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Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"For those who Influence Public Opinion,"
Book of Common Prayer, page 827

In our church, neither a person's gender nor their sexual orientation matter; what does matter is how they serve Jesus Christ as Lord.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Plans to Build a New Church Start in 1923

In an earlier message I mentioned how the original church building (and the supplemental property a half-block away and across the street) served us very well for a half century -- almost too well -- as things had gotten to the point that the original church was very crowded and the main church building at 8th and Laurel was beginning to show signs of very needed repairs. The original building - actually more of a chapel -- was 20 feet wide by 40 feet long and could seat 150 people. By standards of the nineteenth century it was a pretty good looking little church. Father Beatty had designed a small, but properly proportioned Gothic church.

Trouble was, by the early 1920's, there were routinely at least 100 people in church each week, the pews were small (see the remaining 'antique pew' from the old church we saved for historical purposes in the new building, along with the old pulpit back there), heating and cooling were not the best, to say the least, and we had already expanded once before (in 1917, the vestry had purchased -- for two thousand dollars -- a cottage and lot north of the 'main building' for the Sunday School and frequent, other than church, group meetings). Notice the church growth in the early years:
In 1872 we started with _12_ communicants.
In 1873 that was almost doubled to _23_ communicants.
In 1905 after the church had reorganized it was three times that number at _66_.
From 1905 through 1922, it doubled again, to _128_ communicants. By the mid-1950's the number of communicants would double two more times.

So with that foresight in mind, the vestry in the early 1920's knew what had to be done. Time was indeed running out ... and firm plans for a new building had to be made as quickly as possible. After 50 years of service as a church, the land at Eighth and Laurel was sold for five thousand dollars and the vestry started making preparations to move.

In February, 1923, the vestry voted to purchase two lots, side by side on which a suitable church could be constructed. The present site, 400 West Maple Street was selected as an ideal location to build a new church, in keeping with the architectural design and standard of Episcopal Churches. I would also have to say the location is ideal: living as I do in the southeast area of town, and being a handicapped older communicant of the church, a short, five-block walk to the church is very easy for me. In the June, 1923 meeting of the vestry the chairman of the building committee, Mr. George Guernsey, Jr. proposed that the building campaign should begin with a parish house, then the church, then a rectory.

If all had gone according to schedule, the parish house was to be erected in 1923. But so many things do not go according to schedule. They were not able to break the ground until December 16, 1923 when Bishop James Wise was here to participate in the ground breaking ceremony. The first part of our new church, the parish house (the north end of our church, now called 'Parish Hall') opened on September 7, 1924. Little did the vestry know that over the next century (well, at least 82 years as of now, 9/1924 though 7/2006) how much that parish house would be used by the community at large -- not just the church folks -- and how appreciated it would be.



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