Noroton Presbyterian Church History
Noroton Presbyterian Church
Founded November 4, 1863
In the age of the horse drawn carriage, several families determined it was time to establish a church of the Reformed tradition on the border of Stamford. So on the evening of September 9, 1863 interested persons met at the Union Chapel (located where there is now the Hindley Elementary School) with the Rev. James William Coleman and decided that a new church should be organized. A week later they decided that it should be a Presbyterian Church, and they made formal application to the 4th Presbytery of New York.
On November 4, 1863, a commission from the Presbytery of New York formally organized the new church with appropriate ceremonies. It was called the First Presbyterian Church of Darien. There were 21 charter members; 16 women and 5 men. Benjamin Weed was one of two elders and would become the clerk of Session, the Superintendent of the Sunday School and the secretary of the Trustees for the next 46 years. The Rev. Coleman was chosen as pastor and was installed on March 6, 1864.
Progress was not easy for those pioneer Presbyterians. Building fund subscriptions were solicited and by June 1864, almost $5,000 had been subscribed. Land was purchased from Lewis E. Clock who was a trustee and church treasurer. After visiting churches and settling on a building plan, the new church building (our present day chapel) was erected and dedicated on May 31, 1866 at a total cost of $8,000, not including the tower.
There were many discouraging times during the early years. Numbers were few, funds were scarce, and as time went on, there were long spans without a resident minister. But the church carried on. The original record books show that the Session (then composed of three or four members) met regularly to consider the spiritual and moral welfare of the congregation; and the Trustees met regularly to care for the physical and financial needs of the church.
In 1897 a generous contribution of $2,000 made possible the construction of a Sunday School and social rooms at the rear of the church. Later, small kitchen facilities were included. Eventually the town grew and the church membership grew, and more space was needed if the church was to adequately serve its function in the community, and especially to care for the increasing numbers of children in the Church School. So, in 1939, a Parish House was added to the original church at a cost of some $15,000. Many thought this project was too ambitious and the space larger than anything the church would ever need.
But in a few short years these facilities were crowded, and it was evident that they would have to be supplemented. The ministry of Dr. “Pete” Horton who arrived in 1940 and the beauty of the town of Darien attracted many returning GIs who were moving into town and starting their families. So in January 1945, a Planning Committee was authorized to study the future needs of the church and to prepare plans for meeting those needs with an adequate physical plant.
In 1946, Mrs. Henry C. Hodges, Jr. presented to the church the large corner lot bordered by Noroton Avenue and the Post Road, next to the old church as a site for a new Sanctuary. After eight years of planning and fund raising, the new Noroton Presbyterian Church was built at an approximate cost of $400,000. The facility was dedicated on February 15, 1953.
During this time, double sessions had been adopted to accommodate the ever increasing numbers in the Church School. An educational, administrative, and music unit of the church plant had been part of the long-range plans when the new Sanctuary was built. Early in 1958 construction was begun on the new building which was completed and occupied in February 1959. This building provided 19 rooms for the use of the Church School, a weekday Nursery School and a variety of other weekday activities, rehearsal and robing room for the choirs, administrative and secretarial offices, and the church library. The Red Barn was converted to a Youth Ministry Center in 1963 and it is still a beehive of activity today. While building up the body of Christ here, the leaders of Noroton Presbyterian have always had a heart for sharing the gospel around the world. Records show that for 13 years in the 60’s and 70’s the church gave away 20-33% of all annual revenues to our mission partners.
The church grew in the 1960s to include more than 2,200 members. Today we number over 1600 members and we are still the largest PCUSA church in New England. The Rev. Samuel A. Schreiner III (“Sam”), who came here in 2004, is our eleventh Senior Minister in our 150-year history.