History

History

huguenot and episcopal?

Huguenot-Slide-#27Can you be both Huguenot and Episcopalian? At the French Church of Saint Esprit, we think so.

These two words together say a lot about our congregation and who we are today: a diverse family of faith gathered from every corner of the globe and many backgrounds, united by our love for the French language and the spiritual values of tolerance, freedom, and liberty.

Our church holds a unique place in the history of the United States and in the history of ecumenism. How we got here is a remarkable story.

The first Europeans who founded New Amsterdam in 1624 included many French-speaking Protestants who had previously sought refuge in Holland from religious persecution in France and Belgium.

The French language was important enough in New Amsterdam that the first clergyman chosen to serve the new Dutch colony was of French origin, Jonas Michel. As soon as Michel arrived in New Amsterdam on April 7, 1628, he celebrated services in French as well as in Dutch.

New Amsterdam became New York in 1674, and Huguenots intermarried with English speakers. By 1802, many descendants of the early Huguenots had become Episcopalians, so Saint Esprit's elders and members voted unanimously to join the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

In light of Saint Esprit's origin a refuge for those seeking religious freedom in the New World, the Episcopal Church granted two exceptions to the congregation. First, worship would be in French, as the church's founders had intended. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer was translated into French for the first time for use by our congregation in 1804.

Second, any Christian would be welcome to worship as a member of Saint Esprit, regardless of denomination. This makes our congregation one of the first in the world to build bridges between Christian communities,  more than a century before the inception of the modern ecumenical movement.

Our history by century

1600 to 1699

1700 to 1799

1800 to 1899

1900 to 1999