100 Years of St. Andrew’s by the Sea

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“One of Saltaire’s most cherished landmarks is the church of St. Andrew’s by the Sea. This beautiful edifice, under the jurisdiction of the Episcopalian Diocese of Long Island, was conceived by the late Rev. Clarence Manning Dunham and stands today as a lasting memorial to his ministry.”

–      “History of the Incorporated Village of Saltaire,” by Ruth Bryan Brewster Dobie, 1952/ revised by Bertha “Kitty Sattler” Goggins, 1986.

Patricia Hennessy gifted me a 2022 reprint of this seminal history to help me cover the 100th anniversary of this village institution. The book is rich with information. I did not know that the handsome structure was a Michael Coffey structure. The book also chronicled community residents attending memorial service for the recently passed President Warren G. Harding in 1923, its survival through the Hurricane of 1938, and how it became local headquarters of the “nation wide Thanksgiving” that followed VJ Day in 1945.

Upon venturing to Saltaire Village on Sunday morning, Aug. 27, it was clear to me that this church is still very much making its own history, one parishioner at a time.

Colorful artwork made by children decorated the church grounds to commemorate this milestone year. And it was standing room only as Saltairians and residents from neighboring communities alike turned out to participate in this special service. People sang joyous hymns and women wore bright, cheerful summer dresses. To a newcomer like me, I could not help but marvel at the stained glass windows and original wainscoted interior. In the foyer, a mysterious was rope hanging from the ceiling – more on that in a moment.

“Thank you, Lord for the water of life that surrounds this island, and may this church stand for the next 100 years,” said Rev. Michael Sniffen as he addressed the congregation. Special words of mention were also given to Sam Wood, who has been seeing to recent and much needed renovations of the church rectory.

As the service concluded, it became clear to me what that rope on the ceiling was for, as a group of men, young and old, worked together to ring the church bell 100 times. 

“As kids we used to sneak in and ring that bell in the middle of the night,” one longtime Saltaire resident told me with a mischievous grin.

I also met Lee Rolontz and Ernie Fritz from Lonelyville. “We were married in St. Andrew’s Church 29 years ago,” Earnie said. “This place means a lot to us.”

A reception was held on the deck of Saltaire Market immediately following the church service. A small light jazz ensemble was on the deck providing live entertainment, with none other than the market proprietress Melissa Hood Adams leading the group with sultry vocals. Who knew she was such a great singer? Cold lemonade was served to quench our thirst in the heat, and the making for mimosas were also on hand for those who were interested, as wait staff came around with trays full of tasty hors d’oeuvres and canopies.

At the reception, I was introduced to members of the centennial planning committee: Diane Modico, St. Andrew’s Church Warden Lucy Martin, and Church Treasurer Peter Kendall.

“The church has survived so much and is still standing after 100 years,” said Diane. It’s been my place of peace and support.”

Diane continued to tell the story about how the rectory building, until restored by Sam Wood, had been “sinking into wetlands.” In their appeal to the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island in Garden City for support in the matter, a silver lining benefit was received. After decades of rotating vicars leading church services every summer, as of 2023 St. Andrew’s now has the benefit of assigned spiritual leadership with Reverends Michael Sniffen and John Merz at the helm.

“It is not just about the restoration of buildings but the congregation itself,” added Lucy.

“As an Episcopal Church, everyone is welcome at the table. We have hosted memorials, Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings of every faith. We live in divided times and seek to expand our mission not just for religion, but as a place where the neighborhood can come together.”

Editor’s note: Lee Rolontz first name was misheard asa “Allie” by the reporter upon their meeting and the error carried over to the original print version of this article published on September 1. It was corrected in the online version on September 9, 2023. Lee Rolontz is president of the Taxpayers Association of Lonelyville.