By Ginny PrivitarMILFORD — Two families of faith came together in July 1972 to join their names to form The Church of the Good Shepherd and St. John the Evangelist.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the present building. A Bach concert featuring internationally heralded cellist Yosif Feigelson and organist/conductor Gwendolyn Tothis is planned for Saturday, April 11, to raise funds for structural improvements for the historic building, including a new roof.
Sandy Beecher, who wrote a brief history titled “Episcopal Church of Milford,” said the Milford side of the family can trace its Episcopal roots back to 1849, "when a visiting New York City clergyman held the first Episcopal services in our beloved County Jailhouse, then the County Court House.”
The Rev. Eliphalet Potter traveled to the Milford area with Cortland Whitehead, a student at Philadelphia Divinity School. Potter retured to Philadelphia while Whitehead stayed behind at the Dimmick House and held services at the courthouse. Whitehead proved very popular, and Sunday school attendance increased from eight or nine students to 65 by the end of summer 1866, when the Rev. Mr. Elsegood of Eaton arrived to administer the sacrament of Communion and baptize 17 children and infants. Whitehead served as minister until 1868.
Fire struck the building on Sept. 28, 1913. But the church burned slowly, and a number of items were saved.
"Worshipers came running that morning from every church in town," it was reported. "They saved the pews and the stainglass window and much else beside.”
A beautiful new cobblestone church was ready for services in 1915. Its steeple bell was dedicated on Sept. 14, 1919, with other additions made over the years.
The Pinchot family attended the church, and Edgar Pinchot was a senior warden. Among the family's contributions to the church was the Ten Commandments wall plaque, donated in 1904. Other early church officials included Edgar Brodhead (junior warden), John C. Mott, D.M. Van Auken, W.C. Broome, C.W. Dimmick, Sidney A. Hanes, and M.M. Dimmick.
The other side of the familySt. John the Evangelist was established as a mission church in 1887 in Dingmans Ferry and was active until 1971, when the Army Corps of Engineers acquired the property for the Tocks Island project. The project was later abandoned.
The Rev. Richard Aselford was pastor for both congregations, traveling between them on Sundays to preach.
The parish of the Church of the Good Shepherd invited the community of St. John the Evangelist to join its congregation, and the two churches merged in 1972.
A history of outreach ministries
The church has a history of service to the community, and its missions have changed over time.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the church provided the use of its Parish Hall for the weekday lunch program of Pike County Office on Aging until 1984, when the program moved to larger quarters.
A thrift shop, known as the Shepherd’s Shop, opened in the early 1980s. It, too, moved to larger quarters at Broad and Catherine Streets, until it closed in 1992, due to increasing rental costs and competition from other consignment shops.
The first pre-school program in Milford was started in the late 1970s by a parishioner and former teacher in the Sunday school rooms. Eventually this evolved into a day-care program. In 1985 a diocesan grant helped establish the Good Shepherd Child Care Center. The Rev. Elizabeth Myers vacated the rectory, which became home to the Child Care Center, which continues today.
The food pantry was established in 1991 by a parishioner. It developed into an ecumenical effort with other houses of worship, including the Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches in Milford participating in the effort to serve the families of the community.
For more information about Saturday's concert, see related article.