THE HISTORY OF SAINT PAUL EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In 2005, the remaining members of St. Paul approached the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee about beginning an Episcopal Church at St. Paul. Since some Seymour Episcopalians had been discussing the creation of an Episcopal Church in Seymour, the response was positive. At the request of the last remaining Trustee of St. Paul Non-denominational Church and with the Bishop of East Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg’s permission, Episcopal Services were initiated on August 7, 2005 at 4 PM in the old Trundle’s Crossroads Methodist Church building, with Fr. Rob Henley of St. Joseph the Carpenter, Sevierville celebrating the Holy Eucharist.
Following this first service, Fr. Henley donated clergy support, celebrating the Holy Eucharist on every other Sunday, alternating with an Evening Prayer service conducted by a worship leader. The number of communicants at this time was limited and the time of the service was changed to 6 PM in the hopes of increasing participation. On Sunday, October 30, 2005, Bishop vonRosenberg celebrated The Holy Eucharist and announced the formation of an Episcopal Worshiping Community at St. Paul Church, serving Seymour and South Knoxville, Tennessee and surrounding communities. Bishop vonRosenberg said the main focus of the Episcopal missionary effort is to spread the Gospel to Seymour and South Knoxville, particularly to the un-churched.
On Christmas Eve 2005, worshipers from St. Barnabas, Jefferson City joined us for Midnight Mass conducted by the Rev. Canon Robert Rizner with approximately 45 communicants in attendance. In February of 2006, the new Worshiping Community of St. Paul Episcopal Church was introduced to the Diocesan Convention as the newest Worshiping Community (Mission) in the Diocese.
The St. Paul Non-denominational Church Trustee (David Thomas being the last one remaining) offered the church land and buildings to the Diocese of East Tennessee for the remaining mortgage amount of approximately $17,000. In September 2005, discussions with the Diocesan Property Committee were initiated and the historic property found a new owner in the Episcopal Diocese of East TN.
During the period from August 2005 until Lent 2006, St. Joseph the Carpenter, through the good offices of Fr. Rob Henley, provided support, loaning the fledgling church prayer books, hymnals and the necessary equipment to hold Episcopal services. Donations of material were soon made by numerous churches in the diocese and individuals, including prayer books, hymnals, albs, candlesticks, a lectionary bible, Eucharistic vessels and linens, a processional cross and other items. In March of 2006, the Council of St. Paul Episcopal Church agreed that we needed to move the service time to Sunday Morning, even though this would require support of supply priests to replace Fr. Henley who was conducting St. Joseph’s services Sunday morning.
From March 2006 through May 2006, numerous Supply Priests from the Knoxville area celebrated the Holy Eucharist two times per month with Lay Worshiping Leaders conducting Morning Prayer services the other two Sundays. Father Henry Swann (recently retired Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Knoxville) became our permanent Supply Priest on the third Sunday of Pentecost in 2006.
The attendance at services grew from 4-6 in the evening to 10-14 Sunday morning, an increase of some 140%. The first official members of the congregation, Dr. H. E. (Pete) Walburg and Treva Brodersen, transferred their letters from St. Joseph the Carpenter Episcopal Church in Sevierville to the St. Paul Worshiping Community. In April 2006, David Thomas and Carolyn Thomas were the first Confirmations of St. Paul Episcopal Church. At the end of 2006, there was an additional 15 letters of transfer and one Baptism bringing total “Charter Membership” to 20 and an average Sunday attendance of 18 for the year.
In 2008, the Nave underwent a major interior renovation with the removal of the drop ceiling. This project reveals the wood plank ceiling original to the 1857 construction. New lighting was also installed at that time. Ron Samples donated a bell that was installed in the bell tower. The bell was originally installed in the Dumplin Valley Baptist Church. The sound of a Church bell ringing through the Sunday morning air was heard coming from St. Paul’s building after a hiatus of over 28 years.
In 2009, land was purchased behind the church building which allowed the construction of a parking lot and a “green space” which was landscaped and has had picnic tables installed for parish functions.
In 2010, the Undercroft area was remodeled and renovated and now contains the church office, Priest’s office, choir rehearsal room, Sacristy, and a large “multi-purpose” room.
In 2011, the old upstairs office was re-modeled and a kitchen installed. A massive Rodgers 3 manual electronic organ was installed that year in memory of Ron Samples. The organ is one of the largest electronic organ installations in Sevier County, consisting of the electronic equivalent of 57 ranks of pipes sounding from over 70 speakers.
St. Paul has enjoyed continued steady growth since our formation and was granted Parish status at the 2012 Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee. The Vestry also called Father Henry Swann to be the Rector of the Parish. To advance from being a “Worshipping Community” to being a full-fledged “Parish Church” (with a Rector) requires us to be financially self-supporting and to have over 50 members. It was quite an accomplishment that we started out with only 3 people and in only 7 years became the newest Parish in the Diocese.
2015 is the year of our 20th anniversary as an Episcopal Church. Several events such as a Neighborhood Fish Fry (in August) and a Fall Bazaar (in October) were held to commemorate this milestone. The Parish celebrated the arrival of good news in November when we were granted approval for a grant and loan from the Opportunity Fund of the Diocese of East TN so we can enlarge our Parish Hall.
2016 saw the completion of our Parish Hall expansion. Construction was completed in October, giving the St. Paul congregation the ability to serve and seat over 100 people for meals, and offer meeting space for groups and organizations in the Seymour community. The new addition was blessed by The Right Reverend George Young, Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of East TN, in a special service in November, 2016. The estate of Gladys Heldt donated an excellent Allen digital organ to the church, which has been installed in the Parish Hall.
The congregation and leadership look forward to more future growth. Our goals are not to move from our historic location and build a new facility, but rather to serve the community “where we are”. Our vision is not so much to construct a building as it is to advance the kingdom of God by “building up” God’s people.