Town of Brighton: St Johns in the Wilderness
The Church is designated by the Episcopal Diocese of Albany as a "Summer Chapel" and therefore has no official members, because most of the worshippers belong to a church elsewhere. The present Priest in Charge is The Rev. Robert Lawthers, who staffed in July of 1998. A graduate of The Episcopal Theological Seminary of Virginia, he also has degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard College. He has served parishes in Greene, N.Y., Waterloo, N.Y., Newport, New Hampshire, Silver Spring Maryland, and Hughesville, Maryland. Recently he also served as an interim Priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Elizabethtown, N. Y. He and his wife, Mary, live in Lake Clear. Other recent Priests at St. John's have included The Rev. George Nagle, and The Rev. George Easter.
The governing body consists of two Wardens, Ransom H. Duncan and Frederic L. Rockefeller; the clerk, Beth Berkun; the Treasurer, David G. Dorsett; and vestry members, Emily T. Van Vleck, D. Dean Rhoads, Daphne C. Montgomery, and Sylvia D. Roberts. The caretaker is Clarence Lester of Keese's Mills Rd.
Services are held during July and August, and on the first Sunday in September, at 10:30 a.m.
The overarching emphasis of the church is perhaps best summed up by these words of St. Paul: "For I am convinced that . . . nothing in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
Sunday services attract 50 to 60 persons and are complete with a choir that sings an anthem every Sunday, and a tastefully decorated altar. The attendees are a wonderful mixture of friends greeting one another as they return for the summer, and guests who are warmly welcomed. To usher in the millennium the altar was moved out from the wall so that the celebrant, as is common in most Episcopal Churches today, celebrates from behind the altar and faces the congregation.
An inspiring tradition of St. John's is the Hymn Sing which occurs every Sunday evening in August at Camp Red Pines. Folks gather from the lake and elsewhere to sing hymns (usually in harmony) with joy, verve, and gusto. A Women's Study group meets during the summer months studying a challenging book that helps the participants look at and strengthen their faith.
An outreach program helps families in need and supports activities such as children's books for the Saranac Lake Free Library and The Adirondack Experience that helps youth who are on the borderline of trouble
Submitted by The Rev. Robert Lawthers, P.O. Box 23, Lake Clear, N.Y. 12945
Historical Notes: From the Autobiography of Edward Livingston Trudeau:
"Through the summer months [visiting clergymen] held services in the parlor of the hotel . . . for the guests and their guides. The possibility of building a chapel near by, where any clergymen who came to the hotel during the summer could officiate, was discussed from time to time, and in the fall of 1876 I started a subscription list for a little log chapel. I also wrote to my old friend, Mrs. Louis Livingston, who I knew loved the place, and asked her to help. She responded by holding a fair in her parlors in New York, and sent me fourteen hundred dollars as the results of her efforts. The rest of the money came from appeals to the guests.
Paul Smith gave the land and the logs - and what logs they were! - the finest of white pine, of full growth...
The little chapel was designed by Mr. Hathorne, a New York architect, who gave the plans. The exterior was of oiled logs with a shingled roof, almost square, with a chancel at the north end...
services were held only when a clergyman was a guest at the hotel or when one could be secured; but finally the Rev C.S. Knapp, an invalid clergyman, was put in charge for the summer. When completed the property was deeded to the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church, and was consecrated on September 13, 1877, by the Right Reverend William C. Doane, D.D., who preached, as I remember, from the text, 'Lo, we heard it as Ephrata and found it in the wood.'
Soon the congregations outgrew the seating capacity of the little chapel, and it was decided to alter and enlarge it. I succeeded . . . in raising the necessary funds. [M]y cousin, Mr. J. Lawrence Aspinwall, [an architect] . . . added a transept on each side and enlarged the chancel, so that the chapel is now cruciform and can seat one hundred and fifty worshippers comfortably."
St. John's-in-the-Wilderness is known far and wide for the originality of its construction and the beauty and simplicity of its design...
The log church was destroyed by fire in December of 1928. A note from a small pamphlet issued by the Building Committee for a new church contains the following sentence. "Whatever decision is finally reached . . . the Committee wishes to assure all who are interested that every effort will be made to retain the simplicity and beauty of the old church, and to preserve in the new the peculiar charm and atmosphere of the Adirondacks for which St. John's in the Wilderness was noted."
The present building, designed by William Distin, was built in 1930. The stained glass windows, many of them memorials, were designed by Robert M. Metcalf and executed in the Wynde Younge studios. There is a non-sectarian cemetery surrounding the church on the east and north.
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