The Rev. Aeneas Mackenzie arrived on Staten Island in 1705 in the service of the Church of England’s missionary organization, The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG). The SPG was founded to strengthen the state of the established church within the British colonies. MacKenzie, a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, had previously served as a chaplain to the Earl of Cromarty. In the early 18th century, Staten Island’s population was largely Dutch and French, although the English population had grown sufficiently to justify the need for an English-speaking congregation. Construction of the first church edifice commenced in 1708 while the first services were conducted in the French church, approximately a mile south of our present location.
In 1712 the parish received a royal charter from Queen Anne along with the gift of two chalices and paten for the Celebration of Holy Communion, which is still used on principal Feast days, in addition to several Bibles and Prayer Books. The parish received a substantial endowment in 1718 from the estate of Ellis Duxbury, a prominent local magistrate who had been one of the founders of the parish and served on the first vestry. The parish received ownership of a large swath of land on the North Shore from present day Tompkinsville to Grymes Hill in addition to several slaves.
During the Revolutionary War, the parish played a prominent role in support of the Loyalist Cause. The British troops under the command of Lord Howe camped on the Church’s property, and the church itself served as a hospital. Two skirmishes were fought in the churchyard when Patriot militias from New Jersey raided Richmondtown and in one instance fired upon the British troops housed within the church, destroying all of the windows. From 1777-80 the parish was served by the Rev. Samuel Seabury. Following the war, Seabury was consecrated as the first American Bishop and served as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Additionally, the Rev. Channing Moore, the IX Rector of the parish 1788-1808, later served as the Second Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia from 1814-1841. His son, Rev. David Moore, led the parish for a remarkable 48 years from 1808-1856 and was well-noted in parish folklore for his preaching abilities.
In the latter half of the 19th Century, the parish experienced a period of extraordinary growth as a portion of the northern part of the island was developed into one of the earliest suburbs of Manhattan. Much of the new growth was fueled by the gradual sale of Duxbury Glebe, which provided a valuable source of income for the parish. However, the two fires that claimed the original church’s edifice in 1867 and subsequently in 1872 tempered this period of expansion. All that remains of the colonial church are the stone foundations and bottom portions of the exterior walls. The present church was reconstructed in the popular Victorian, Norman-Gothic style by local architect William Mersereau and bears little resemblance to the original structure.
The Rev. Charles Sumner Burch celebrated the parish’s 200th anniversary in 1908 before his election as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of New York in 1911. The anniversary marked an important milestone as significant changes were introduced to the liturgy including an expanded musical offering and dedication of the present organ. The parish experienced a second period of expansion following the Second World War under the rectorship of Rev. Bernard Helmsley, 1945-1975, participating in the ecumenical movement and the liturgical renewal of the wider church.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI canonized St. Elizabeth Bailey Seton, the first American born saint and founder of the Sisters of Charity. Her grandfather, Rev. Richard Charleton served as our Rector from 1747-1776 and is buried in the churchyard. A relic of St. Seton was given to the parish from the Vatican and a stain-glass window is dedicated in her honor.
In the late 1980’s the interior of the church underwent a major restoration. In the process of repairing termite damage to the floors, several graves dating to the colonial period were discovered beneath the church.
In 2008 the parish marked the 300th anniversary with a liturgy celebrated by the first female Presiding Bishop in the Anglican Communion, The Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts-Schori. For over 300 years, The Church of St. Andrew has proclaimed the Gospel by Word and Sacrament. We look forward to continuing in our mission to preach the Good News and to minister to the needs of Richmondtown and the greater Staten Island community.