History

The History of Calvary Church Summit

In 1852, an Episcopal priest, the Reverend Thomas Cook, was a summer resident in Summit who saw the need for worship and began holding services in his home. Thomas Cook was born in Cambridge, England on April 3, 1813, was educated in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1832. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 16, 1848 in the Diocese of New York at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in New York City (Manhattan). At the time he founded Calvary, Reverend Cook was Rector of St. Simon’s (German) Episcopal Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

In 1854, he and his fellow Anglicans had succeeded in erecting a new church in “The Summit.” This would be the first church in the area. The new, wooden building was a mission church and seated only 75 people. Although Reverend Cook founded Calvary, he was never the Rector. First services in Calvary Church were held October 16, 1854, and the church was consecrated August 15, 1855, by the Right Reverend George Washington Doane, Second Bishop of New Jersey. From 1854 to 1861 the Calvary mission in Summit was served by missionary priests. In 1861, however, the parish officially incorporated in the State of New Jersey, and signed Articles of Affiliation with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. Calvary was finally a formal parish in the Diocese, and the Reverend William H. Rees became the first of its thirteen Rectors.

The parish started small in 1862 with only 16 families. By 1872, it had grown steadily to 45 families. In that year, after two years in planning, the parish dedicated a new Calvary Church, a stone structure which seated 300 people. On January 7, 1893, the Bishop and the Vestry discussed the need to add to the size of the church since the membership had now grown to 150 families. This discussion was reduced to a moot issue on the next day when, as the Rector and Sexton lit the gas lamps for the morning service, the Christmas greens caught fire, and the entire church was reduced to ruins in less than an hour. Not deterred by this disaster, the Vestry immediately purchased land at Woodland and DeForest Avenues and made plans to construct the present Calvary Church campus.

During this planning and building stage, Calvary parishioners conducted services in the YMCA hall until the first building, the Parish House, was ready for Easter services in 1894. The auditorium of the Parish House served as a substitute church until the present church was ready two years later. Most of the original 1894 part of the Parish House was built using stonework salvaged from the 1872 church. The new Calvary Church, where first services were conducted on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1896, was considered an architectural marvel and was written up in the New York Times. The cornerstone of the 1872 Church was built into the south side of the west porch. Both the Church and Parish House were increased in size in 1927, again because of parish growth.

In the 150 years since its incorporation in 1861, Calvary has had twelve full-time Rectors, and the parish community had grown to more than 1700 in membership. After sixteen years of dedicated service, the Reverend Christopher Brdlik retired in 2010. Following much prayer, congregational and diocesan support, and discernment, the Parish Search Committee recommended the Reverend Canon Matthew T.L. Corkern of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, and the Vestry issued a call which he accepted on 21 August 2011, to become the thirteenth rector serving Calvary Episcopal Church.

In 1852, an Episcopal priest, the Reverend Thomas Cook, was a summer resident in Summit who saw the need for worship and began holding services in his home. Thomas Cook was born in Cambridge, England on April 3, 1813, was educated in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1832. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 16, 1848 in the Diocese of New York at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in New York City (Manhattan). At the time he founded Calvary, Reverend Cook was Rector of St. Simon’s (German) Episcopal Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

In 1854, he and his fellow Anglicans had succeeded in erecting a new church in “The Summit.” This would be the first church in the area. The new, wooden building was a mission church and seated only 75 people. Although Reverend Cook founded Calvary, he was never the Rector. First services in Calvary Church were held October 16, 1854, and the church was consecrated August 15, 1855, by the Right Reverend George Washington Doane, Second Bishop of New Jersey. From 1854 to 1861 the Calvary mission in Summit was served by missionary priests. In 1861, however, the parish officially incorporated in the State of New Jersey, and signed Articles of Affiliation with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. Calvary was finally a formal parish in the Diocese, and the Reverend William H. Rees became the first of its thirteen Rectors.

The parish started small in 1862 with only 16 families. By 1872, it had grown steadily to 45 families. In that year, after two years in planning, the parish dedicated a new Calvary Church, a stone structure which seated 300 people. On January 7, 1893, the Bishop and the Vestry discussed the need to add to the size of the church since the membership had now grown to 150 families. This discussion was reduced to a moot issue on the next day when, as the Rector and Sexton lit the gas lamps for the morning service, the Christmas greens caught fire, and the entire church was reduced to ruins in less than an hour. Not deterred by this disaster, the Vestry immediately purchased land at Woodland and DeForest Avenues and made plans to construct the present Calvary Church campus.

During this planning and building stage, Calvary parishioners conducted services in the YMCA hall until the first building, the Parish House, was ready for Easter services in 1894. The auditorium of the Parish House served as a substitute church until the present church was ready two years later. Most of the original 1894 part of the Parish House was built using stonework salvaged from the 1872 church. The new Calvary Church, where first services were conducted on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1896, was considered an architectural marvel and was written up in the New York Times. The cornerstone of the 1872 Church was built into the south side of the west porch. Both the Church and Parish House were increased in size in 1927, again because of parish growth.

In the 150 years since its incorporation in 1861, Calvary has had twelve full-time Rectors, and the parish community had grown to more than 1700 in membership. After sixteen years of dedicated service, the Reverend Christopher Brdlik retired in 2010. Following much prayer, congregational and diocesan support, and discernment, the Parish Search Committee recommended the Reverend Canon Matthew T.L. Corkern of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, and the Vestry issued a call which he accepted on 21 August 2011, to become the thirteenth rector serving Calvary Episcopal Church.

The Rectors of Calvary Church Summit

Music History

As early as 1862, our church history mentions that the Rector was interested in having a choir formed at Calvary. While we don’t know if a choir actually began at that time, it’s obvious that early in our history the interest was there. The fact that in the second church building an enlarged chancel was added, some eight years after the building was completed, suggests that there was a choir at the time. In 1887 a boy choir was formed. When the present church was finished in 1896, what is now the chapel, underneath the main altar, was the original choir room. In 1927, at the same time as the enlargement of the parish hall, the present choir room was added on the south side of the church. Its prominence as an architectural feature of the building, and its close proximity to the actual worship space is a strong indication of the importance of music in the life and worship of the parish. That this place supports not only its music, but also its music-makers, is revealed in the fact that, since 1914, there have been only five organist/choirmasters at Calvary: Franklin Helms, Howard Vogel, James Little, Christopher Jennings, and Kevin Davis.