The Church on the Neck
On Sunday morning, July 6, 2003, two churches were meeting in the city of Warwick.
The first, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was meeting on Warwick Neck Avenue, where they had been meeting for close to one hundred years. Initially the church was located at the corner of Rocky Point Avenue and Warwick Neck Avenue. In the 1920’s, the church building was moved to the corner of Channing Street and Warwick Neck Avenue. St. Mary’s was a center of community life on Warwick Neck. It is hard to find a long-time resident of Warwick Neck who has not attended some event at St. Mary’s. In 1959, the church built an education/fellowship hall behind the original building. Equipped with a full kitchen, the hall was host to many activities over the years.
That Sunday, the second church, Heritage Christian Fellowship, was conducting its first meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The congregation continued meeting there until October of that year, when they began meeting at the Hampton Inn on Post Road. After meeting in hotels for a year and a half, the church began to look for a place that was located in a neighborhood. They contacted a local realtor, Don Morash of Abbott Realty, who helped them to start meeting at the Cornerstone Adult Services in Warwick Neck in December 2004. This proved to be a wonderful location. Not only did it allow the church to become part of a great neighborhood, it also provided a location for a church office. The years spent at Cornerstone were a wonderful time for Heritage. As wonderful as it was, the congregation continued to look for a place they could use seven days a week.
In the spring of 2010, the paths of these two churches converged. With a dwindling congregation, St. Mary’s felt they could no longer continue meeting in their own facility. Because of this, St. Mary’s merged with St. Barnabas in Apponaug in April 2010. When the leaders of Heritage heard that St. Mary’s was closing, they contacted the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island about the possibility of leasing the church. After meeting with the leaders of the former St. Mary’s, Heritage was able to move into the newer building in July 2010.
The transition proved to be beneficial for both churches. Heritage was able to finally establish themselves as permanent presence in a neighborhood they had grown to love. For St. Mary’s, it meant that their work on Warwick Neck would be continued by another church. When they merged with St. Barnabas, one of their concerns was the fate of Pack 1 of the Cub Scouts and Troop 1 of the Boy Scouts. These two scouting organizations were the first of their kind in Warwick and had been meeting at St. Mary’s for many years. When Heritage moved into the building, they assumed the responsibility for these two groups enabling them to continue meeting in Warwick Neck.
In 2015, St. Barnabas informed Heritage of their desire to sell the former St. Mary’s church property and asked if they would be interested in purchasing it. Although the property could have been sold for a higher price, St. Barnabas accepted the offer from Heritage in order to keep it as a church. The agreement was reached fairly quickly, however there were many legal issues to be resolved. In September, 2016, the purchase of the property was completed, and Heritage Christian Fellowship became a permanent part of Warwick Neck.
The church continues its efforts to be a vital part of the Warwick Neck community. It serves as a polling place for the primary and general elections every even year. Every September, Heritage invites the community to be a part of its fall festival. Each December, the ladies of Heritage begin the Christmas season with a Victorian Ladies Tea.
Although Heritage continues to meet in the educational building, the goal is to once again use the original structure as a church. This will be a major undertaking. Before the property was sold, much of the interior furnishing was sold to former parishioners of St. Mary’s and must be replaced. Also, one of the reasons Heritage rented the education building was the fact there are no restrooms in the original building. In order to begin meeting in the original building, restrooms will have to be installed. Finally, Heritage wants the church to represent Warwick Neck in a positive way. To do this, the building needs to be repainted. It has been over ten years since it was last painted and much work needs to be done be make it look the way it should. To help cover the costs of these renovations, a GoFundMe fund has been established. If you would like be a part of this, please go to GoFundMe.com/renovating-the-past to make a donation.
Until next time, may God bless you,