The fascinating history of the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, and of our church family, unfolds as a unique blend of triumph, misfortune, growth, and decline, with a memorable cast of characters. More than 270 years ago, in 1743--the same year in which Thomas Jefferson was born--the weaving of our history began when early settler Jonathan Havens set aside land and the first church building was erected on the same site as our present structure. However, it was not until the ministry of the Reverend Daniel Hall, which began in 1806, that a statement of faith and covenant was written "that was conformable to the order and discipline of the Presbyterian Church."
One major piece of the fabric in our church's historical tapestry is the numerous building projects which our congregation has undertaken. Brinley Sylvester II, whose father had been in charge of building the first Meeting House on Shelter Island, secured the services of our first pastor and donated several thousand dollars to support a place of worship here. Upon this legacy, a blossoming of building began. The same men and women who pledged $125 to support Rev. Hall for one year were soon confident enough in their faith and their congregation to plan for a new worship center.
The construction of this new structure was interrupted by the death of Rev. Hall in 1812, during the war with England. By 1817, it was finally completed at which time the congregation had grown almost too large for the new building. In 1826, a bequest of $8,000 from Benjamin Conkling enabled the erection of a belfry on the church as well as an expansion of the building to accommodate the growing congregation. In addition, this allowed the purchase of our first parsonage, located on what is now Baldwin Road. Not only was our church expanding through building projects, but membership was growing as well. Daniel Lord, a pastor with a notable reputation throughout Suffolk County, was installed as our minister in 1847. His arrival marked a dramatic rise in church membership. The Rev. Jacob Mallman served the church for nearly a quarter of a century beginning in 1895. He is remembered for being the last of the strict Calvinists. He was also responsible for installing the church organ and stained glass windows. One of our pastors, Rev. Jacob Mallman, was noted as the author of Shelter Island and Its Presbyterian Church. the major source for most of this history.
In 1934, the church was destroyed by fire and more than a few tears were shed when our large bell was dashed to the ground and shattered into pieces. But with a determined and intrepid spirit, the congregation erected our present sanctuary as well as the fellowship hall in a little more than a year.
The more recent history of the church has been one of adjusting to challenges and changes as life on Shelter Island evolves. There are now a significant number of summer residents on Shelter Island as well as the surrounding area who attend services. Many of these attendees are adjunct members of the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. William Grimbol served this church for more than 25 years. During this time, the church was true to its tradition of expanding its buildings and services to the congregation and community. The sanctuary and fellowship hall now have air conditioning as well as the addition of much-needed office space. Important to the future of our church, a new Manse (parsonage) was completed. Under the leadership of Pastor Bill, the church became a gathering place for the youth of Shelter Island. Aside from fun activities, Pastor Bill led discussions on questions of ethics, morality, and other issues of concern to young people. Numerous community groups, including The Dinner Bell for Seniors, Meals on Wheels, the Pre-School, The Food Pantry, musical concerts, and many other activities are now hosted at the church, reaching out and impacting the entire Shelter Island community.