Last Worship Service at St. Catherine’s/St. Mary’s, Hamilton

On May 14, 2023, the Sixth Sunday of Easter and Mother’s Day, St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church, formerly St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in Hamilton County, held its last worship service.

It was a poignant service, with tears and laughter mingling among the congregation as the Rev. Canon Janet Waggoner preached and the Rev. Canon Joann Saylors celebrated. During announcements, long time member Nancy Yates, citing the tradition of giving people a piece of Scripture at their baptisms, handed out strips of paper with verses from Scripture carefully selected to reflect her experience of them as faithful Episcopalians and friends.

As the congregation took communion, there was a palpable sense of clouds of witnesses present.

At a lunch following the service, the members voted on how to distribute the funds remaining in their church account. They voted to give 25% to Episcopal Relief and Development, 25% to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to support church plants in the North Region, 25% to the local Community Center that serves senior citizens in Hamilton, and to split the remaining 25% between the Hamilton Library, the local Boy Scouts, the local hospital, and Friends of the Hamilton Independent School District.

They also agreed it would be good to meet for lunch regularly so they can stay in touch with one another.

St. Mary’s was the first Episcopal church in Hamilton County. Services began in 1868 in home of Mrs. E.D. Bell, with the Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, first Bishop of Texas, presiding. Gregg rode on horseback to Hamilton from Galveston.

St. Mary’s first building was consecrated 1896 by Bishop A.C. Garrett. The Rev. W.W. Patrick was the first rector. It became a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1966.

After the 2008 schism in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, those members who chose to remain in The Episcopal Church were forced to leave their historic building.  (In 2021, the Texas Supreme Court awarded that building to people who left the Episcopal Church in 2008.) The Episcopalians began worshiping in a house owned by members Nancy and Randy Yates. 

They remained there until 2014, when they bought a building. On Sunday, May 11, 2014, St. Mary’s dedicated their new building at 1101 S. Rice Street (Hwy. 281 S.).  The Rev. Canon Janet Waggoner celebrated and preached, assisted by the Rev. Bob Tarbet.

The story on the diocesan website said, “The new building is a milestone in the growth of the Episcopal Church in Hamilton County. . . All are welcome to come celebrate with the St. Mary’s community.”

They were served beginning in 2009 by the Rev. Stan Sullivan, who died March 28, 2011, followed by the Rev. Bob Tarbet, who died April 21, 2016, in a diving accident. They then were served for a short time by the Rev. Hope Benko, until she was called to a position at Southwest Theological Seminary in Austin. She was followed briefly by the Rev. Noy Sparks, who left The Episcopal Church. Since then, they have been served by supply priests and by Lutheran pastor Teresa Davis.

As so often happens, the Lectionary provided a perfect Gospel for the day in John 14:15-21:

Jesus said,” If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

These faithful Episcopalians know they are beloved children of God. Even as they mourn the loss of this worshiping community, they live in hope. 

Photos of service

Translate »