Pratt Avenue Mission
The first Episcopal worship, in the Pottersville section of Somerset, was conducted by the Reverend Edward Benedict, Rector of Christ Church in Swansea. It was held in a Pottersville barn on 14 May 1905. During the following two years, the mission purchased land and built a Church on Pratt Avenue, Somerset. Services were first held here on 3 March 1907. Shortly thereafter, the Ven. Samuel G. Babcock, Archdeacon of New Bedford, lead the worship until 1910. From 1910 through 1948 services were lead by the Rev. John Wynne Jones, followed by the Rev. Sherrill B. Smith, both of whom were also Rectors of Christ Church, Swansea.
The Church of Our Saviour drew up papers of incorporation on 5 July 1939, and in 1946 a prefabricated parish house was erected to form an ell with the Pratt Avenue Church. From 1948, services were lead by George R. Dewhurst, until in 1958, the Reverend Alden R. Burhoe became priest-in-charge. By 1958 the mission had secured the resources to purchase a Rectory and establish the Vicar on a full time basis. The small Church quickly outgrew its capacity, as an immediate result of acquiring an ordained clergyman. The expansion of Somerset as a suburban community of Fall River added to the growth.
County Street Church
In 1961, efforts were started to secure a new parish building. Acreage was purchased on County Street in Somerset, and on Sunday, 22 July 1962, the cornerstone was laid by the Venerable Louis B. Sheen, Archdeacon of New Bedford. The new building was dedicated by Bishop Anson P. Stokes on 23 February 1963.
In 1966, the Church of Our Saviour was admitted as a parish in union with the Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts. On 15 May Mr. Burhoe was instituted as the parish’s first Rector by Bishop Stokes. By 1976, a full three years ahead of schedule, the parish was able to discharge its debt. Bishop John B. Coburn lead the congregation in burning the mortgage and consecrating the Church on Sunday, 17 October 1976.
At the end of December, 1994, after 37 years of service to the Church of Our Saviour, the Reverend Burhoe retired. The Church of Our Saviour has become a “typical” suburban Church. Over the years, the Church of Our Saviour and Reverend Burhoe had become very comfortable with each other. This coupled with the rapid growth of the sixties and the construction of the new building, has produced a stable parish that served its members and the community.
Our interim Rector, Father Robert Blumenstock, served the Church of Our Saviour for almost three years. He provided a different worship service and a different approach to leadership. This was definitely an enlightening period that helped the church realize different possibilities and perspectives.
Starting in 1995, the parish undertook its first search for a full time Rector. In 1997 the Search committee presented and the Vestry unanimously approved Fr. Anthony Vanucci as a full time Rector. Fr. tony was enthusiastically received and undertook expanding our membership and growing our church. During his tenure, we explored the possibility of expanding the church building, selling the Rectory, building a permanent sunday school facility, building a memorial garden, and renting out the church facilities on a full time basis to raise revenues. Eventually the congregation realized they preferred to efficiently maintain the property we had rather than incurring the debt necessary to expand. Thanks to Fr. Tony's determination and generous donations from parishioners, the memorial garden was initiated during this period.
At the end of 1999, after a period of some conflict, Fr. Tony accepted a call to a different parish. After 6 months of various interim ministers, a priest-in-charch was recommended by the Diocese and approved by our Vestry. During the last few years, under the guidance of Reverend Dr. Clare Yarborough, the parish has been blessed to undergo a period of healing and reconciliation. we have focused on developing our individual strengths, and have a strong community presence with church suppers, an annual Christmas bazaar, and a family faire in the early summer. We provide Episcopal support for our members with Bible Study, Sunday School, hospital visits, regularly scheduled worship services, special services for holidays and a public memorial garden with a location for reflection and prayer.
The Church property includes a Rectory adjacent to the Church. This property was used as a Rectory in the early days of the County Street Church. Today this property houses the very successful Annelle DeLorme Hagerman Food Bank. The food bank reaches out to our surrounding community and provides relief to many in need.
Rev. Clare's three year commitment to Our Saviour as Priest-in-Charge ended in August 2003, at which time she accepted a permanent position in Weymouth, MA at Trinity Church which she started in January 2004. She served Our Saviour well in her ability to heal the rift which threatened to divide the parish. Once again Our Saviour has been blessed, this time with Rev. Beulah Koulouris, who became our Interim Priest in January of 2004 and stayed until a new rector was found. Rev. Beulah remained at Our Saviour until the end of January 2005.
Our Search Committee concluded its search for a permanent rector when they called the Rev. Bonnie Sarah Spencer, who began her ministry at Our Saviour on the first weekend of February 2005. Her installation was celebrated on May 10, 2005 with The Right Rev. Roy F. Cederholm Jr. in attendance. During Rev. Bonnie’s time many things began to happen: Sunday School attendance increased and pledges increased 15%. The Jr. and Sr. High School students enjoyed monthly “Rappin’ with the Rev” sessions. Soup Suppers with Bible Study led by Rev. Bonnie were popular during Lent and Advent. On January 13, 2006 the Meal Ministry served its first meal during Food Bank distribution time. Meals continue to be served during distributions. During that year the congregation grew and changed to become more like a family working together by being friendlier, more welcoming, and closer to each other. In 2007 the Visibility and Vitality Team was formed to research Gospel based discipleship. This group later became the ongoing God’s Purpose Seekers (GPS), which anyone is welcome to attend. Our first Church Retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Camp was held and became a time of closeness, growth and excitement. In 2008 Rev. Bonnie felt the call back to Colorado and January 4, 2009 was her last time with us. She left the church stronger and healthier.
The Rev. Billie Mae Gordon became our part-time Interim June 2009-August 2009. The congregation was well prepared “like a well-oiled machine” to work together keeping the church committees and commitments functioning. During this time Paula Toland became our first Postulant. Also, Family Services approached the Vestry to use the Undercroft for a Senior Day Care that remained over a year.
In September 2009, the Rev. Kate Cress arrived as part-time deacon-in-charge, with the Rev. Richard Reid serving as her sacramentalist. Rev. Kate’s ordination took place on January 10, 2010 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston with many church members in attendance. Rev. Kate’s warm, welcoming personality and vast life experiences have inspired us all. Many families have joined us in worship and as family partners. Pledging increased so Rev. Kate is now working two-thirds instead of half-time. The Rev. Virgilio Fortuna, a vocational deacon, was ordained June 16, 2012, and works in outreach ministries with the parish. Members from the church and local Somerset schools went on a mission trip to Kenya in August 2012, the beginning of a new outreach to the school children of Amagoro, Kenya. October 2012 will be the fifth Parish Retreat. In May 2013 the Church of Our Saviour looks forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary, the culmination of many years of life and service together in Christ.