St. John’s Church
Established in 1610, St. John’s is the oldest continuous English-speaking parish in the U.S. The worship building has been at its present site on Queens Way since 1728. A recorded message introduces visitors to the church and its history, which includes a stained-glass window depicting the baptism of Pocahontas. The church is handicap accessible.
In 2010, America’s oldest Anglican (Episcopal) parish in continuous existence commemorated its 400th anniversary with special events, activities and services. Established in 1610 when English colonists settled at Kecoughtan, the parish has survived four centuries of sometimes-turbulent history in order to celebrate this milestone.
Points of Interest:
- The oldest grave located at the church is of Captain Willis Wilson who died in 1701.
- Markers near the gates at the southwest corner of the churchyard describe the remnants of the original enclosure wall dating from about 1759.
- A memorial to Virginia Laydon, the first surviving child born (1609) in the New World to English parents stands next to the south wall of the church. Laydon’s parents were members of the parish.
- The gravesites of several Civil War soldiers who fought for the Confederacy are located in the church cemetery. While Union soldiers were buried in the National Cemetery near Phoebus, St. John’s cemetery served as the Confederate burial ground.
- The Pocahontas window inside the building was given in 1887 by a group that included Native American students from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University. The school was the first in the country to accept Native American students.
- The aumbry in which consecrated bread and wine are reserved is located on the chapel wall to the right of the small altar. The door panel consists of pieces of 13th century stained glass from St. Helen’s Church, Willoughby, England. This is the parish in which Captain John Smith was baptized.
- The most cherished possession of the parish is the communion silver made in London in 1618 for the church community in Smith’s Hundred. When an Indian massacre in 1662 destroyed that community, farther up the James River, Governor Yeardly took the chalice and patens to Jamestown. They were given to Elizabeth City Parish (St. John’s Episcopal Church) in 1627 and are still used on major feast days each year. It is the oldest communion silver in continuous use in the area of the United States colonized by the English.
- The parish retains its old vestry book dating to 1751, its large colonial Book of Common Prayer, a 1637 Book Prayer, and a 1599 “breeches” Bible. These and other artifacts, as well as a photographic collection may be seen in the museum (located in the parish house building, built 1889) adjacent to the church.
The correct hours are by appointment only, Monday-Thursday from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Please call before you come to ensure that Staff is available to unlock the church.
Highway exit: I-64, Exit 267 to Settlers Landing Road; right on Eaton St., left on Queens Way.