St. Dunstan's Church Celebrates 50 Years of Joyful Service

ST DUNSTAN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH TO CELEBRATE FIFTY YEARS IN SUCCASUNNA

St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Succasunna will celebrate 50 years of worship and joyful service to the community.  The Rev. Virginia Dinsmore, Priest-in-Charge, will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary Sunday morning Eucharist on the 22nd at 9:30 a.m.  The church is located at 179 S. Hillside Avenue, Succasunna, NJ 07876 (973-927-1485).

An anniversary dinner is planned for Saturday, September 21st  from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. to celebrate St Dunstan’s fifty years of Christian worship and service to Roxbury and surrounding communities since September of 1963.   The celebratory dinner will be catered by Jim Buckingham, who was confirmed at the church. 

Named for Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury in the tenth century, St Dunstan’s has honored the traditions of the worldwide Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church as a parish in the Diocese of Newark.  St. Dunstan’s has been the scene of many weddings and funerals, baptisms, thousands of Holy Eucharists, confirmations, Christmases and Easters, and all the other feasts that mark the church year.

St Dunstan’s is home to The Nursery School at St. Dunstan’s, which has faithfully cared for and nurtured thousands of the township’s preschoolers for more than 40 years.  For decades it has opened its doors to Alcoholics Anonymous and various other community organizations in need of space for meetings. The Reverend Robert Mason, rector of the parish for more than 20 years and a well-known ecumenical figure in Roxbury and the Diocese, also was a longtime member of the Roxbury Rotary.  St. Dunstan’s is the charter organization for Cub Scout Pack 163, and its first den mother, Beverly Caras, is still an active parishioner.  Many proud parents have seen their children grow in Sunday School, been confirmed by the Bishops, and then graduate to go on to college and successful lives.  Succasunna resident Linn O’Hara comments on her Facebook page that St. Dunstan’s has been “… my second family for 27 years now.”  Jean Rich, a parishioner who was one of the founding members of the church, remembers the first priest, Reverend Tom Henry, who left corporate life as an attorney, to join the Episcopal Church and lead St. Dunstan’s.  Hard work, lots of labor by parishioners, and a forward-looking attitude built a strong foundation.  Jean jokes with her son that he is a part of the church’s foundation because he accidentally lost a personal keepsake into the cement when the foundation was laid. She also fondly recalls the opportunities for social engagement that St. Dunstan’s provided for her teenage children.  At one point the church ran a Night Club for teenagers in the Roxbury area. A silent auction and spaghetti supper, supported by hundreds of local businesses (among them Ashley Farms in Flanders, Knight’s Automotive Repair in Succasunna, and Burrini’s Olde World Market in Randolph), is now an annual event held every November.

Reverend Dinsmore continues to lead the parishioners in joining in community service and fellowship. When Superstorm Sandy devastated the northeast on October 29, 2012, St. Dunstan’s miraculously retained its electricity and internet connectivity.  The church opened its doors as a warming and charging station for everybody, and many local families were assisted through donations made in cooperation with other local houses of worship. 

This young parish has already secured its place in the history of Roxbury Township and Morris County. St. Dunstan’s was once the location of the Deaf Contact Center in Western Morris County. Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was a guest who celebrated the Sunday Eucharist here in the early 1980's, while “apartheid” was still the law in South Africa.  One of the first women to be ordained as an Episcopal priest celebrated the Eucharist here in the mid 1970's. One of our founding parishioners, the late Rev. Nancy Talmage, wife of Roxbury’s beloved country doctor “Doc” Talmage, became the second oldest woman ever to be ordained in the Episcopal Church.  Our church library is named in memory of another beloved long-time member, Mrs. Connie Lane, who served as Librarian at the Roxbury Public Library on Main Street in Succasunna in both the old building and the new one.  (Before she was ordained, Nancy Talmage worked hard to save and preserve the Victorian gazebo from the old Library which now graces the new Library’s entrance.)  Another long-time parishioner, the late Isabel Emmerich, retired to Georgia and worked tirelessly to create the St Nicholas Episcopal Church in her new diocese there. Sander Zulauf, the first poet laureate of the Episcopal Church, appointed in 1999 by Bishop John Shelby Spong, makes St Dunstan’s his parish home.  David Watts, St Dunstan’s music minister, is a direct descendant of the 18th century church musician and hymn writer Isaac Watts.

In addition to its role as a leading Christian Church in the community, St. Dunstan’s has partnered with Roxbury Social Services for many decades.  Parishioners donate school supplies at the start of each school year, as well as contributing to regular food collections for our neighbors in need.   Dozens of complete family meals are gathered and donated at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. St. Dunstan’s also donates funds annually to a “Nets for Life” program that helps people in sub-Saharan Africa, easily saving hundreds of children from painful deaths caused by malaria.  The North Porch location in Dover receives essentials like formula and diapers for moms and their infants.  The knitting ministry provides baby blankets and prayer shawls blessed at the altar to comfort the newborn and the elderly.  Other ongoing outreach opportunities important to the life of the church include supporting Olde Suckasunny Day, the Millennium Development Goals, the Diocesan Alleluia Fund, Apostle’s House in Newark, the Seaman’s Church Institute, and the Roxbury Day of Service, which remembers those who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks by offering time and talents to our neighbors. 

Donations to St. Dunstan’s to help mark this historic milestone in the life of the church and the community are deeply appreciated and will be gratefully accepted. All are welcome to worship with us at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays at 179 S. Hillside Avenue, Succasunna.  More information on our parish community web site:  http://stdunstansuccasunna.org/ or on our Facebook site:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Dunstans-Episcopal-Church/195507840519520?hc_location=stream.

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