Anthony (rector also at Christ Church from 1968)

1977 – The Rev. John C. Seville, The Rev. John-Michael VanDyck (curate)

1979 – The Rev. Wayne Douglas Pokorny

1989 – The Rev. Kenneth Hulme

1991 – The Rev. Patricia M. Portley (last year, 1998)

2001 – The Rev. Donna Dehetre

2004 – The Rev. Robert Friedrich

2005 – Rev. K. Dexter Che


Reverend Magyar (Father Mike) Bedrosian led the parish over 10 years.  He was a kind hearted, jolly, fatherly and grandfatherly man.  Together with his wife Sarah, they were shepherds of the Christ Church family.


Reverend Doctor Lisa DiNunno Hahneman was rector for over 8 years.  She was a lover of children and delivered compassionate and thought-provoking sermons.  During her tenure, the parish’s commitment to community outreach was enhanced.


Reverend Canon K. Dexter Cheney served as priest for both St. John’s by the Sea and Christ Church.  Under his guidance, the parishes began discussing the possibility of a merger.   Without his graceful and joy filled service, the merger would not have happened.   He served as the first rector of the newly created Church of the Holy Spirit.


Reverend Lynne Grifo, the first female priest of Christ Church, baptizes a child under the watchful eye of Bishop Clarence Coldrige.


Reverend G. Marcus Halley led the Church of the Holy Spirit through the stressful COVID pandemic.  He initiated Zoom church services and bible study.  His energy and positive spirit helped encourage the parish as we struggled to get back to in person church.


Reverend Samuel Johnson (1696-1772) served as the first rector of Christ Church.  Reverend Johnson was born in Guilford and educated at Yale University.  He worked as a teacher and then became a congregationalist minister.   In 1722 he was among a group of Yale graduates “declared for the Episcopacy”.   He served as rector to both Christ Church, Stratford and Christ Church, Orange.


Reverend Arthur Gammack  became rector of Christ Church in 1900.  This coincided with the building of the stone church.  He served the parish until 1909.


Reverend A.B. Chapin served as rector from 1939-1849.  This era follows the closing of Christ Church Upon for a ten-year period due to financial problems and low attendance.  Many parishioners were seamen and their absence from their home port of West Haven was deeply felt by the community.  Upon his installation, Reverend Chapin began fundraising to build a new sanctuary to replace the 1723 building.


Reverend Jervis S. Zimmerman was rector of Christ Church from 1954-1967.  Reverend Zimmerman led a vibrant and active parish.  It was under his guidance that the parish’s Thrift Shoppe was established.  There were many active groups within the parish.   Reverend Zimmerman participated in the vacation bible school and is remembered to having led many songs with the children.  In October 2003, we had a large celebration for Father Zimmerman’s 50th anniversary of ordination.  At that time, he was officially named “Rector Emeritus”.   Father Zimmerman brought the vote to merge Christ Church and St. John’s by the Sea to the floor at the Annual Convention of 2006. 


Reverend Robert Anthony came to Christ Church as an associate priest and became rector in 1968.  His energy was especially attractive to youths and he created the teen dance party, “Nebuchadnezzar’s Furnace”, which was held in the parish house.  The parish continued to flourish under his leadership.


Reverend Doctor Floyd Steele Kenyon served as rector of Christ Church for 40 years from 1909-1949.  Perhaps the most influential priest to serve the parish, Reverend Kenyon created the Knights of Washington men’s group.  He was also influential in the establishment of the diocese’s camp, Camp Washington, in Morris, CT.   During his long tenure, the parish thrived with activity and vigor.