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Churches worth seeing, XVI

June 2, 2014

Church of All Saints By-The-Sea, Southport, Maine
Church of All Saints by-the-Sea : Southport, Me.
(Diocese of Maine)

SUMMER’S ARRIVAL has given us cause to turn our attention once again to the many fine Episcopal summer chapels that dot the various summer colonies in the East and Old Northwest. You won’t find many such chapels built by Methodists or Presbyterians, and while some may find this a pernicious carryover from a passing age, we are glad that someone, by God, has determined to build a house of worship wheresoever they should reside.


THE ORIGINS of the Church of All Saints by-the-Sea go back well over a century. The Revd John Thomas Magrath, an 1862 Bowdoin graduate, became the rector of Christ Church in Gardiner, Maine, from 1866 to 1869.

While in Gardiner, Magrath and members of his congregation came to Pig Island (now Capitol Island) on picnics. He noticed a green hayfield on the east shore of Southport, and his family acquired this small saltwater farm. They built a summer cottage on this land in the early 1870s. Since there was no Episcopal church accessible to the vacationers, they established the congregation of All Saints by-the-Sea under the leadership of Magrath. Services were held under the oak trees surrounding the hayfield or in the cottage if the weather was foul. This original cottage is still extant and owned by members of the Moses family.

In the 1870s, Mary Williamson, a member of the Gardiner congregation who had visited many times, purchased land to the south of the Magrath farm. She donated part of this land for the building of a church. The present church was erected on that land in 1905. The architect, Albert Hall, donated his services, and the construction was done by a neighbor, Charles Gray. The Right Reverend Robert Codman, Bishop of Maine, consecrated the All Saints by-the-Sea in July 1906.

Mr. Magrath continued to be in charge of the church until his death in 1908. Subsequently, clergy from all over the country have officiated at services each summer at the chapel on Southport.

While not a parish church in the ordinary sense, neither is All Saints by-the-Sea a diocesan mission. It remains essentially a congregation of residents and summer visitors who share its services and give it their support. Its island location and approach by water have endeared the church to many and have made it an important part of the region’s summer life. Over the years All Saints has become a spiritual summer home of hundreds of worshippers of all denominations in the Boothbay area.

The church is reached by a path through the woods, past a memorial flower garden. Water transportation is available from Boothbay Harbor aboard the Novelty, leaving Pier 8 at 9am. Private boats are welcomed at the church dock.

During the summer months, Holy Communion is administered at 8am each Sunday, and at 10am on the first and third Sundays of each month. On other Sundays, Morning Prayer is read at 10am, just as it should be.

Facing east.

Facing east.

Memorial plaque.

Memorial plaque.

Low tide on a grey morning.

Low tide on a grey morning.

Sunday morning, 1967.

Sunday morning, 1967.

All Saints by-the-Sea.

All Saints by-the-Sea.

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