The first parishioners of Christ Episcopal Church were forced to worship underground in people’s Stratford homes 300 years ago to avoid harassment by the dominant Congregationalists.
It was a religious turnabout since the Congregationalists had fled to the New World to escape persecution by the Church of England, with which the Episcopal, or Anglican, faith is affiliated.
Today, the 223 families who comprise the Episcopal parish at 2000 Main St. are proudly ”” and publicly ”” celebrating the third century of their church, the first Episcopal church established in the Connecticut colony.
The birth of the Anglican Church in the United States mirrored the birth of the nation, according to the Rev. Robert Stuhlmann, the 30th pastor of Christ Episcopal Church.
Most of the 12 brave men who established the local parish in 1707 ended up in jail for their defiance of the General Court of Connecticut, which said there could be only one church ”” and it was Congregational.
That was not unlike the fate of the daring men who attached their signature to the Declaration of Independence. Many of them faced death threats, jail and loss of property. Eighty years after the formation of the Anglican Church in Stratford, another group of brave men signed the U.S. Constitution, and Stratford’s church had a direct role in that historic document.