Saint Paul’s began as a small group of Episcopalians creating a community, supporting each other, and worshiping God in the new city of Waco Texas. From 1863-1868 Saint Paul’s parishioners gathered in homes or rented the Odd Fellows Hall so that they could form a community and worship together. In 1868, the first Bishop of Texas, The Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, visited the community and officially organized them as “The Parish of St. Paul’s.” The new parish of about 50 people created a building fund, elected their first Rector, and began building a small and temporary worship space on the corner of Fourth Street and Webster. As the parish grew, Saint Paul’s moved into the building on Columbus and Sixth – the same building we still meet in today. The church we use today has changed – a longer nave, new rooms to meet in, and a school to name just a few renovations – but the history of the church is still present. Beautiful stained glass windows, original hardwood floors, and the somewhat pieced together footprint of the building all point to Saint Paul’s rich history.
Saint Paul’s has long been a staple of the Waco Community. Centrally located as a downtown church, we have been a part of the action since the beginning. Saint Paul’s served soldiers stationed in Camp McArthur and Rich Field during World War I with dances, parties, marriages, and services. When James Connelly Airbase and Fort Hood were built at the beginning of World War II, Saint Paul’s again did what they could to serve soldiers stationed there. During the 1953 tornado that tore through downtown, Saint Paul’s offered their building as a relief center. For many years, Saint Paul’s has partnered with Mission Waco to serve a free Thanksgiving meal for anyone who would like to come. Parishioners have worked hard in the past 159 years to make Saint Paul’s a beautiful and thriving place of worship for Episcopalians in Waco. Our rich history is riddled with the evidence of the love parishioners have for Saint Paul’s as well as the love Saint Paul’s has for Waco.
While a lot has changed over Saint Paul’s long history, we are still at our core a community of people coming together to support one another and worship God. Our parishioners continue to support each other and our church, and our church continues to support Waco. As we reflect on our past, we are excited for what the future holds. Saint Paul’s is a historic and beautiful community that uses its past to drive forward into a faithful future.
*This history of Saint Paul’s is shared with deep gratitude to Randy Schormann whose research and ministry brought light to our past.
First worship gathering of Episcopalians in Waco.
The first Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg visits Waco and the Episcopal mission located there. During his visit, the mission organizes under the title “Parish of St. Paul’s Church” and starts a building fund. St. Paul’s first Rector, the Rev. W.W. Patrick, is also elected. The name St. Paul was suggested by parishioner Mrs. S.D. Howe.
St. Paul’s first church building is built on the corner of 4th Street and Webster Ave. The building is a simple, one room wooden structure with a steeple. The drawing below is the only known image we have of the church. At the time, St. Paul’s had about 100 communicants that met for services in this small church.
St. Paul’s Sunday School presents the church with a 1,027 pound bell cast by the McNeely Bell Foundry in West Troy, New York. The bell is later moved from the original Webster Avenue location to the Columbus Avenue church and is still in use today. The inscription on the rim reads “’Come ye, and let us go to the house of the Lord’ Presented to St. Paul’s Parish, Waco by the children of the Sunday School, Advent 1875.”
While plans for a new and larger church building began in 1873, the cornerstone for the new building is not laid until August 8, 1878. The new building is located on the corner of 6th Street and Columbus Ave. Although the church has undergone several renovations and been enlarged, this church is the same building that St. Paul’s uses today.
St. Paul’s first service in their new nave is held on June 6, 1879. The total cost of the new church building is $14,500.
Bishop Gregg once again visits Waco and St. Paul’s to consecrate the new church.
A fire begins in the rectory and spreads to the church. The rectory burns down and the south side of the church is damaged by the fire. The vestry votes to begin rebuilding immediately. The nave is also enlarged and is lengthened by 50 feet to accommodate a growing congregation.
The cornerstone for the new Parish House is laid. Construction on the Parish House finished in 1907. The Parish House has undergone several renovations, but it is still used by the church today. The Maria Neville Brown Memorial Chapel and several of the children’s rooms are located in the Parish House.
St. Paul’s purchases an $8,000 organ built by the Austin Organ Company. The instrument has 20 stops, 583 pipes, and three manuals (keyboards). The new organ is considered to be one of the finest in Texas. This organ can still be heard at our church services today, although some of the pipes and stops are no longer used.
Renovations to the church cover the wood building in stucco, creating the smooth gray appearance of the building that can be seen today. A cloister entrance to the nave is also added although it is not enclosed. For unknown reasons, the Rose Window is also covered and will not be rediscovered for many years.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School opens thanks to the dedication of parishioner and school founder Mrs. Spencer Neville Brown. Her vision to create a school with exemplary standards and Christian values for her daughter, Maria Brown, can still be seen today in the classrooms at St. Paul’s School.
An enclosed Narthex is built by enclosing the previously constructed cloister. During this renovation, the Rose Window is rediscovered and uncovered. The Rose Window is now visible in the back of the Nave.
On May 4, 2008 Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison visits St. Paul’s and turns over the first shovel of dirt to begin the construction of the Chapel of the Four Sisters. At the same time, the Parish House undergoes major renovations. All of the construction would not be completed until March 27, 2011, also known as Dedication Sunday.