Founded in 1995, St. Matthew's is a wonderful church family with a storied history and rich with talents...
1995: We Begin! Recognizing the need to serve the expanding population of central Chesterfield County the Rev. Mike Murphy, who at the time was Diocesan Canon to the Ordinary and whose office was nearby at St. Barnabas rather than Norfolk, held an organizational meeting on November 16, 1995 to assess interest in establishing a new mission in this area. The meeting was held at the home of Judge Earnest and GeeGee Gates’ daughter‐in law, Susan Gates. The group decided that a new mission was needed and planning was initiated. Judge Gates used his considerable influence to arrange with county officials for the new mission to begin meeting in the historic Chesterfield Courthouse on Route 10/ Ironbridge Road. We will always consider Judge Gates our guardian angel because of his early and continued support in so many ways. Dianne Lewis and Elsa Bennett attended the initial meeting and became founding members of the fledgling mission/parish that would emerge. Bishop Vest appointed Rev. Murphy as the founding vicar of the new mission and the first service was held on Christmas Eve 1995 in the historic Chesterfield County Courthouse. The first Bishop’s warden was Ruth LeFevre; the first Bishop’s Committee (vestry) was appointed and consisted of Lud Hudgins and Lin Corbin‐Howerton. One of the fundamental organizational and spiritual components of the life of the new community was its desire to be Eucharistally centered, and it remains so today.
1996: We continue at the Old Courthouse. With no organ or piano, our service music was a programmable CD player—we called it Hymns in a Box. The Diocese provided twelve used prayer books and hymnals. Elementary Sunday School classes were held in the judges’ chambers. After every Sunday service, there was a time of hospitality, with coffee and cookies, and juice for the children, a tradition that has endured. On April 28, Erica Taylor Murphy was the first to be baptized at the new mission. During this year, the congregation agreed on a name for the new mission and St. Matthew’s Chesterfield was born. Our first Bishop’s visit was on August 25 of that year when the Right Reverend Frank Vest came to confirm our first class of eight confirmands.
1997: Many Gifts. We were blessed with many gifts to help us get started. The Diocese provided the altar cross from the deconsecrated Christ Church Chapel in Boydton, Va. (Later the marble Baptismal font and Eucharistic candlesticks from that site would also become ours.) Ruth LeFevre gave a pair of brass candlesticks. Our first real chalice and paten was offered on permanent loan to us by The Rev. Seger Gravatt from the communion kit that belonged to her uncle, a Navy chaplain in WWI. We also received beautiful altar linens as a gift from the Diocesan Altar Guild chairwoman. From the beginning, St. Matthew’s was adept at moving and storing its possessions, since at the courthouse all of our “stuff” had to fit in a two-door filing closet during the week. This skill would prove to be invaluable in subsequent years. Each Sunday, we put the sandwich sign out front on Route 10, and we grew. Joe and Kay West began attending, and Joe offered his talents with the guitar to provide live music for our services. The acoustic guitar became our primary musical accompaniment and remains an integral part of our music ministry. The Rev. Murphy, having become a full‐time Chesterfield police officer, requested that the Bishop appoint a new vicar for St. Matthews, and on July 1 of that year, Bishop Vest named the Rev. Martha Jenkins our new Vicar. She was serving as Episcopal Campus Minister at nearby Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va. on a part‐time basis and became our part‐time vicar as well. Because at the time Martha was a transitional deacon, the vestry determined that in order to remain Eucharistally centered, we would pay for a supply priest to attend services for the sole purpose of consecrating the elements for communion until Martha was ordained. This joyous occasion occurred in Trinity Episcopal Church in South Boston on December 13, 1997, and many members of her mission congregation were in attendance to celebrate with her. The congregation made gifts of new prayer books and hymnals to the church on Christmas that year. They were wrapped, placed at the altar, and blessed for our use. The simple wooden St. Matthew’s Cross made by Ken Lefevre led the procession at Bishop Bane’s consecration. It was the only cross brought to the festivities that was light enough to be carried by the crucifer, who was wheel‐chair bound. The little wooden cross was not as grand as the others that were brought, but we learned a powerful lesson that would stay with us: “Give what you have—that might be the one thing God needs!” The Diocese rented a small house on Lori Road to use and Sunday School/meeting space, which we shared with the temporary western office of the newly elected bishop co‐adjucator, David Bane. Although it was a terrible mess, with thorough cleaning, painting, and furnishing, it served us well. Bishop Bane confirmed our second class of four confirmands in the historic courthouse. Our acolytes attended the acolyte festival held in the National Cathedral that fall. They carried the wooden St. Matthew’s cross in the processional and saw and experienced for the first time that they were a part of a much larger national church. Hospitality after worship continued every Sunday with the capable and delicious attention of Denny and Kathy Petfield.
