The Church of the Messiah and the Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach began to grow as a resort in the third decade of the last century. In the summers of 1935 and 1936, the Rev. Thomas S. Tisdale worked with interested persons in Myrtle Beach to organize a congregation of Episcopalians. Also instrumental was The Reverend Henry D. Bull, Rector of Prince George Church in Georgetown. The first services were in Presbyterian and Methodist Churches on Sunday afternoons.
In March of 1937, a lot on Highway 17 at 30th Avenue North was donated by Myrtle Beach Farms for an Episcopal Church building and construction began on November 23, 1937. At the 1940 convention of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, The Episcopal Church of the Messiah was admitted as a mission church. A priest-in-charge was appointed that year.
The Church of the Messiah was made a parish church in union with the diocese in the spring of 1949. In 1951, the name of the church was changed to Trinity Episcopal Church. The next decades experienced building expansion and growth in numbers of parishioners.
Trinity Episcopal Church continued to grow as a loyal and committed supporter of the Christian faith as the Episcopal Church had received that faith until the leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina began to draw apart from the Episcopal Church and inspire such division in its churches. A sad division took place on December 3, 2012, when a contested special meeting of Trinity Church voted to join Bishop Mark Lawrence who was relieved of the office of bishop in attempting to break the diocese and its churches away from the Episcopal Church.
Leaving those loyal to the Episcopal Church without a home, a group met on January 6, 2013* to lay the foundation for the re-establishment of the Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach. A worshipping community began holding regular services on August 4, 2013, with the assistance of the Rev. Wilmot Merchant, Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in North Murtle Beach. With guest priests serving, the Holy Eucharist was offered each Sunday. When the time came to select a name for the church, the Episcopal Church of the Messiah was chosen to mark our true and historic continuity with the beloved chain of an Episcopal presence in Myrtle Beach for over eighty years.
The Church of the Messiah once again became a mission of the diocese of the Episcopal Church of South Carolina in 2014. The church was founded in 1939 and re-established in 2014 with its commission to love and serve God with and for the people of Myrtle Beach.
*see fuller discussion of this foundational time below
HISTORY OF THE REESTABLISHMENT OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE MESSIAH [2013-2014]
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
As the result of an email sent by Cecilia Mims appealing for those desiring continued loyalty to The Episcopal Church to remain connected, Cecilia and George Mims hosted a meeting at their home on Sunday, January 6, 2013. “Episcopal Loyalists,” members of Trinity Church in Myrtle Beach concerned with the direction that church appeared to be taking, gathered to hear Rebecca Lovelace share history, perspective and information about upcoming events in the Episcopal diocese. She reviewed the steps taken by the group known at that time as “the Conway Episcopalians” to organize as the congregation later known as St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. Rebecca encouraged us to find ways of gathering as an Episcopal community, even if we did not feel capable of organizing formally. Information was shared about the convention scheduled for January 26 in Charleston to elect a Provisional Bishop for the continuing Episcopal diocese. Our group voted to send Cecilia & George Mims, Larry Wilson and Mary Slaby as delegates, with Mary & Bob Lauer as alternates. Mary Slaby was unable to attend the convention at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, so Mary Lauer represented us in her place.
Over time and informally, our group decided to hold monthly in-home gatherings:
- On Sunday, April 7, 2013, Mary & Bob Lauer hosted evening prayer, the Venerable Calhoun Walpole officiating.
- On Sunday, May 5, Lineta & Bill Pritchard and Birgit Darby hosted evening prayer at the Pritchard’s home, the Rev. Alex Barron officiating; the Rev. Manney C. Reid and his wife Fran, among others, attended.
- On Sunday, June 2, Harriet & Billy Holliday hosted evening prayer at their home, the Rev. Wil Keith, Rector of Holy Cross, Pawleys Island, officiating.
- In July, after a service of Holy Communion at the home of Vivien Vereen celebrated by the Rev. Dr. Wilmot Merchant, Rector of St Stephen’s, North Myrtle Beach, our group voted to begin regular weekly services. Mr. Dan Ennis, warden of St Anne’s, Conway, and Fr. Merchant both encouraged us to begin weekly services on a regular basis and offered to provide support to assist us in getting started. Both parishes helped pay rent for worship space.
On August 4, 2013, the self-designated “Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach” held our first regular Sunday service of Holy Communion in a large classroom of Coastal Carolina University’s Education Center building on 79th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. Fr. Wilmot Merchant celebrated after first blessing the space with incense and holy water as our chapel. The prior Saturday in the choir room at St Stephen’s, Fr. Wilmot provided altar silver, linens, hangings and a portable altar to equip us with items necessary and appropriate for worship. Thirty-four people attended our first worship service. Mary Slaby planned many of the elements needed for a solid beginning, so there were name tags, Prayer Books, hymnals, greeters, signage to guide people to the room, recorded music, refreshments, and a sign-up sheet to begin a mailing list. Mary’s efforts, Rick Stall’s coordinating assistance, and the materials provided by St Stephen’s resulted in worship that provided a solid basis for future services. Rick agreed to assume the continuing responsibility of arranging supply clergy to celebrate for our worship community. The Rev. Lucia Lloyd of St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Heathsville, Virginia, celebrated and preached for our second weekly service.
