Chapter II - Miss Lindsley’s Vision
Miss Emily Earle Lindsley, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, was an artist who lived at 39 Larchmont Avenue. She was a member of New Rochelle’s First Presbyterian Church whose pastor was the Rev. George Reynolds, D.D.
When real estate developers began to open up land untouched for centuries, and build houses on it, Miss Lindsley could foresee that eventually another church would be needed in Larchmont. She approached Dr. Reynolds in 1910 about the possibility of starting another church but he doubted that there was a need for one. However, Miss Lindsley, never one to give up easily when convinced her cause was right, persisted for four years until finally, in 1914, Dr. Reynolds presented the needs of Larchmont to the Committee of Church Extension and Church Erection of the Presbytery of Westchester.
After investigating the situation, the Presbytery agreed to finance the work for ten weeks and sent the Rev. Charles Carhart to proceed with the project. The Larchmonter-Times reported:
"There is a movement under way in which many of our residents are interested – that of forming a new church of a denomination different from those already established in Larchmont. A meeting was held in the school house at which there was present a good representation of people interested in the movement. In addition to Larchmont residents, the Woods of Larchmont and other adjacent sections were represented."
The meeting was addressed by Dr. Robert McGregor, pastor of the North Avenue Church, New Rochelle, the Rev. Charles Carhart and Mr. William Vander Roest. They discussed not only the feasibility of starting a new church but, if started, with what denomination it should be affiliated, what it should be named, and where it should meet.
The first worship service was held in Miss Lindsley’s home on May 17, 1914. Forty persons attended, nine of them children. Mr. Carhart preached the sermon. At that service, Miss Helena Flint offered her carriage house, which Miss Lindsley used as a studio, for a meeting place, and all subsequent worship services were held there. A pulpit was improvised from an old newel post which supported a drawing board covered with a piece of drapery, while plaster casts of Caesar, Nero, Agrippa and Diana watched proceedings from pedestals ranged around the walls.
Sometime later, the North Avenue Church of New Rochelle presented the congregation with a pulpit, the First Presbyterian Church of New Rochelle gave seventy-five hymnals and Mrs. William Shelton loaned an organ. These aided materially in the conduct of the services and were much appreciated.
The Sunday School was organized on May 31, 1914, by Mr. Gilbert Terry who served as superintendent until he moved away from Larchmont. In
1859, a well-known New England historian, the Rev. Henry Dexter, D.D., wrote a pamphlet entitled "Meeting Houses" which says: "The first meeting places for Sabbath worship on this soil were not even meeting houses. The Jamestown Company first worshipped under an awning of old sails tied to three or four trees; the Pilgrims under the cedars of Clark’s Island; Winthrop’s Company under the huge Charleston oak. The Common House at Plymouth and the Great House at Mishawan served the purpose of Sabbath worship and of week day shelter until time, strength, and materials could be spared."
Hence, it is not unfitting but rather in the historic tradition that our Church, for the first year and a half of its existence, should have held worship services in a carriage house converted to a studio on week days "until time, strength, and materials could be spared."
On June 7, 1914, the congregation voted unanimously that "formal organization be sought without delay and that the Presbytery of Westchester be asked to organize the congregation as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ."
The Presbytery appointed a commission comprised of the Rev. Paul Stratton, Moderator, Rev. Frank Hunnewell, Rev. George Reynolds, Rev. Robert McGregor, Rev. Lewis Leary (he did not come), Rev. Charles Carhart, Rev. James Gillespie and Elders Ralph Prime, Henry Lester and Charles Harvey to organize the church.
On Sunday, June 28th, the commission met at Miss Lindsley’s home at 3:00 P.M., received letters of members coming from other churches, and six persons by confession of faith. They then adjourned to meet at the public service in the studio for the purpose of organizing the Larchmont Presbyterian Church.
The Larchmonter-Times reported, "In spite of threatening weather, a congregation gathered which overflowed the capacity of the studio, fully a quarter of those in attendance being outside the broad doors, on the porch and under the trees. It was a thankful and a hopeful company when the Moderator declared: ‘I therefore, by the authority of Westchester Presbytery and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ do pronounce and declare that you and your children are now regularly organized as the Presbyterian Church in Larchmont under the Presbytery of Westchester.’"
Of the fifty-one communicants received into membership, twenty-nine were Presbyterian, six Baptist, five Methodist Episcopal, two Reformed, two Church of Scotland, one Congregational, one Protestant Episcopal and six by confession of faith.
Three elders, Mr. C. William Kessler, Jr., Mr. James McDowell and Mr. William Vander Roest were ordained; also two deacons, Mr. Frank L. Norris and Mr. John DeWitt. An infant, George Robert Hamilton was baptized.