The History of St. Boniface Church

St Boniface was founded in 1961 as a mission church of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany NY, and sponsored by St Andrews Episcopal Church in Albany. The Diocese was interested in locating a church in the fast growing town of Guilderland. Bishop Allen Brown asked St Andrews to lead the effort to organize a mission church. St Andrews had many parishioners residing in Guilderland. The Rev. William D. Small, Curate at St Andrews was selected to be the Priest-in-Charge of the mission. In April 1961, a letter was addressed to all Episcopalians in the Guilderland area by Bishop Brown, who stated:

  • "We are living in an exciting time for the Episcopal Church. There were just under 1,700 confirmations last year in the Diocese; four new parishes have been incorporated since January first! Our next scheduled expansion is in your area; the clergy and laity ofSt Andrews Church in Albany have volunteered to be responsible for beginning this work. The first step will be a meeting of all interested persons to be held Wednesday Evening, April 19, in the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church, at 8:00 p.m."

The April 19, 1961 meeting laid the foundation for the formation of the mission church. It was followed by a meeting held on May 16, 1961, also at the Hamilton Union Church, and attended by over 75 persons. At this meeting, committees were formed on land purchase, community survey, and the selection of a temporary location for services planned to begin that fall. Saint Boniface was the name chosen for the mission. The mission was named after the 8th century Saint Boniface, who carried the gospel into Holland; the town name of Guilder land is derived from the Gelderland region of the Netherlands. Finally, a formal Mission Charter was signed by 55 of those present. The Initial Charter Member was Ann H. Zimmerman.

The third, and final, meeting before the opening of the mission was held on June 29, 1961, also at Hamilton Union. Committees made reports, but the emphasis was on a suitable location for temporary services. The congregation settled on the meeting room at the Westmere Fire House, where the first service of the Episcopal Mission of Saint Boniface was held on September 10, 1961, with 95 persons in attendance.

The conversion of the meeting room to be suitable for Sunday service at the Westmere Fire Hall was well organized and involved many members of the mission. After the room was cleaned, a portable altar, railings, and chairs were set up. A hymnal board was posted and hymnals, prayer books and kneelers distributed. Services were held at 10: 15 AM. Following the service, the children remained in the meeting room for Sunday school, and adults were invited to the home of Jack Conklin, across the street, for coffee, the weekly sermon and discussion until Noon.

The first Executive Committee of Saint Boniface consisted of Warden Myron (Mike) Canaday, Committeemen Richard White, William Rapp, and Thomas Perkins, Treasurer C. Ferris Conklin, and Clerk George Cooper. The Building Committee was co-chaired by Richard White and John Potts. The Sunday school was organized and directed by William and Else Rapp. The Altar Guild was organized and directed by Irene Conklin, the initial Head Usher was Watson Cole and Head Acolyte, Robert Conklin.

The growth of the mission lead to Fr William Small becoming a full time Vicar in July 1962. The Fire Hall was used until February 1964, when the present multi-purpose facility on Route 20, approximately l/4 mile west of McCormick's Corners (Routes 20 and 146), was completed. The new building allowed the work of the Church to have a solid foundation and to become visible in its community. Included in the site design of the new building was a lone column, constructed off the northwest corner of the building, to symbolize that the work of St Boniface is never complete and to identify a new beginning for that work to continue.

In the spring of 1965, Fr William Small resigned to assume a position in the United Campus Ministry at the State University at Albany. On September 1, 1965, the Rev William M. Romer became the Vicar of Saint Boniface. He was able to move into the new vicarage, a house located in Mohawk Village which was purchased by the mission in July 1965.

Saint Boniface soon expanded to two Sunday Eucharists, at 8:00 and 10:00 AM, The Church School program included sessions on Tuesdays as well as Sundays. A weekly prayer/study/action group met on Wednesdays, and Choir on Thursdays.

A day nursery school was started in September 1967 as both, a means of providing a service to the community, and income for Saint Boniface. Lynn Knauss, a member of the mission, was the first director of the nursery school. The nursery school opened to full capacity, with a long waiting list, and continued a successful program through the 1991- 1992 enrollment year. In June 1993, due to declining enrollment, a difficult decision was made to close the nursery.

Fr Romer resigned in May 1970 to assume a position at St Agnes School. He was succeeded by the Rev Nelson J. Lundberg, in September 1970. The rectory was sold shortly after the departure ofFr Romer, because the building became too costly to maintain and budget with rising costs in other areas.

