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A centennial celebration at St. Andrew’s

Happy parishioners look on as Bishop Alan Gates finishes blessing the plaza at St. Andrew’s. Photo by Emma Fringuelli

One of the town’s many historic places of worship has kicked off a year-long, 100-year celebration.

On Sunday, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Marblehead started its celebration of its centennial anniversary with a special service, followed by a picnic to commemorate the church’s history.

The service began at 10 a.m. and included a visit from Bishop Alan Gates, who gave a sermon on the history of the church and the values that it has carried since its inception. There was also a blessing of enhancements to buildings and grounds. Afterwards, a celebratory picnic on the church grounds took place, featuring barbecue, a bouncy house for children, live music, and an ice cream truck courtesy of town ice cream parlor Terry’s.

“The spirit of the place, I couldn’t have asked for better,” said the Rev. C. Clyde Elledge, who has been a priest at the church since 2011. “It was palpably glorious and joyful.”

The celebrations will continue every month, as the church has a plethora of events scheduled all the way through June 2024, concluding with the publication of a history book on St. Andrew’s.

Elledge said it was “gratifying” to see the number of people who turned out for the event, many of whom spanned generations as parishioners at the church.

“You dream of some kind of a kickoff event to highlight the spirit of what you are trying to accomplish, and that did everything,” Elledge said.

The idea to hold a year-long celebration for the church’s milestone came to Elledge roughly five years into his tenure, when upon doing years of research, he found that many aspects of the church’s infrastructure needed to be brought up to speed.

He then began initiating a capital campaign to improve the church’s campus, and realized that the project could be tied in with the centennial anniversary coming up.

“This was falling in line with the hundred years, and I thought to myself, ‘We need to set aside a significant amount of money so that when this 100-year anniversary comes, we’ll have the plan, we’ll have the money to celebrate for a whole year,” Elledge said.

Though it was constructed a century ago, the church’s history dates back even farther.

Built in 1924, St. Andrew’s began “as a dream in the heart of Isaac Chauncy Wyman” to be used for religious services, spiritual education of children, and social activities for local neighborhood groups, according to the church’s website.

Wyman was a lifelong resident of Salem and a communicant of St. Michael’s Church who owned a large area of land in Marblehead. When he died in 1910, he donated a portion of his land and money so that a memorial chapel could be constructed near his burial site. Prior to his passing, Wyman became concerned about the lack of Sunday School for children in the area, which was beginning to grow both in population and in new buildings.

Twelve years later, Lyman Rollins got permission to oversee the construction of the chapel. The original building was finished two years later, though the actual church was not constructed until 1930.

Before the church was built, a Sunday School and a parish hall were created in the building. After a number of canvassing attempts around the neighborhoods in town, the Sunday School enrollment at St. Andrews reached 109 children in 1929.

Elledge reflected on being a part of the parish during such a special time, calling it a “humbling” experience and citing the many members of the congregation who have been there throughout its history.

“I often mused myself that the walls were just infused with the prayers and the presence of all those people in some way,” he said. “What makes it holy is not necessarily the space, but how it’s been utilized and how it’s been honored by the people who have had the stewardship of taking care of the place over the years.”