On August 18, the congregation of St Anne’s, Conway joined to worship with us, the Rev. Barry Stopfel celebrating. His sermon was particularly pertinent, reminding us that the church is not a building, but the people. The St Anne’s choir sang an enthusiastic African anthem for an appreciative congregation of 93 people.
On September 1, 2013, Dr. Charles Jones Evans, maestro of the Long Bay Symphony, became our first music director. Seven members of the congregation had formed a volunteer choir, directed for the first month of services by Bob Lauer, who also played an electronic keyboard to accompany our congregational singing.
On September 8, 2013, the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, Bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, made a visitation and confirmed Maggie Burch and Anna Grace Jordan; 57 people attended. A television newscaster appeared during the service, and afterwards videotaped interviews with the Bishop and Rick Stall as part of a news story on the split occurring in the diocese.
Later that same month, the congregation met in a called parish meeting (on September 29) to elect a “Chapel Committee” to oversee our ongoing operations. Eleven people were willing to be nominated and serve if elected. All of the following were elected by acclamation: Elizabeth (Beth) Ault, David Hardin, Richard (Rick) Stall, Keith Bowling, Mary Lauer, Sam Syme, Colin Burch, John Manley, Veanna Talbot, Gay Cooke and George Mims. In their first meeting, the Chapel Committee elected Rick Stall as Warden, Beth Ault as Secretary, and George Mims as Treasurer.
Because Coastal Carolina University could not permit any non-university group to store materials on-site in their facility, a search had been undertaken for a suitable worship space that also offered storage and preferably a kitchen, as we hoped to be able to hold covered-dish events. Fr. Wilmot Merchant was instrumental in arranging for us to use a well-equipped facility within a few of blocks of our original location. So, on Sunday, October 6, 2013, we held our first worship service in The Brittain Center facility on 65th Avenue North, part of the “North Campus” of the First United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach. The Rev. Dick Warner blessed the space as our chapel and celebrated Holy Communion.
The year 2013 was closed on December 29 with a service of Christmas Lessons & Carols, held jointly with the St Anne’s congregation (a total of 73 attending) in our worship space, and concluding with a covered dish meal.
In early 2014, we held our first Pledge Sunday (on February 9), which produced 18 pledges. The event also included a covered dish meal. On March 5, our first Ash Wednesday service was held at 5:30 p.m. with the Rev. Randy Ferebee officiating. April 17 found us holding our first Maundy Thursday service with the Rev. Phil Emanuel officiating and offering guitar music for the candlelight event, arranged as if for a family meal, around a common table. Easter Day, April 20, began with a congregational breakfast and concluded with a festive Holy Communion service celebrated by the Rev. Barry Stopfel for 54 attendees.
On Sunday, June 22, 2014, The Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach invited the membership to submit prospective names for our church. The suggested names were to be voted on, and the names receiving the greatest number of votes were to be submitted to Bishop vonRosenberg for consideration. After several rounds of voting, three names were submitted to the Bishop in early July.
A dreary, drizzly dawn greeted the Sunday of our one-year anniversary of holding weekly services on August 3, 2014, but the unwelcoming weather did not dampen the spirits of the 23 people who gathered to worship with Fr. Wilmot Merchant and to partake of a birthday cake after the service.
Bishop vonRosenberg made another visitation to us on September 7, 2014, confirming Keith Bowling and John Manley; 53 people attended. After an “indoor picnic” meal, the Bishop met informally with our Chapel Committee, informing us that he was prepared to appoint the Rev. Dr. Randolph C. Ferebee (Randy) as our priest-in-charge with our concurrence. He also told us he approved The Episcopal Church of the Messiah as our new name. The Chapel Committee met the following Sunday (September 14) after church to vote officially to affirm Randy as our Vicar and The Episcopal Church of the Messiah as our name; both votes were unanimous. On September 17, 2014, application was submitted to the South Carolina Secretary of State to incorporate under the name The Episcopal Church of the Messiah. On September 23, 2014, Bishop vonRosenberg signed the document appointing Randy Ferebee as our Priest-In-Charge. As of the end of September, 2014, cumulative attendance reached a total of 1231, or an average of 32 attendees per Sunday.
October began with a service to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi, which included a Rite for the Blessing of the Animals celebrated by Fr. Phil Emanuel and enjoyed by three dogs of parish families. The second and significant milestone of October 2014 was our application to the Secretary of the Diocesan Convention to admit The Episcopal Church of the Messiah, Myrtle Beach, as a Mission during the Convention at The Church of the Holy Communion, Charleston, on November 14 & 15.
The brief history of Messiah (later known as Trinity) Church is based on the work of Sam Syme. The history of the reestablishment of the Church of the Messiah in 2013 is from the pen of Rick Stall.