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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, the Rev. Jacob LeRoy, a highly literate, hard-working, liturgically strong churchman. LeRoy led the parish, which he dubbed a “venture in faith,” for its first 30 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.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

The faithful venture that started more than 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 the Rev. 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 the Rev. Frank T. Griswold III. He introduced new liturgies, new volunteer programs, new youth activities, outreach actions, and women priests. The Rev. 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 the Rev. 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 online with a website and weekly email newsletter, renamed Field Notes in 2011.

In recent years, St. Martin’s has refocused its vision for the future by setting and working on its aspirational values. This work has included setting vision for our future as an anti-racist community and delving deep into work on Becoming Beloved Community. We also have missional priorities around hunger (reflected in our SUPPER ministry), education, and our ecological impact (reflected in our Climate Action Team).

The faithful venture that started more than 125 years ago is still flourishing today. 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.

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