St. Martin’s dates itself from the first public service held in the church in 1889. It was founded by Henry Howard Houston, a man with a vision of community, a spirit of generosity, and a penchant for action. He built a new church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, for the growing community he had helped start and selected its first rector, Jacob LeRoy, a highly literate, hard-working, liturgically strong churchman. LeRoy led the parish, which he dubbed a “venture in faith,” for its first thirty years. He began many practices that have remained to this day: celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday, weekday services, evensong, a fine music program, a strong educational program, many opportunities for women’s involvement, outreach and mission work nearby and far away, warm hospitality, and good preaching.
The faithful venture that started 125 years ago is still flourishing.
Through the Depression and two world wars, the parish grew and diminished and ministered to its flock. In 1945 Philemon Sturges began leading the church through 15 years of peace and prosperity. Membership doubled as he strengthened programs set in place from the beginning. The Sixties brought social turmoil, liturgical explorations, and a rector who didn’t shirk from change. He increased outreach, tried new liturgies, and continued a tradition of pastoral care to a conflicted flock.
The fruits of change matured in 1974 under the strong churchmanship and vision of Frank T. Griswold III. He introduced new liturgies, new volunteer programs, new youth activities, outreach actions, and women priests. Geralyn Wolf served as the first of seven women assistant or associate rectors. The tensions of this period felt throughout the Episcopal Church were carefully alleviated over ten years.
Under Robert L. Tate’s 14-year leadership, St. Martin’s thrived. Commitment to outreach continued a goal of tithing each year, i.e., setting aside 10 percent of the operating budget to fund outreach projects in addition to paying our diocesan pledge. Lay leadership strengthened, and with a new director of Christian formation, educational and ministry opportunities increased in the parish. A major, long-delayed church and organ renovation was completed in 2001, funded by a capital campaign. Filing systems were transformed from paper to electronic, and the parish went “on-line” with a website and weekly e-mail newsletter, recently renamed ‘Field Notes’ in 2011.
Staff configuration in recent years has been some combination of rector, associate/assistant rector, one or two part-time “adjunct priests,” parish administrator, director of Christian formation, director of music, sexton, plus, on a part-time basis, accountant, child-care provider, and an unpaid coordinator of liturgical ministries.
Under our current rector, the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, the faithful venture that started 125 years ago is still flourishing. There have been challenges and achievements, lean years and plenty, and many joyful celebrations of thanksgiving. The vibrant community of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is wholeheartedly moving forward into its next 125 years.
Click the orange arrow below to listen to music from our 125th Anniversary Evensong on February 2, 2014, including original compositions by Erik Meyer.
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
9:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist with music
10:00 a.m. Parish Forum & Kairos
10:15 a.m. worship.together
Holy Eucharist for families with young children
11:15 a.m. Choral Eucharist
Silent morning meditation is offered at 8:15 a.m. weekdays, in the Mary Chapel.
We would love to have you join us.
This Episcopal church is located in the heart of the historic neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, five blocks west of Germantown Avenue at the corner of St. Martin’s Lane and West Willow Grove Avenue.