MILTON — On Aug. 4, 1867, Milton Episcopalians met for their first official service in the city.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is almost as old. The church at 6848 Oak St., where services take place today, opened in 1878, according to a press release from church member Candy McGuyre.
Initially, bare windows were covered by cloth and there were no pews, but the church grew and was complete in 1880, according to McGuyre.
The church has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
St. Mary's exhibits many features of the Gothic Revival style executed in wood, including its board and batten sheathing, lancet windows, decorative bargeboards, porch and finials, according to the National Register of Historic Places inventory nomination form.
The massive stained glass window behind the altar came from Czechoslovakia. Church youths worked odd jobs in the community to raise the $600 to purchase it in the 1880s, according to McGuyre.
“You have to appreciate that architecture,” the Rev. Matt Dollhausen said. “There's a reason the ceiling is so high. It draws your eyes up to Heaven. There's a reason all those icons are there — because visuals are our most important first cue.”
Dollhausen sees the 150-year mark in a historical context.
“On the East Coast, in Virginia, they're celebrating their 300-year anniversary," he said. "In Ohio, they're celebrating their 200th. Here, we're celebrating our 150th. In North Dakota, they're celebrating their 100th. You can see the age as settlers went across.”
Little has changed in how the church conducts services, according to Dollhausen — and that’s a good thing.
“One of the reasons we're here after a hundred and fifty years is the timelessness of our worship," he said. "We use much of the same words the last 500 years. It is our contention that the (Holy) Spirit works through a well-prepared mind.”
Dollhausen said he appreciates the pairing of the church’s services and theology.
“What I like is the formal worship services mixed with our liberal theology … We err on the side of grace,” he said.
While Dollhausen’s second impression of St. Mary’s when he moved to Milton in 2011 was of a beautiful church, his first was less solemn.
“My first impression of St Mary's was Memorial Day weekend,” he said laughing. “They changed service time and did not advertise it. I walked in with my wife and another couple to the dismissal hymn and a lady in the congregation came flying out the door and said, ‘Please come back.’”
He does not change service times, except for rare occasions like the upcoming visit by Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, the Rev. J. Russell Kendrick.
Services usually take place 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays, with a coffee hour at 10 a.m. Kendrick’s visit will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 6.
St. Mary’s congregation will celebrate the anniversary until the end of 2017. Here are additional scheduled events:
July 30 — the Rev. Albert Kennington, former priest of St. Mary’s, to lead services
Aug. 6 — Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, the Rev. J. Russell Kendrick, to visit St. Mary’s Episcopal Church with one service at 10 a.m.
Sept. 17 — services led by St. Mary’s youths
Oct. 29 — services in the style of the year 1928, coinciding with Milton’s Downtown Ghost Walk weekend
Nov. 19 — services of Thanksgiving
Dec. 3 — future St. Mary’s; what services will look like in 50 years