John Gordon was a “Student Pastor” when he came to Montauk in 1936. He appears to have held that designation for about a year, until some time in 1937 when his name appeared in the “Churches” column of the East Hampton Star without the designation “Student.” The peaceful scene of cozy domesticity that emanates from this Christmas card belies Reverend Gordon’s call to guide his congregation through two of the most impactful incidents in Montauk history: the 1938 Hurricane and World War II.
In spite of these calamitous events of the 1930s and 40s, there were also happy, productive ties with the community that affixed Gordon’s name to Montauk’s future. Reported in the EH Star on November 3, 1938, was the establishment of the Montauk Boy Scout troop: “The Montauk School Board has agreed to sponsor the troop; a local committee … has been formed. George Hlvac has accepted the responsibility of being Scout Leader, with Principal Carleton E. Farrell and Rev. John M. Gordon as assistants… Montauk is an ideal locality for scouting and there are definite plans to set up a Sea Scout unit this summer.”
The devastation experienced by Montaukers during the hurricane two months earlier must have contributed to this decision. In fact, “putting the lives of others first” — the principles of the Sea Scouts — were not unlike the principles followed by a reverend.
By 1940, John Gordon had fully stepped into his role as pastor of the Montauk Community Church. On September 10th of that year the Long Island Presbytery met for an annual meeting in Montauk. “Over 80 present, including visiting officials,” represented most the Presbyterian churches of Suffolk County. Both John Gordon and Richard Webb, a formidable individual in the early years of the church’s development, were delegates. From the September 12, 1940 issue of the Star we also learn that the “The women of the local community church, headed by Mrs. E.V. Conway, served a delicious turkey luncheon.”
A position with a church in Saxtons River, Vermont, became his next calling. In January 1944 John Gordon delivered his last sermon to the congregation. His standing in the community can perhaps be measured by the fact that for years after he left Montauk, Gordon was mentioned in the Star, either visiting friends with his wife or officiating at weddings. The young members of his Montauk congregation who eventually came of marital age wanted Reverend Gordon’s blessing, a balm that for eight years had successfully guided Montaukers through some of its roughest storms.