St. Thomas celebrates 75th anniversary with new members, new giving, celebrations

Published 8:43 am Friday, January 5, 2018

Editorial Director
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, which meets in one of Elizabethton’s oldest houses of worship, marked its 75th “Diamond Jubliee” Anniversary in 2017 by welcoming 42 new members by baptism, confirmation, and reception from other traditions along with major new renovations, major new giving and new celebrations.
“Let us pray, give thanks, praise God, dream and build anew,” said Father Timothy Holder, pastor at St. Thomas Church. “St. Thomas has grown in two years, not only increasing numbers of people, services, activities, giving, and resources, but in ministry and spirit throughout the Elizabethton community and across the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee.”
Father Holder said on a typical Sunday at the 11 a.m. service, you might be sitting next to a member of the church’s founding family, perhaps a new Spanish-speaking family, a homeless person or two, newly retired persons who have moved to the community from out-of-town, or a young millennial couple you never knew.
Though the first communion celebrated by the Episcopal Church in Elizabethton was just before the Civil War in 1858, and a community known as Calvary Episcopal Church existed downtown for some ten years in the 1890s, St. Thomas did not become a parish here until 1942, moving into the old Southern Methodist Church, built in 1861, in the heart of “Old Town.”
“In the last year, a year like no other in its 75-year history, St. Thomas has chosen to say a lot about its future,” Holder, an Elizabethton native, said.
The church has welcomed an unprecedented number of new members along with upping its levels of giving and development for the future. “First, we started on the building, replacing roofing and gutters, then to new windows for the Parish Hall and educational wing, and restored the foundation for the westside entrance,” said Kathy Smith, Senior Warden, the Parish’s chief lay offer. “A beautiful new parish garden blessed it all.”
The home of Food for the Multitude for years, St. Thomas partners with other churches in the community to host Saturday meals at the TLC Center for the hungry and needy.
“Also, we welcome new Latino members at bilingual services and a county-wide Latino Partnership, bringing together other communities of faith to welcome our new neighbors from across the border,” said Smith. Church members are also leaders in area environmental, drug prevention, and city and county educational programs.
Members of Elizabethton congregations crowded into St. Thomas April 12 for Holy Week services conducted by Pastor Todd Hallman of First Baptist and for a garden luncheon to follow. Holy Week and Easter services saw over 500 worshippers enter the doors at St. Thomas, including Palm Sunday marchers to the Doe River Bridge re-enacting the Gospel story of Palm Sunday.
Hearing all the good news from St. Thomas, five candidates for Bishop of East Tennessee visited St. Thomas together July 13 to offer prayers and praise of thanksgiving for the vibrant message and story of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Elizabethton. “The gospel story is alive and well here,” stated one of the candidates.
Educated in Carter County public schools, the University of the South at Sewanee, and Harvard Divinity School, and formerly having served parishes in New York and Alabama and a well-known missionary priest, Father Holder was made “Priest-in-Charge” at his hometown church by Bishop George D. Young III on Jan. 22, 2017, the first in nearly two decades for the Parish.
“Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,” Father Holder likes to sing from an old hymn. “I was humbled, awed really, greeting a packed church at Christmas midnight mass this year. People from just about every corner of life filled the pews. The joy and beauty of each and everyone blessed beyond words. God reached down 2,000 years ago, yes, and God reaches down today that we at St. Thomas might continue to proclaim His story,” exclaimed Holder as he looks ahead to the future of St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

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