Saint Ann’s Parish has graced the coastal landscape of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound with a strong and resounding Episcopal presence. In the heart of an historic art colony, home of the Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme Art Association and Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Saint Ann’s has long been the place of worship for both full-time residents of the community and seasonal visitors.
The Holy Spirit who breathed life into our Mission at Black Hall in 1883 still moves among us and guides us onward to a new and deeper expression of God’s love. We remember and respect our special heritage as we prepare Saint Ann’s to serve the community for future generations.
Established in 1883 as an Episcopal mission in the Black Hall section of Old Lyme, Saint Ann’s was founded by Charles Griswold Bartlett and his wife, Annie, who ran a boy’s preparatory school for Yale. Once a month, a priest arrived on horseback to celebrate the Eucharist. One of these priests was the Rev. Theodore M. Peck, who is thought to have been instrumental in the building in 1892 of a Guild House at the corner of Mile Creek and Bailey Roads where services would then be held.
In 1899, Mr. Thomas J. Falls of New York gave to the Missionary Society a substantial house and 25 acres of land as a memorial to his mother. Mr. Peck moved in, and since then the building has been used as the rectory. It is believed that Mr. Peck built the adjacent barn with his own hands for the shelter of his horse and carriage and glebe crops.
Shortly after 1900, the Guild House was moved to its present location at the corner of Mile Creek and Shore Roads.
For several years, the mission station at Black Hall and others in the area were served by archdeacons, one of whom, the Rev. M. McLean Goldie, upgraded his transportation from a horse and buggy to a 1913 Maxwell automobile. Now with improved transportation and growing missions on his hands, Mr. Goldie proposed to his bishop that Saint Ann’s become a self-sustaining parish. In 1923, Bishop Brewster called the Rev. Henry Adams Link to be Vicar of Saint Ann’s Mission. That same year, the Diocese of Connecticut purchased the former Baptist Church on Lyme Street, and Saint Ann’s moved in.
During the Depression, Saint Ann’s Mission reached a low point. In 1927, the church building was sold to the Roman Catholic Church. (Records of the sale show that the purchase was made for $1.00. Perhaps wisely, no explanation was offered for this price.) Saint Ann’s resumed its worship in the Guild House.
After the war, Bishop Gray and the Rev. Edward Merrill, Rector of Grace Church in Old Saybrook and Archdeacon of Middlesex, turned their attention to strengthening the mission in Old Lyme. They believed that with the opening of the Baldwin Bridge in 1948 and plans for major highway expansion, this area of the state would experience growth. Archdeacon Merrill assumed the Saint Ann’s assignment from 1948 through 1949 until the bishop secured the services of Mr. William T. Walker, a student at Berkeley Divinity School, as Lay Vicar. Soon the congregation expanded to 55 families. Mr. Merrill continued to celebrate regular Sunday afternoon Holy Communion.
In August 1954, Nigel L. Andrews, former lawyer, now Berkeley student, came to Saint Ann’s as Lay Vicar. He was ordained deacon a year later and then priest. On Trinity Sunday, 1955, he became Saint Ann’s first rector. Saint Ann’s congregation grew and its programs expanded until the need for more space became urgent. $65,000 was raised in contributions and pledges for a new church and on August 12, 1956, Bishop Gray dedicated the new (present) building. By 1959, Saint Ann’s Mission was a self-supporting parish. The Guild House began a new life as the “The Nearly New Shop.”
In 1963, the Rev. Charles H. Griswold became the second rector of Saint Ann’s. That same year, the parish hall was built. In 1984, the Rev. Dr. Kirk S. Smith was called as the third Rector. Under his leadership, Saint Ann’s embarked on another capital fund drive for the purpose of enlarging several areas of the church, and modifying others to better suit the growing church’s needs.
In 1992, the Rev. John V. Connelly was called as fourth Rector. A capital campaign was initiated for the restoration of our Gress-Miles pipe organ.
The Rev. Peter T. Vanderveen became our fifth Rector in April of 1995. Under his leadership, the organ was finished and dedicated. During his tenure, a Memorial Garden was initiated and completed. A community garden was also begun which continues to the present time to feed the food insecure every summer. A new Church School curriculum was initiated called Godly Play which is still being used.
Improved handicapped access, including a lift, and more functional office space were designed under the leadership of the Rev. Cn. Mark K. J. Robinson, our sixth Rector.
The multi-phased project was completed under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell, who was hired initially as Provisional-Priest-In-Charge. The parish began to become active in environmental matters and has become a Level 2 Green House of worship. In 2022, the Vestry called Mother Anita to be our seventh Rector. Under Mother Anita’s leadership, the Vestry and parish developed parish goals to lead and prepare the parish for the future.
Our one-hundred-plus year history paints a seacoast landscape with an Episcopal presence at the heart of the scene. The Holy Spirit who breathed life into us in Black Hall in 1883 still moves among us and guides us ever onward to new and deeper expressions of God’s love. We hope and pray we will always remember our history.
In 2019 Saint Ann’s embarked on the Reflect, Restore, Renew Capital Campaign to raise funds for major renovations and improvements including a beautiful stone terrace, planters and handicap ramp, expanded and renovated Narthex, interior and exterior painting, renovated offices and bathrooms, and painting the front doors Episcopal Red.
Clergy History at Saint Ann’s
The Rev. Nigel L. Andrews
The Rev. Charles H. Griswold
The Rev. Dr. Kirk S. Smith
The Rev. John V. Connelly
The Rev. Peter T. Vanderveen
Rector 1995 - 2009
The Rev. Canon Mark K. J. Robinson
Rector 2011 - 2018
The Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell
Rector 2022 –