Founded in 1910 to serve a group of summer vacationers to Stone Harbor, St. Mary's Episcopal Church is a work in progress. The cedar-shingled frame structure built in 1910, and dedicated on July 2, 1911, was known locally as St. Mary's-by-the-Sea, a summer mission staffed by visiting clergy. In 1955, the church received its first vicar, and the parish was incorporated in 1967.
Since then, St. Mary's has grown in many ways. The Church retains the original design, but over the years expansion and improvements to both the church and the adjacent rectory and parish hall have been substantial.
Growth of its physical plant parallels growth in God's love and an expanded understanding of Christ's life as our example for achieving our mission. From a handful of dedicated followers, the membership of St. Mary's now numbering over 180 households, continues to grow. While the majority of parishioners live on the Seven Mile Island and in nearby off-shore communities, a significant number are summer residents who return each year.
St. Mary's sits snugly as it has since 1910 on the Seven Mile Beach, a barrier island, in downtown Stone Harbor, a seaside summer resort at the Jersey shore. This fact makes us a little bit different from mainland churches. Summer in our town is very different from the quiet of winter. The population triples, the shops and restaurants are full, and the downtown area is very lively. The glow of St. Mary's jewel-like windows in the evening adds to this festive ambiance.
Our charming church under the trees is very much a part of the summer scene as we open our doors and move outside to our front lawn and the beach to better enjoy summer at the shore with Thursdays on the Lawn, Worship at the Beach, a strawberry festival, holiday hospitality and concerts.
Our location also gave us the inspiration for an innovative outreach, namely Heavenly Scavengers. Our outreach to the community expanded with our thrift shop located in the Rio Grande section of the County. Our desire is not only to meet the need for household furnishings and personal items, but to address the necessity of affordable housing.
Our desire to grow the ministry of the church in Cape May County led to our partnership with St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Villas, NJ. Together we developed a common space, "The Branches" in Rio Grande for worship, education, outreach and meetings, where people are fed spiritually and where physical hungers are also satisfied. The Branches has grown into a non-profit organization working to address the needs of the homeless and marginalized people of Cape May County.
St. Mary's has come a long way since 1910, and we look forward with much excitement as we continue on this wonderful adventure. There is great work to be done and by God's grace we will continue to move forward in hope, growing the ministry of our church for the greater honor and glory of God.
We invite you to join us as we strive to accomplish God's work and to discover His presence among us.