1998: Many Moves. On Epiphany Sunday, an interpretation of The Fourth Wiseman by Dr. Charles Fischer initiated our entrance into liturgical drama. Then during Lent, members of the congregation presented “Were You There,” written and directed by Dr. Charles and Barbara Fischer. Bishop Bane confirmed six confirmands in the courthouse on January 18. The mission continued to meet in the historic Chesterfield County Courthouse until the spring of 1998, when we needed to re‐locate due to a long‐awaited restoration of the courthouse. This became the first of many subsequent moves in which we would become even more adept at packing up. So on April 5 of that year, we moved into the historic Trinity Methodist Church, where we celebrated Easter. We only met for three weeks until we were asked to leave— they accused our children of vandalizing the offices located in the building, which was owned by the county and used as offices and training space. So on April 26, with the intervention of Judge Gates, we moved our services across Krause Road to Castlewood, an historic home that also housed offices of the Chesterfield County Historical Society. A computer table was our altar. The sandwich sign placed on Route 10 each Sunday continued to enable worshipers to find us. In October of that year, in the back yard of the Castlewood facility, we celebrated the Blessing of the Animals, which became an annual tradition. As the space at Castlewood was becoming too small, we were able to return to the newly restored historic courthouse on October 31. And on December 6, St. Nicholas of Smyrna (Dr. Fischer) visited the parish with his story of gift‐giving at Christmas.
1998-2002: On the road again. On January 3, 1999 we rented and moved (with snow on the ground) into the former F&M Bank on Route 10 at Deerfield Road. The old vault was the sacristy, and sometimes people drove through the drive through and honked—drive‐thru church. It was a mixed blessing, as we had permanent space where we could leave the altar and chairs set up during the week but also where some people left because it did not feel like a church. We did have a nice big sign on Route 10, which drew attention and attendance. On May 16, 1999, Bishop Hart visited and confirmed thirteen congregants. Our joy at having a permanent place was short lived as the bank building was sold in the spring and we needed to find another place to worship. Conversations with Camp Thunderbird were successful—as a YMCA‐owned facility it seemed a natural fit and we moved there in June. Services were held in the downstairs meeting room, except on Easter and Christmas, when we would move the service upstairs to the larger conference center. Signage on Courthouse Road directed newcomers to our new location. Martha moved her office to a room there, but because the Y utilized the area throughout the week, we were back to setting up and taking down each week. The altar was set up in front of the fireplace with a view of God’s beautiful creation—the woods and lake and the occasional deer or wild turkey—beyond. With growth from a family-sized to a pastoral‐sized church, growing pains began. In November, 1999 the bishop’s warden resigned over differences in leadership and structure. Bishop Bane asked Lin Corbin‐ Howerton to be the bishop’s warden, and she accepted. On March 19, 2000 Bishop Hart confirmed seven parishioners and on December 17 Bishop Bane returned to St. Matthew’s and confirmed six more parishioners. The St. Matthew’s banner made by the Fischers—bags of coins spilled out with loaves and fishes in abundance—was prophetic. God continues to transform our experience. Gifts came, and as the bags are opened and we learned to give freely we grew—we have what we need. A fine arts and Banner Committee composed of members of the parish created a series of six banners based on the Stations of the Cross to enhance our worship space and provide a focus for meditation. During Advent, a Jesse Tree banner was created. Its ornaments depict Old Testament stories recalling the history and lineage of Jesus. Needlework additions and angels are now underway. An electronic organ was purchased through a fund‐raising campaign in which members purchased organ keys; an anonymous donor closed the gap, and we bought an organ. Gordon Duffus donated an Episcopal flag and stand and Rob Lias donated the American flag and stand. We bought fifty comfortable chairs. Dianne and Ray Lewis designed, made, and donated our first wooden altar and credence table, with a theme of grapevines. Our first children’s Christmas pageant was held upstairs at Camp Thunderbird that year, directed by Dr. Megan Campbell. Hospitality following each service expanded with members taking turns providing the food. The first newcomer’s potluck dinner was held in our basement meeting room at Thunderbird. And every week, teams took turns coming in early to set up our worship space and nursery, and every week after hospitality, the congregation joined in to put it all away until the next week. Ash Wednesday 2001 found us worshiping in the meeting room of Lucy Corr Nursing Home in conjunction with All Saints Lutheran, a small Lutheran congregation made up of two struggling parishes. For Maundy Thursday, we returned to Castlewood for a celebration of a representative Seder and Tenebrae. The Lutheran minister, The Rev. Gene Lancaster, had hoped that they might join with us to have a Lutheran‐Episcopal congregation, but it was not to be. Shortly thereafter, they voted to disband. In the spring of 2001, Lin Corbin‐Howerton asked to step down as bishop’s warden due to work conflicts, and Barbara Fischer was asked to serve. She accepted and remained warden to become St. Matthew’s first senior warden when we obtained parish status.
