For more than 250 years, Norfield Church has been central to the life of Weston.
Norfield, the North Field of the coastal town of Fairfield (est. 1639), represented the first attempts by settlers to develop the inlands. After years of struggling with traveling from country farms to the church and government centers then located at Green’s Farms in the town of Westport, the earliest Westonites, called Outlivers, petitioned to have their own Parish.
The petition had been drafted by men from parts of the Green's Farms and Greenfield Hill Societies, then Fairfield, and from a small part of the Norwalk Society—thus the name Norfield. It was to be an ecclesiastical society founded in the Puritan tradition, with all the responsibilities and privileges of other societies similarly founded. The new society could levy taxes, build a meeting house, schools, and roads, as well as direct the spiritual and social life of the members of its congregation.
Barely a month after the Connecticut General Assembly created the Norfield Society, David Coley, Nathan Morris, and David Godfrey summoned the first meeting. The month was June and the year, 1757; about thirty years after permanent settlement began in what would become the town of Weston.
The Church was chartered as an Ecclesiastical Society, holding both political and religious authority, by the Connecticut Colony in 1757, and the first meeting was held on June 23 of that year. After the founding of the United States in 1776, the church and the town separated.
Among the business matters at that first meeting was the summons of Reverend Samuel Sherwood as the first minister. His salary of "fifty pound lawful money for the first three years, from this dait, July the fourth Day, 1757 with a bonus of Sixty pound a Yeare annually..." proved to be a sound investment. The Rev. Sherwood ultimately ministered to the society for the next 26 years. Sherwood was born in Green's Farms, now part of Westport, in 1730 and remained with Norfield until his death in 1783.
With a minister in place, Norfielders recognized the need for a meetinghouse. After some initial disagreement as to the location of such an important center of the community, a site was chosen near the present intersection of Kettle Creek Road and Heritage Lane. Financing of the meetinghouse was difficult and work progressed slowly. Church minutes taken at meetings during the next decade make it clear that the building was at best a very crude structure, perhaps never even completely finished.
In 1784, with the Revolutionary War barely over, the people of Norfield found themselves embarrassed by the miserable sight of their meetinghouse and set about rectifying the situation. Part of the problem seemed to be the location and after a fierce debate a new site was chosen on land donated by Samuel Rowland "so long as the said inhabitants shall maintain a House of Public Worship..." The new site was near the present intersection of Norfield and Old Hyde Roads.
A New Minister
Reverend Sherwood died in May of 1783, and with a new meetinghouse came the need for a new minister. The following November, Reverend John Noyes, a young man fresh from Yale, was invited to settle in Norfield. Noyes declined the offer on the grounds that he was too young and unprepared to make such a commitment. A year later an additional offer of seventy-five pounds and forty loads of wood a year, plus a bonus of one hundred pounds to be paid for over four years were still not enough to convince him. The following spring Norfield again made their offer and this time it was accepted, and the relationship lasted: where Rev. Sherwood had served the church for twenty-six years, Rev. Noyes remained and went on to serve almost twice that long.
Yale educated John Noyes married Eunice Sherwood, a daughter of Rev. Samuel, and they eventually became the parents of seven sons and two daughters. Rev. Noyes was an ardent patriot, a devout Christian, a powerful speaker and well-liked by the parishioners, yet church membership dropped significantly after the war.
In the face of declining membership, Rev. Noyes did his best to maintain the church. In March, 1806, his health began to fail and a year later he asked to be released. No permanent minister followed him, and it was not until 1835 that Rev. Noyes was able to officially retire.
In 1829, the congregation elected to build the third (and present) meetinghouse on the parade ground given the parish by Thaddeus Burr many years earlier. The grounds were set aside for military parades, drilling exercises, a school, and whatever else "as the People Shall think proper..." The Building was completed and dedicated in 1831, with hope that the future would hold more promise for the Norfield Society than previous years.
The Norfield church building went on to serve for town meetings until 1883, when a town hall and fire house was built right behind the church. The town’s one-room schoolhouse was also located here. It survives today as the Banks Room in our Parish Hall.
Up to Today
Norfield still has a strong public profile, hosting the Weston Senior Lunch programs, Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, and political forums, along with Norfield’s own fellowship programs, concerts, and meals. Rev. Robert W. Greene began his long tenure in 1955, leading the church until 1988, during a time of great growth and change for the town and the parish.
The present Norfield campus includes the Parsonage; the Memorial Garden; the Carriage Shed; the Parish Hall and Offices, incorporating the old schoolhouse (Banks Room) and the new Mike Tine Youth Room; the Christian Education Building and Memorial Chapel, and the Greene Room behind the chancel in the church building and a Casavant Frères pipe organ.
The building and congregation have prospered over time. The meetinghouse underwent a major renovation in 1989-90, including the replacement of the church's bell.
Norfield Congregational Church now serves as a spiritual home to over 560 members who share in faith and fellowship in the historic white meetinghouse atop the hill overlooking beautiful Weston, Connecticut.