St. John's History - 5. After the wars
Having experienced the Second World War, and the Korean War, St. John's Church emerged into the tranquil 50's and the turbulent 60's and 70's. Church Fairs, Bazaars and Youth Programs abound in the 50's world of “Father Knows Best”, “I Love Lucy” and “Roy Rogers and Trigger.” Television and Radio become the magnets to which people turn for family entertainment and the automobile transports the average family to new places and experiences.
The Rev. Howard O. Bingley became Rector on February 1, 1961. A graduate of Clark University, Massachusetts, he served in the Army from 1941 to 1946. He graduated from General Theological Seminary in 1949, and subsequently served at the Chapel of the Intercession, Manhattan, and St. Andrew's Church, Brewster, New York. He was a member of the New York Diocese's Christian Education Department and served as director of the Diocesan Youth Conference. He led the parish through all the changes of the next 17 years. When asked what gifts a priest received in recognition of his work, Fr. Bingley replied with a smile, “Affection, which is enough, really.”
Mrs. Bingley was equally prominent in Episcopal Church affairs, serving as Executive Director of the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief. She had planned to work with the Episcopal Church's Commission on Human Sexuality.
The Vietnam War from 1965 to 1975 challenged the church's courage and strength to meet the demands of a conflicted society. The issues of civil rights, with the March on Washington, the Episcopal Church struggle with the approval of the ordination of women, and the development of a new Book of Common Prayer in 1979 created constant changes affecting St. John's. Women were admitted to General Convention, and their role in the parish was also changed, with women accepted as Vestry members and wardens. The parish support of St. John's and its activities continued through these turbulent times.
The Rev. Dr. Lincoln Harter, and Mrs. Alma Harter assisted St. John’s Parish in these years. Rev. Harter, initially ordained a “permanent” deacon, went on to be ordained a priest after many years of assisting St. John’s and other Staten Island parishes. Alma Harter was active in the work of the church women, both on Staten Island and in Diocesan efforts.
The Rev. John Michael Crothers became Rector after Fr. Bingley's retirement in 1978. He had been a Queens, NY resident, was a 40-year old native of Canada. He previously served at Zion Episcopal Church in Douglaston, Queens. A graduate of General Theological Seminary, he was also with the American Church Union, an Episcopal Church publishing house.
The latter part of the 20th Century was not kind to St. John’s as many of its wealthier parishioners either died or moved away from Staten Island. The parish found itself with a diminished capacity to maintain its mission or physical plant. The former parish hall/chapel which stood where Canterbury House now stands became totally unusable and was only a phone call away from condemnation. The sexton’s house was in shambles as was the rector’s garage, both needing demolition. Only the Church and the rectory remained intact, but both were in dire need of significant repairs. The parish was also in arrears on some of its financial responsibilities, and the endowment which had done well for a number of years was not nearly enough to sustain the parish for much longer. The future looked bleak, and something of significance had to be done soon to arrest the downward spiral.
In 1995 under the leadership of Father Crothers, the congregation held a retreat to explore options to save the church and its ministry. As a result of this meeting, the Vestry was charged to develop a plan that would use the parish’s primary asset, its land, and to identify a project that would provide an outreach component, a good facility to replace the loss of the parish hall and a financial component that would prove a surplus to ensure that the church would survive.
This was a daunting charge in a fluctuating economy, and many different programs were considered; a number were immediately dismissed, and some looked promising until the market changed during the due diligence process.