2002: Big Changes Begin. The congregation was outgrowing the space at Camp Thunderbird and feeling the need for a permanent church site. Judge Gates had inherited land adjacent to the Gates Bluff subdivision on Beach Road and donated it to the diocese in the early 90’s for the location of a future church. This property was assessed and found not to be ideal for building due to access and terrain issues. Further down Beach Road, Judge Gates’s son and a partner owned a large piece of property and approached the congregation with the idea of their buying it for a future church building. The diocesan treasurer, Charles Pfeiffer, came to meet with Martha and members of the vestry to assess the land. On that cold rainy winter day, they all held hands in Charlie’s van and together asked God to give St. Matthew’s the land. The diocese agreed to sell the Gates Bluff parcel and use the proceeds of that and other property sales to purchase the site for the church building for St. Matthew’s. Now, with a site in the offing, the congregation began to plan for its first building. The vestry interviewed several architectural firms and settled on Wm. Henry Harris & Associates, Inc. to develop a master plan for the site, which would accommodate present needs and future growth. Also during this year, we began our nursing home ministry. The Rev. Bob Armstrong of St. John’s Chester, who had initiated the ministry, retired and Martha and the people of St. Matthew’s began monthly Eucharist at Lucy Corr and Bon Secours at Ironbridge (now The Crossings). In June, two parishioners were confirmed and two more received into the Episcopal Church.
2003: Progress. We undertook the Loaves and Fishes Campaign, with a kickoff congregational dinner at St. Barnabas. Like the story of the little boy and his loaves and fishes that Jesus multiplied to feed thousands, we again relied on give what you can and the Lord will use it. The rallying cry was “How to build a church on $25 a week,” and we raised $70,000 in pledges over three years. After some considerable bumps in the road, the diocese purchased the property at 11600 Beach Road. Martha, The Rev. Ruth Partlow, and Barbara Fischer walked the perimeter of the property and asked God to bless and protect it. In terms of attendance, another bump in the road was Gene Robinson’s election as an openly gay bishop in Massachusetts. With Martha’s leadership, opportunities were made available for the congregation to discuss their concerns. Although the loss of three families was painful, we learned valuable lessons in ways to deal with issues rather than just smoothing them over. On March 2, we were delighted to welcome the Rt. Reverend Carol W. T. Gallagher to confirm ten parishioners. Her vocal offering of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was made even more memorable in the woodland setting at Camp Thunderbird. In May of that year, we installed our Sojourners Daughters of the King Chapter, led by Carrie Hillman. And on Pentecost, June 8 of that year, we held our first worship service at the Beach Road site, under a tent in the field, with eighty‐two members and friends present, followed by hospitality afterwards.
2004: Renovating and Building Begin. We began to plan the renovation of the Little Red House on the Beach Road property for use as an office for Martha and vestry meeting space and to plan the construction of the church building. During this time we continued to worship and share hospitality at Camp Thunderbird. We reprised our “Were You There” liturgical play during Lent.
2005: The Little Red House. We completed the renovations of the Little Red House for $16,000, under the capable and dedicated leadership of Junior Warden Paul Grinter. Things we needed just showed up, such as a $5,000 donation from St. Thomas Chesapeake in exchange for a promise that we would give it away later. We matched half with our own “Sweat Equity” and received an additional $500 from St. Cyprian’s Hampton along with $ 250.00 from another St. Matthew’s in Covington, Tennessee. On June 5, while we were still at Camp Thunderbird on, Bishop Bane led the service of confirmation, confirming and receiving six persons. St. Matthew’s member Cindy Duffus explored her discernment of a call to the priesthood through talks with Martha, which led to a formal process with the diocese. She was approved and began to prepare for her formal education and training.
