The fellowship of St. Gregory's came into being in 1949 when Mr. George Hard sought healing ministry for his mother, Fanny, a Woodstock native who was too ill to travel. Mr. Hard appealed to Father Herald Swezy, the rector of the Church of the Ascension in West Park (just below Rhinebeck on the east side of the Hudson), and Father Swezy agreed to visit with Fanny and a handful of other worshipers every other Sunday at four in the afternoon. Less than a year later, in response to the spiritual thirst of his growing congregation in Woodstock (home services had swelled to as many as forty-five people!) Father Swezy offered a Eucharistic service once a month at the American Legion Hall in town.
FROM CORN CRIB TO A-FRAME
The History of St. Gregory's
“The architect for the Diocese was named William Van Benschoten,” Helen Jackson recalled. “He was a member of the Church of the Ascension in West Park. Father Swezy and he were very closely connected—you know, good friends and both down-to-earth. And Van—they called him Van—would call my Pop and they’d have long discussions about the church… The Ladies Guild (as they called themselves) didn’t want a box church with a steeple on it. They were very powerful and firm. In fact, Allie Wardwell was really… she was… Well, she’d given the property, so why shouldn’t she be? She stood up against the men of the Diocese!”
As Father Swezy noted more than half a century ago, St. Gregory’s should be a church reflecting “the talents and crafts of the people.” Or, as a former church warden, Stuart Auchincloss remarked, ours is a church where everyone is encouraged “to pitch in,” to contribute according to their talent and their sense of calling. Through successive ministries of inspired (and inspiring) pastors, the nurturance and fostering of the creative potential of every parishioner has been a constant theme. However that potential may be revealed—whether in music or drama, in gardening or visual arts, in writing, singing, or in silence—St. Gregory’s offers the rich soil in which God-given talents may grow. “At St. Gregory’s, we recognize the arts as an expression of God’s love and we nurture the creative spirit.” So reads the second of our six Core Values. “We are a community where acceptance, encouragement and love awaken the desire to give something back.” So reads the sixth. Fitting it is, then, that our church is named for the patron saint of the arts.