Woodbury History

A Brief History of Woodbury Union Church, Presbyterian

Written in celebration of our 100th Anniversary!  (2008)


One hundred years ago the village of Conimicut was one of fourteen trolley stops between the city of Providence and the summer resort community of Oakland Beach.  There was no church in the area, so Mr. Frank Sainsbury sought to remedy the problem by founding a Sunday School for the religious education of the neighborhood children.  In August of 1906, he went to the school committee and asked for permission to use the school house for this purpose.  The request was granted, and on a stormy Sunday afternoon in September of 1906, six people gathered for the first meeting of the new Conimicut Village Sunday School

From that modest beginning the Sunday School grew rapidly, and by December the enrollment had increased to fifty-five students.  The success of the children's program prompted the families to consider expanding the Sunday School into a spiritual meeting place for adults as well.  On April 9, 1907 a church corporation was formed, and the new congregation was named "The Woodbury Union Church of Conimicut".  The land for the church building was donated by Mrs. Ida Wright, and the church was named in honor of her father, Mr. Samuel Woodbury.

The State of Rhode Island granted a charter for the church on May 21, 1907, and the cornerstone was laid on November 9 of that year.  The completed church building was dedicated on March 8, 1908, with sixty-four students in the Sunday School and one hundred sixty worshippers attending the services.

In those early years the church continued to grow despite the lack of a regular pastor.  Clergymen of different denominations preached at services held on Sunday afternoons.  In 1933 a fire swept through the building, and the congregation rallied and rebuilt the damaged parts of the church.  In subsequent years the church continued to grow, as new groups were formed and the church building was enlarged.

In the 1940s the church began to search for a denomination to join, in hopes of attracting a long-term pastor.  On February 22, 1948, Woodbury Union Church became Woodbury Union Church, Presbyterian, with one hundred sixty-five charter members.  "Union" was retained in the name because the church was still ecumenical in spirit, a point the congregation wished to emphasize.

In 1948 the Rev. Frederic B. Ackley became pastor and served until his untimely death in the spring of 1972.  The Rev. William Lover was installed as pastor in November of 1972 and remained with the congregation until 1999.  In August of 2002 the church called our current pastor, the Rev. Beth Appel.

Through one hundred years the church building has undergone many changes and improvements.  Gone are the days of the trolley in Conimicut Village, which is now a bustling city suburb.  Yet throughout the years, the people of Woodbury Union Church have remained steadfast in faithfulness and generosity, serving Christ in the heart of the community and in the world.