Under Fr Lundberg's early leadership, several annual fund raising projects were undertaken by Saint Boniface, including: a booth at a Christmas Crafts Fair, a food concession at the Altamont Fair, fashion show (which continues), and rummage sales. Memorial funds were encouraged, and new pews and carpet were installed in the church.

The initial success with fund raising and other initiatives was countered by declining membership and the subsequent drop in pledge income. As Saint Boniface approached the decision to discontinue support of a full time ministry, Bishop Wilber Hogg suggested that Saint Boniface and neighboring Christ Church in Duanesburg, who recently had lost their rector, could benefit from a shared ministry. Both parishes agreed. Fr Lundberg resided at Christ Church while conducting a single service at each location. The shared ministry continued through December 1979, when Fr Lundberg resigned. Subsequently, both parishes decided to pursue separate part time ministries.

The Rev Alfred N. Tuttle was immediately asked to become a supply priest at Saint Boniface until a new part time vicar could be found. Fr Tuttle became very involved in the parish life at Saint Boniface, and was well received by all members. In January 1981, Fr Tuttle was appointed Vicar at Saint Boniface.

Fr Tuttle, affectionately known as "Father Al", provided a much needed healing leadership which encouraged everyone, because of his part time availability, to become involved in parish life and an active lay leadership. Fr Tuttle set specific goals to expand membership, become financially independent (the diocesan loan for the church building was not yet settled), pay the annual assessment to the Diocese, and to expand the church building. All of the goals were accomplished under the leadership of Fr Tuttle. Upon becoming incorporated on September 8, 1983, the Episcopal Mission of Saint Boniface became The Episcopal Church of Saint Boniface. The Church replaced the Executive Committee, consisting of a single Warden and three Committee persons, with a Vestry, consisting of two Wardens and six Vestry persons. In 1988, the Vestry expanded to include nine Vestry persons.

Fr Tuttle retired in 1990. The Rev Robert M. Haven became interim Vicar in September 1990, and retired in June 1993. The Rev Stanley M. Woolley was interim Vicar from 1993 to 1994. In late 1992 the parish re-committed to a full time ministry and formed a Search Committee to begin the full year search for a Rector. The building expansion, which added a much needed two-story structure to the west end, was completed and all debt paid by 1989. The addition provided a new kitchen, offices, and classrooms. The old offices and meeting space was converted to a fellowship area. In 1992, the old kitchen was converted to additional seating for services.

The Rev John P. Zimmerman became Rector in March 1994. Fr Zimmerman has been well received and has become affectionately known as "Fr Jack". A formal Installation of Fr Jack as Rector was held at Saint Boniface on June 14, 1994. Since the arrival of Fr Jack, the Church has had an approximate 65% growth in membership. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in attendance at Sunday school and at the weekly services. Members, who left during "hard times", have returned, and Saint Boniface is experiencing a loving fellowship and a spiritual renewal. Increased membership and a successful approach to stewardship resulted in a larger budget, which has allowed the Vestry to create a larger outreach program. Fr Jack returned St Boniface to two Sunday services (at 8 AM and 10 AM) and an additional service during the week. After over fourteen years of service to St. Boniface, Jack Zimmerman, retired in January 2008. We wish him and his wife Kitty many happy and healthy years of retirement.

After Fr Jack Zimmerman's retirement, we at St. Boniface were fortunate to have Father John Bassett as our interim rector. Father John served us for over a year, during which the men's group became affiliated with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and some women of St. Boniface began a chapter of the Daughter's of the King. We appreciate all that Fr Bassett and his wife Terry did for our parish.

Father Steve Scherck began his ministry with us when he celebrated a Deacon's Mass at St. Boniface on May 3, 2009. He was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at Saint Boniface Episcopal Church on June 13, 2009. We at St. Boniface are excited and happy to have Father Steve as our pastor. We had the honor of celebrating his tenth year anniversary with us and we hope for many more successful years in the future.

In February of 2022, after thirteen years of leadership, Father Steven Scherk resigned his position as our rector. It is with fond reminisces, sadness, fear and anxiety that we say goodbye to Father Steve, his wife Robin, and his entire family. We will miss his comforting and powerful homilies and (usually) great jokes. We cannot sufficiently thank them enough for what they have given us.

St. Boniface is faced with challenges, but with Father Steve's blessings, God's grace, our love for one another and love of our church we will overcome all obstacles and forge new and exciting days and years to come. The Vestry leadership is working closely with the diocese to ensure services continue every Sunday and the next steps are identified.