By The Zabriskie Memorial Church of Saint John the Evangelist on the Point
Newport, RI – The Zabriskie Memorial Church of Saint John the Evangelist is thrilled to announce we have been awarded a $400,000 grant from the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust ― bringing to $1.3 million the total funds awarded by the trust to St. John’s in just two years!
In January 2019, the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust awarded St. John’s, Newport, a grant of $916,000 for its historic roof restoration project. With that project completed, the trustees have made an additional grant of $400,000 for the restoration of the church’s exterior masonry, bringing the total support from the trust to a staggering $1.3 million dollars.
“Particularly during this pandemic, we are grateful to the trustees for this grant, which is a vote of confidence in our mission and ministry today, and an investment in our long-term sustainability for tomorrow and beyond,” said Father Nathan Humphrey, rector of St. John’s.
In addition to the $1.3 million in grants, Fr. Humphrey recently announced that a parishioner had made a matching pledge of up to $275,000 designated for the organ restoration, on top of a $250,000 unrestricted pledge for other capital improvement projects. So far, $102,000 has been donated towards the $275,000 matching pledge.
At the same time, St. John’s is undertaking a number of initiatives to improve the campus so that once it is fully available again, the people, neighbors, and friends of St. John’s will return to find the parish even better-equipped to serve the community after the pandemic than before it struck.
Under the supervision of Junior Warden Christopher Schillaci, Dennis House, the historic
circa 1740 rectory with an 1876 addition by noted architect Charles Follen McKim, has been completely re-painted, and Grafton House’s paint job next door is being touched up, both projects undertaken by The Meticulous Paint Job. Grafton House’s exterior was restored in part thanks to a significant grant in 2013, also by the McBean Charitable Trust. Both the Dennis House and Grafton House work has been paid for entirely by gifts from parishioners, neighbors, and friends.
The masonry and roof projects have as their goal the prevention of water intrusion into the 1894 Zabriskie Memorial Church building so that the 126-year-old Hook & Hastings organ might be restored.
One hundred percent of the church masonry is currently being repointed by the Joseph Gnazzo Company, experts in historic restoration, under the supervision of Walter Chase, St. John’s Capital Projects chair, and Mohamad Farzan, the church’s architect, who describes the scope of work thus far:
The interior wall surfaces at Saint John’s Church were damaged by water intrusion for a very long time. The root causes of the deterioration, leaking roofs and gutters, were addressed in 2019 with new roofing tiles, snow guards, gutters, and flashing. The next area of concern was the masonry walls. Although generally considered “permanent,” masonry is subject to deterioration, especially at the mortar joints. Repointing is the process of removing deteriorated mortar from the joints of a masonry wall and replacing it with new mortar. Properly done, repointing restores the visual and physical integrity of the masonry. The decision to repoint is most often related to some obvious sign of deterioration, such as disintegrating mortar, cracks in mortar joints, loose stones, damp walls, or damaged plasterwork. In this case, we are replacing all of the mortar to maintain the character of the structure. The new mortar matches the historic mortar in color, texture, and tooling.
This work, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, secures the entire building envelope, making it possible to focus on the restoration of the interior finishes, the organ chamber, and electrical upgrades in full confidence that they will be protected for many decades to come.
The Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, stated, “When I was consecrated bishop eight years ago, we looked at parishes that had the potential to grow, and St. John’s, with its Anglo-Catholic tradition, beautiful location, and historic buildings was, I thought, an ‘easy win,’ provided we had the right combination of ordained and lay leadership. I am grateful to the Congregational Development Commission for providing the initial funding that made it possible to call Fr. Humphrey as the parish priest. His vision has led to a new flourishing in the Point neighborhood of Newport, and it’s just a delight to see how even under the current circumstances, they have been able to continue to thrive. I hope that many people will support their current effort to restore St. John’s organ, as it is not merely a musical instrument, but an instrument for communicating God’s peace and love in these troubled times through the gift of music. The Center for Reconciliation recently held a Virtual Prayer Vigil in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and a recording of a soloist from St. John’s singing ‘There is a Balm in Gilead’ accompanied by that organ was an important part of our collective prayer that evening.”
St. John’s was founded in 1875 by Peter Quire, a free Black man from Philadelphia with a background working with Quakers on the Underground Railroad. A cobbler in the Point in whose home the first services were held, he was known at the time of his death as “The Father of St. John’s.” St. John’s is thought to be the first intentionally racially integrated congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, with free pews for all.