St An's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church

First Sanctuary - 1888

History of St. Ann's by-the-Sea


Since 1888, when the first of a hardy group of dedicated Episcopalians decided to form a mission on Block Island, St. Ann's by-the-Sea has been an Episcopal spiritual presence on these shores. Since that time, the church and the island have moved in harmony, from the building of the first sanctuary in the late 19th century to the devastation of the Depression. The Hurricane of 1938 destroyed the church building, at its former location across from the Spring House Hotel on Spring Street, and set the congregation adrift.

During the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, both the island and St. Ann's struggled. Even though the congregation had lost a physical sanctuary, their faith remained steadfast and they continued regular worship services at the foundation of the old church in warmer weather and in people's homes and at the island library basement in the off-season.


In 1979, with a generous gift of land from Dr. Lincoln Dunn, St. Ann's found a new home, farther south on Spring Street. As the island prospered, so too did the church, culminating in the building of the present sanctuary and vicarage in 1985.

Today, with Block Island prospering as never before, St. Ann's faces the challenge of continuing to grow, and becoming a more meaningful and active Episcopal spiritual presence within the fabric of the larger island community.

Bill Stringfellow  

A Bright Light in St Ann's History

April 26, 1928 – March 2, 1985

Frank William Stringfellow was an American lay theologian. He grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Northampton High School. He obtained several scholorships and entered Bates College is Lewiston, Maine at the age of 15. Stringfellow went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. After graduation, he moved to a tenement in Harlem, New York City, to work as a tireless advocate for racial and social justice. He was a vocal critic of the social, military, and economic policies of the U.S. in the turbulent decades of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

Stringfellow was a member of St. Ann’s and lived on Block Island. He sheltered Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in his Block Island home when the Federal Authorities were seeking to imprison Berrigan for his acts of civil disobedience. He continues to inspire those who value the biblical text as a source for confronting the “powers” that oppress the poor and marginalized. You can find some of his work in our new parish library.


Among his many books and publications:


     Free in Obedience - Seabury Press, 1964 

     Count it All Joy - Eerdmans, 1967 

     Imposters of God: Inquiries into Favorite Idols - Witness Books, 1969

     The Politics of Spirituality - Westminster Press, 1984