Fort Mill Times

St. Paul's celebrating 50 years of service

St. Paul's parishioners greet the Rev. Sally Franklin after church services. The parish will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend.
St. Paul's parishioners greet the Rev. Sally Franklin after church services. The parish will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend.

Saturday, the Fort Mill church begins its festivities with a choral evensong and dinner. Ministers who served the church and other guests have been invited. On Sunday, the bishop of the diocese will rededicate the church toward its next 50 years.

Also planned is the resetting of the cornerstone that was placed in the front right corner in 1959.

"In the late 1950s, 13 families from Fort Mill who worshipped at the Church of Our Saviour in Rock Hill asked the church to establish a chapel in Fort Mill," says Barry Mack, a church member and local attorney who is working on a history of the church.

Ministers from Our Saviour would come to Fort Mill to celebrate the services.

Initially, worship services were held in the chapel at Wolfe Funeral Home, but in early 1959, land on Pine Street in the Whiteville Park neighborhood was donated by Col. Elliot Springs and a church building was quickly built with the first service held June 21, 1959.

Over the next half-century, St. Paul's added to the congregation, has undergone three expansions and embarked on many outreach programs.

One of the first programs came in the 1960s and was a kindergarten.

"I attended that kindergarten with about 18 other children. Mrs. Virginia Stroup was the teacher," says Mack. "In those days there was no kindergarten in the public schools."

Church historian Marilyn Fleek has kept scrapbooks about the church activities since she and her husband, Mike, joined in 1970. "From the beginning, I have felt a part of the family. Whatever the needs in the family, everybody pitches in to take care of those needs."

Today, the church has grown to more than 250 members. A big area of growth has been the chancel choir. In the early days, the choir was small, sang in the back of the sanctuary and was accompanied by an electric organ. In 2003, a Zimmer organ was installed and the choir has steadily grown under the direction of Judy Tolbert. Occasionally, a chime choir adds to worship services.

"We look back on the past 50 years and see the growth and the sense of community we have in Fort Mill," says the Rev. Sally Franklin, current rector of St. Paul's.

"Last year, we embarked on our first foreign mission trip to Quito, Ecuador. Because we value our children, we built a playground, and have placed a great emphasis on Christian education. We have an ongoing ministry with York Place, the Episcopal Church Home for Children, in York. We continue to build on the ministries that were begun in 1959."

The choral evensong service will be at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, followed by a covered dish dinner. Sunday's service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and will include the rededication of the building. St. Paul's Episcopal Church is located at 501 Pine St., Fort Mill.