Eternal God, you blessed your servant Samuel Seabury with the gift of perseverance to renew the Anglican inheritance in North America: Grant that, joined together in unity with our bishops and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A Brief History of Bishop Seabury Anglican Church
The first services that led to the establishment of a mission in Groton, known as St. Paul's, were held by the Rev. R.M. Duff, of St. James Church in New London on the Wednesday evenings in Lent 1874. Regular afternoon services were held until October of the same year at which time the Rev. Milledge Walker (18th Sunday Trinity to Lent 1876) was appointed in charge of the mission.
Through the Rev. Walker’s efforts, funds were obtained and the Missionary Society of the Diocese of Connecticut permitted the building of a suitable edifice. Plans were drawn up by the missionary society, and the ground was broken on July 20, 1875. On Christmas evening of 1875, the first service was held in the church building this is the day we mark as our founding. Previously the congregation had worshiped in Mechanic’s Hall, where the Borough Post Office now stands.
The Rev. Ferdinand Taunt (1876 to 1878) headed the mission. An outstanding debt of $1,750.00 was paid during the incumbency of the Rev. H.T. Gregory (1878 to 1882) in June 1881, which made it possible for the church to be consecrated on Tuesday, September 13, 1881. Bishop Williams, in memory of the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury, D. D., the first Bishop of the American Church and the Diocese of Connecticut, consecrated the church. Bishop Seabury was born in Groton, in the Ledyard Section, on September 30, 1729.
The following clergy served at Bishop Seabury Church; the Rev. Orlando P. Starkey (1882 to 1885), the Rev. X. Alanson Welton (1894 to 1896), the Rev. Theodore M. Peck (1896 to 1898), the Rev. Paul Hoffman (1898 to 1901), several priests in charge (1901 to 1909), the Rev. C.S.M. Stewart (1909 to 1918), and the Rev. Frederick William Haist (1918 to 1929).
The Rev. Arnold A. Fenton (1929 to 1934) came to the church in 1929 as the Priest-in-Charge. He had been called to Groton soon after being ordained to the priesthood at St. James in Riverton, Wyoming, before a congregation of mostly Arapahoe Indians. The Rev. Fenton served before Bishop Seabury Memorial Church in Groton and St. Johns in Niantic until 1934.
The Rev. Clarence Wagner (1934 to 1955) was priest in charge for twenty years. St. John’s in Niantic was also a part of his duties, as was his chaplain work with Connecticut College and the Women’s Prison in Niantic. Eventually, due to poor health, he resigned from Bishop Seabury and devoted his full-time to St. John’s.
For a brief period Bishop Seabury Church was under the leadership of the Rev.Donald W. Greene, until a new vicar, was called in 1955.
The Rev. Roger G. Dissell (1955 to 1959) became the first full-time pastor in over 25 years. His arrival coincided with the remarkable developments in submarine building, which were responsible for the growth of Groton and the church. This led the church to seek full Parochial Status. This was granted and Bishop Seabury Church became a parish with the Diocesan Convention after eighty years as a mission. Fr. Dissell officiated at this concluding service at Bishop Seabury Church on Easter Day in 1959, having accepted a call to a post in San Francisco, California.
During the term of the Rev. Robert Dresser (1959 to 1965) at Bishop Seabury, the decision to seek a new site for a future church was made. The building on Fort Street, in Groton, had served many parish families and space was needed. Land on Hazelwood Hill, off Rt. 117, was purchased, a Cross erected and the boundaries marked in appropriate ceremonies. Several outdoor services were held at this location. It was later decided to build at that location.
The Rev. Robert Watson (1965 to 1975) was called and served until he was later called to a parish in Maryland. In the time of his service to Bishop Seabury Church, the ceremonies for the cornerstone laying for the new church were held in 1967.
The Venerable Ronald S. Gauss, Archdeacon (1975 to 2015) arrived after being called from St. Paul-on-the-Plains, in Lubbock, Texas. Under Fr. Gauss’s leadership, Bishop Seabury experienced unprecedented growth and spiritual renewal as he demonstrated to the congregation how to “know Jesus and make Him known.” A new sanctuary at BSAC’s previous location in Groton was completed in November 1998. By unanimous congregational vote in 2007, Seabury Anglican left the Episcopal Church and become affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). As part of that transition, Seabury Anglican lost its former property and building. The last service at the former location took place on August 5, 2012. The congregation is currently worshipping at Gales Ferry Landing, a former school. Fr. Gauss retired on July 1, 2015, and is enjoying his retirement with his wife, Jo Anne, in South Carolina.
The Rev. Canon Jerome (Jay) R. Cayangyang (July 1, 2015 to present) was called to be the next rector of Bishop Seabury Anglican Church in February 2015 and arrived at the church on July 1. Father Jay was officially installed as the rector by the Right Reverend Julian M. Dobbs, Bishop of CANA East on July 17, 2015.
Who is Samuel Seabury?
Samuel Seabury (1729-1796), our parish's namesake, was born in North Groton (now Ledyard). After the revolutionary war, leadership was needed in the church of Connecticut and Seabury was elected as the first Anglican Bishop for North America. He sailed to England to seek consecration, but was refused largely because his American citizenship disqualified him from taking the oath to the King. Scotland had its own, independent history with the Church of England and so consecrated him in Aberdeen in 1784.
Seabury served the church in Connecticut in a time when it was stronger in number and spirit than in any other part of the country, but needed the leadership of Bishops for its continuance. In an age already tainted by Deism and denials of the divinity of Christ, he is remembered for shepherding souls "to the means of reconciliation with God, through Christ." His was an early voice leading protestantism toward the weekly celebration of the Lord's supper: "let me beseech you to make good use of the opportunities you have; and let nothing but real necessity keep you from the heavenly banquet when you have it in your power to partake of it."
Why is our church named for Samuel Seabury? Because his purposes are our purposes-- not just in rough outlines, but in specific details. Consider these words of his second charge to the clergy in Derby, Connecticut, September 1786:
Deism, with its necessary consequence--no religion at all, or rather adverseness to all religion, if I am rightly informed, has within a few years, made great advances in the United States. . . . People of sober reason and common sense may hence be tempted to think, that Reason and Religion can never be reconciled. . . . The next step is to become proselytes to the opinion that all religions are equal, and no religion as good as any.
Error often becomes popular and contagious, and then no one can tell how far it will spread, nor where it ends. We must in such cases, recur to first principles, and there take our stand. The Bible must be the ground of our faith. And the doctrines, practices and old Liturgies of the primitive Church will be of great use to lead us to the true meaning of the Holy Books.
Samuel Seabury the First American Bishop http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/seabury/hughson.html
Memoir of Bishop Seabury http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/seabury/bio1908/
The Sermon Preached at the Consecration of Samuel Seabury http://anglicanhistory.org/scotland/seabury_consecration.html
Bishop Seabury's Charge to the Clergy of Connecticut http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/seabury/charge1786.html
An Earnest Persuasive to Frequent Communion by Samuel Seabury http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/seabury/s/persuasive.html
Bishop Seabury's Communion Office http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Seabury.htm
. . . indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.