E p i s c o p a l
C h u r c h
914 Lane Dr.
St. Joseph, MI
(616) 983 - 4761
Fax: (616) 983-5682
|Most of the
early historical records of the parish were destroyed along with the church building
itself in a fire on Epiphany Sunday, January 6, 1948. Other references suggest, however,
that area Episcopalians attempted to organize a church in St. Joseph as early as 1835.
Currently, the earliest recorded mention of St. Paul's can be found in the Pixley family
diary, where on April 9, 1896, George Pixley was credited as having been elected secretary
of the parish. The diary he started, and which his four children continued, serves as a
valuable resource for the history of the parish.
Diary (photo to be added)
The first church structure,
described as a "small, brown-shingled edifice with windows of amber-colored
glass," was built on a narrow lot at the corner of Main Street and Niles Avenue,
about a mile closer to downtown St. Joseph than the current building. The parish was
formally recognized as St. Paul's Memorial Church in 1908. "Memorial"
commemorated Rufus Gates Rice, who had loaned the money to erect the first building.
Several other gifts were donated in remembrance of early founders of the church.
St. Catherine's Guild, St. Mary's Altar Guild,
and a Sunday School were all established around the turn of the century. The Men's Club,
formed in 1923, raised money for the parish, repaired and maintained the building, and
started the Parish News Sheet, a forerunner of the current newsletter. As the parish grew,
it needed more space than its cramped, downtown location could offer. So the actual church
building was moved in 1938 to what was then the outskirts of town--in the midst of an
apple and pear orchard. Starting with three lots at Highcliffe Terrace and Lane Drive
originally donated by Mrs. L.M. Shepard, church property quickly grew to include 14
additional donated lots. In a remodeling project at this time, kneeling benches were
added, and the basement was finished to serve as a parish hall.
Stain Glass Window In St. Paul's, Depicting
the Fire and the Reconstruction that Followed
Following the fire in 1948, the parish
contracted with the Pearson Construction Company to erect a new building further to the
east at the corner of Morton and Lane, where it sits today.
The first service in the
new stone building was celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1950, at which time the name
was changed to simply St. Paul's Church. One of the most striking features of the new
building was the series of stained glass windows installed along its walls. Each window
along the sides of the church depict a saint along with a symbol that represents his life
and ministry. The chapel windows represent the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
The west vestibule window depicts the Children
of Praise. A phoenix, pictured at the bottom, recognizes the church's own rebirth
two years after the devasting fire.
The largest west stained glass window,
installed in 1953, and dedicated to St. Paul as the patron saint of the church, depicts
incidents in the history of St. Paul's Parish, including the fire.
The small but colorful east window over the
altar, representing the Christ the King, is so positioned to capture and reflect the
Click below to see the gallery of windows!
A new addition housing
classrooms, a library and nursery was completed in 1959. In 1985, the altar was moved to
the top of the chancel steps, and wheelchair accessible ramps were added to the first
level. A new lounge, bathrooms, and a kitchenette were later added to the first floor.
More renovations were made starting in 1996,
including a new rector's office at the southeast corner of the building and a new
sacristy. A lift was installed in the area formerly used for the previous sacristy. Later
that year, remodeling began on the lower floor, including a refurbished parish hall,
kitchen, classrooms, and restrooms. A memorial garden outside the southeast side of the
church building was also completed.
There is no clear record
of the very first rector of St. Paul's. Since 1903, however, historical records show the
names of the many fine priests who have served the parish. The longest terms were held by
the Rev. A. Freeman Traverse, who served for 18 years (1930-48), and the Rev. H. Stewart
Ross, who served for 19 years (1949-68). Our current rector, Mother Liza Spangler, who
came from a parish in Wrangell, Alaska, has invigorated the congregation with her
enthusiasm and friendliness, leading the parish to a new period of growth.
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