It was near here in the late 16th Century that the Protestant religion had it’s beginning in what became the United States of America. In August 1587, the first English child to be born in the “New World.” The newborn Virginia Dare, was baptized in the Anglican faith on Roanoke Island across Roanoke Sound from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Native American chieftains, Manteo and Wanchese, had been baptized.
After the disappearance of the Lost Colony, there is a long break in the records until strangely enough the Episcopal Church returned to these shores. In 1849, a house of prayer named All Saints’ was built at Nags Head, the sound side summer retreat of the congregations of Edenton and Elizabeth City, NC. The Rt. Rev. Silliman Ives consecrated the chapel on August 18, 1850, the anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare. He also “ordained, in the same chapel, to the Holy Order of Priesthood, The Rev. William R. Gries.” Three persons were confirmed that same day. The chapel nestled near a sandy dune just east of the sound, but the precise location is lost for all time.
The shores of the Outer Banks and All Saints’ Chapel hosted the Albemarle Convocation of the Diocese of North Carolina in August of 1859 and of 1860. This included parish priests and vestry members from those Episcopal churches in Northeastern North Carolina. Picture this group debarking from a sailing ship at the wharf, accompanied by their families, servants, and baggage. Food, linens, bedding, whatever, had to be brought along for basic creature comfort as the boats only came intermittently from Edenton or Elizabeth City unless by private charter.
During the Civil War, the Federal Troops under General Burnside tore down All Saints’ Chapel and the materials from the building were used to build shelter for runaway slaves who found refuge on Roanoke Island. E.R. Outlaw, Jr. in his book, “Old Nags Head,” relates that “affidavits were obtained and a claim presented to Congress for payment for the loss of this building.” A little over $700 made it to the Outer Banks plus some monies that had been collected (as the worshippers met at Winston Cottage and in other homes) during the five summers without chapel facilities.
Under the leadership of The Rev. Brent Drane, D.D., construction of a new chapel was commenced on two of the old hotel lots between two sand hills, Engagement Hill and Hotel Hill. The chancel and sanctuary were consecrated on August 6, 1916, the Feast of the Transfiguration, by the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Darst, D.D. The body of the church, the nave, was dedicated for general community use, and a curtain was present which could separate the nave from the chancel and sanctuary.
Mr. S.J. Twine built the current chapel in its original location (as well as many of the private cottages in the beachfront Historic District. With shifting sands and a problem of standing rainwaters however, accessibility to the chapel became a growing concern.
With the construction of the “beach road”, Virginia Dare Trail, it was decided that the church structure should be moved. Arrangements were made, lots were secured and in 1937, St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea chapel was moved to its present location.
In 1936, a summer resident had reported that hurricane forces and rain left the chapel with a slight list so this was corrected in the relocation. (Another “blow” in late 1944, also left the chapel building slightly atilt and surrounded by standing water.)
The Rev. Robert B. Drane, D.D., continued in charge of St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea until his death on October, 1939, so he was involved in both the building and moving of St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea.
The bell from old All Saints’ had been saved over the years on a farm in Pasquotank County, NC. It was gifted back in 1937 and installed in a newly added belfry and from there it has welcomed parishioners, celebrated weddings and proclaimed our hope in the Resurrection over the ensuing years. It carries the inscription, “From McNeely, West Troy, NY – 1853.”
In due time, a guest apartment, and later, a large screened in porch were added at the rear of the chapel for the convenience of visitor-clergy and their families. Thus were summer services assured The two rooms now serve as the sacristy and a robing room.
In 1949 a member donated eleven additional lots to the parish holdings. Several were sold a few years later to Grace Lutheran Church. The rest of the donated property expanded the church grounds and the frontage on Virginia Dare Trail. The Rev. Frederick B. Drane, Monroe, NC (with help from The Rev. George Frank Hill, Elizabeth City, NC) had succeeded his father as “rector” of St. Andrew’s after 1939 and was responsible for much of the carved furnishings in the sanctuary.
With the increase in permanent residents in Dare County, the chapel became a year-round institution. The Rev. A.C.D. Noe began his ministry in 1954 with a permanent congregation of 16 members. After Mission Status was attained in 1955, it was not long before the little chapel became an Aided Parish next under the leadership of The Rev. Robert W. Turner.
Succeeding him was the Rev. Joseph P. Burroughs under whose direction the old Parish Hall was built in 1962. The Rev. Kenneth L. Whitney came in 1963 and with the burning of the mortgage in 1968, St. Andrew’s came to full Parish Status.
The Rev. Stan Easty served for 10 years after 1972, followed by the Rev. K. Weldon (Don) Porcher, who, later, was aided by the Rev. Hillary M. West as Assistant Rector. In the late 1980s, a wing to accommodate the chapel schoolrooms was constructed. With the illness and resignation of Mr. Porcher, The Rev. Milton Cole came as interim priest and remained until the arrival of our rector, Rev. Charles E.B. Gill in 1994. The Rev. William H. Brake, Jr., came to St. Andrew’s in 1999 as Priest Associate. Rev. Brake retired in 2005 and Rev. Gill in 2008. The Rev. Randy Green served as our interim rector until the arrival of The Rev. Phillip R. Glick in August of 2010. Rev. Glick served faithfully until his retirement in September of 2018. We called our current Rector, The Rev. Nathan M. Finnin, in June of 2020.
In 1995 St. Andrew’s planted a mission in Southern Shores. It bears the name of the earlier church of All Saints’ and is now a thriving congregation.
The nave of St. Andrew’s was consecrated in 1996 by the Rt. Rev. B. Sidney Sanders, Bishop, as part of the celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the chapel and its service to the Outer Banks.
In 1997, St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea purchased several adjacent lots to the west and south in order to provide sufficient property for additional growth. Plans were developed for a new church (seating 400), new parish hall, classrooms and office space. On July 3, 2003 the project was completed and the first worship services were held in the new church on Sunday, July 6, 2003. The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, 3rd, Bishop of East Carolina, consecrated the new church on October 12, 2003. Fourteen persons were confirmed that day. On Ash Wednesday, February 9, 2005 the new outdoor altar was dedicated. It provides a place for burial of ashes and is used for outdoor services, such Easter Sunrise and memorial services.