Remembering Closed Churches: Summerfield UMC, Port Chester NY

Remembering Closed Churches: Summerfield UMC, Port Chester NY


Beth Patkus

5/2/2013

The first Methodist class in the Port Chester, NY area was formed in what was then known as Saw Pit in March of 1826. On December 28, 1828 the Methodist society was incorporated as “The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Saw Pit.” The first church building was erected in 1831 at King Street.

Before the second church was built, additional land was aquired fronting on Willett Street, creating the current site at the point of the triangle made by King and Willett streets. In 1873 the village was renamed Port Chester, and at that time the church took the name Summerfield in honor of John Summerfield, the well-known early Methodist preacher. During the hard economic times of the 1930s, the King Street Methodist Episcopal Church of Port Chester merged into the Summerfield Church. Through the 1940s and 1950s the church prospered, reaching a membership of more than 850.

Over the next 50 years Summerfield maintained its ministry in downtown Port Chester through many changes in the community. In addition to church activities, Summerfield provided rental space for various community groups and organizations and ran a successful food pantry in recent years. Beginning in the 1980s the church reached out to Hispanic and Asian families in the surrounding community, with the guidance of several Spanish-speaking pastors. The last service at Summerfield, in celebration of its long and distinguished ministry to the Port Chester, NY community, was held on Sunday, June 17th, 2012. 

Upon its closure, the records of Summerfield UMC were transferred to the Conference Archives. They include baptism, marriage, and membership records, as well as charge conference reports, minutes of church boards and organizations, and historical photographs, scrapbooks, and other items.

Archives Spotlight: Summerfield's many activities included a mission society for children called Mother's Jewels, whose record books are included in the Summerfield UMC records in the Conference Archives. During the second half of the 19th century, women’s missionary societies were established within the various predecessor denominations of the United Methodist Church, including the Methodist Episcopal Church. Today’s United Methodist Women (formed as a result of denominational mergers) is heir to the dedication and faithfulness of the women who supported these missionary societies and other women’s organizations .

In the 1860s the first missionary societies focused on sending female missionaries to foreign countries, but by 1880 women within the M.E. Church were calling attention to the needs of poor women and children within the U.S. The Woman's Home Missionary Society (WHMS) was established in 1880 to address these needs, with work beginning in the South and slowly expanding to other parts of the country. Its first president was Lucy W. Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, and it received official approval from General Conference in 1884.

Within a few years the WHMS had begun children’s societies; Mother’s Jewels was for very young children, while groups for older children were called Lucy Webb Hayes Bands and Queen Esther Circles. Summerfield M.E. Church’s Mother’s Jewels was organized in January 1917 for children from birth to 10 years of age. The church also had a Queen Esther Circle for girls 16 and over.

Mother’s Jewels was active at Summerfield until 1932. It began with 42 members and 3 life members; dues were 10 cents per year ($1.00 for a life membership). Funds collected were earmarked for assistance to children residing in Homes maintained by the Woman’s Home Mission Society. Specifically, the Summerfield Mother’s Jewels pledged $15 per year to sponsor the education of a child at the McCarty Settlement School in Cedartown, GA. This school was established in 1914 as part of an ongoing WHMS mission to help the children of mill workers and farmers in the Cedartown area.