St. David's Church: A brief history

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:58

Highland Mills - St. David’s Church began its spiritual service as a Quaker meeting house, built in 1897, by the Society of Friends. The Quakers met in the building on Albany Turnpike (now Route 32) until their meetings were discontinued around 1910 or so. At that point, the building was rented for one dollar a month to the then recently established “Trinity Mission,” an Episcopal group in Highland Mills which had become an active, growing local congregation. Early records indicate that the first Episcopal services were held in the church in 1912. Up till then, the congregation had worshipped at Grace Church in Monroe. In fact, the priest in charge of the new mission was Dr. J. Holmes McGuiness, rector of Grace Church. In 1915, a seminarian named George W. Dumbell became an assistant to Dr. McGuiness and served Grace Church and the new mission as a licensed lay reader while he completed his studies toward the priesthood. Over the next 10 years as the community grew, the Episcopal diocese purchased the property from the Quakers, and then proposed changing the name of the mission from “Trinity” to “St. David’s” Mission. It seems the diocese had been maintaining a fund to be used to establish a St. David’s Church in the Lincolndale vicinity, an effort to continue the legacy of a church by that name in pre-Revolutionary days. So to fulfill that pledge, Trinity Mission became St. David’s Mission in 1922. And once ordained, Reverend Dumbell became the first rector of the newly established St. David’s Mission, later to become an official parish in 1935. It was a position he was to hold for 42 years until his death in 1957. The church’s property and furnishings were improved over the years, mostly through memorial contributions: The pews came from the Stoney Vale Friends meeting house, built in 1828. The pulpit and sedilia were the gift of St. James Church, Goshen, where they had been used when Rev. Dumbell’s grandfather was rector of St. James. Not long after Rev. Dumbell’s death and throughout the turbulent 1960s, St. David’s parish, like many churches, experienced a decrease in membership. In 1972, St. David’s joined with seven other area churches to form the Southern Orange Community, a team ministry and cooperative union of eight Episcopal churches. During the intervening years, the congregation has been ministered to by a number of clergy members, beginning with the Rev. Lewin Shaw, rector of St. John’s Church in Cornwall. In the early 1990s, the Rev. Daniel Strong was called to serve both St. Paul’s in Chester and St. David’s, a position he maintained for ten years. Other clergy who followed Father Strong’s long tenure included the Rev. Robin Smith, the Rev. Sylvia Vasquez, and the Rev. Alon White, the church’s last rector.