2005‐2006: Frustration and progress. An opportunity for outreach began with a request by Chris Grinter to utilize space at the Little Red House for weekly meetings of Al‐Anon. The group, having outgrown their initial meeting space, continues to meet weekly in the church. It was two years of stops and starts, with building problems, architectural review by the diocese, loan approval from the diocese, permits, board of trustees. For a time it seemed that we would never start construction. Following a Sunday service, the vestry met and got down on its knees to ask for guidance regarding the offer of Lud Hudgins to be the builder with the available financial resources. It was clear that this was the direction to take and the vestry prayerfully and gratefully accepted. With construction documents prepared by De Stefano Architectural Group and approved by all concerned, finally and thankfully, we received the building permit on the Feast of St. Francis, October 1, 2006. Long and frustrating challenges with county officials and contractors led to building committee chair Lynn Hillman’s “word of the week” which gave us humor to cope with building woes. The following are a few examples: Pedantic “Sometimes expressed as the defecatory product of a certain barnyard animal. The best word to describe the actions of the Chesterfield Planning Department.” Ashita: “The Japanese word for tomorrow. The answer given by Morton Builders when asked when you will receive anything.” Patience: “A virtue I have in very short supply. After dealing with Morton Builders, my supply is now completely exhausted. So when talking to me please do not use phrases such as "hold on just a second" or" wait just a minute"—I may explode.” Pejorative: “Having a belittling effect. The manner in which all employees of the Chesterfield Planning Department conduct all of their conversations.” Fabrication: “A polite way of referring to the answers given by Morton Builders.” The original site plan provides for a bell tower and although the tower was not built in Phase 1 construction, we do possess the bell. It was a gift from the diocese taken from an old and deconsecrated Episcopal church in Boydton, Va., which was to be razed. Ray Lewis, Steven Jenkins, and Lynn Hillman went to Boydton to retrieve it. The bell was rung on the day of the groundbreaking celebration, which was held on Sunday, June 18, 2006. Members of the church walked the footprint of the new building, marking it with red twine. The ball of red twine was passed from person to person around the perimeter of the building's footprint and then the eldest member, Rita Corbin, crossed diagonally one way, and the youngest member, Nathan Parkison (in a stroller), with his mother crossed the other diagonal to form a cross in the center. Decorated small trowels were available for any of the children to "dig" as well as the "official" groundbreakers—Martha and Lynn Hillman. Prayers were sent up for the construction process and for the congregation. And of course, a period of hospitality followed. We were blessed with a gift of a pair of Eucharistic candlesticks as well as a pair of seven‐branched candelabra—all with oil candles—from Trinity Episcopal Church in South Boston, Va. This is the parish where our rector’s husband, Blair, served as rector before his death, and they thought the gift would have special meaning for us, as indeed it did. These gifts continue to enhance our worship experiences. Cindy and Gordon Duffus left us for The University of the South at Sewanee where she enrolled in the school of theology in preparation for ordination. Regional confirmations were held at St. Michael’s Bon Air, where ten St. Matthew’s congregants were confirmed by Bishop Vache.
2007: Readying Ourselves for the Next Phase of the Journey. We closed on the construction loan with Citizens Bank & Trust March 19, 2007 in the amount of $500,000, enabling construction to begin on a 3,344 square foot building, Phase A‐1 of St. Matthew’s. With a permanent home in sight, we petitioned the diocese for parish status; the petition, signed by everyone, adults and children, is framed and hanging in the entry way of the church. The request was approved at the end of the year. On April 8, a new Paschal candle and stand, donated by Nancy Atkinson and her mother in memory of Nancy’s father and stepfather, was used for the first time.
2008: A Huge Year for St. Matthew’s. At Diocesan Council in Williamsburg on February 2, 2008, St. Matthew’s was welcomed as the newest parish in the diocese of Southern Virginia. Most members of the parish were there for the processional. Our “money guy,” Tom Carr, spoke to Council on “Give it Away” and Warden Barbara Fischer presented each of the two newly recognized mission churches a check for $500.00 as a reflection of St. Cyprian’s gift to us in 2005. After all the moves, there was growing concern for the fragile wooden cross that had served us so well. A beautiful new cross was given to the church by Mark and Sandra Koch, their family, and Sally Chamblin in memory of Sandra’s brother and Sally’s son, Christopher McEwan. Our small original wooden cross led us into Council to be received as a parish, and our magnificent new cross was blessed by interim Bishop Buchanan at that time. A permanent place for the original wooden cross was created in the gathering area of the new building, and its story was printed and framed and now hangs next to it on the wall. Our first service in the new building was held the next day, February 3, 2008, the last Sunday of Epiphany. The new building was consecrated, and a confirmation class of nine was confirmed by interim Bishop Buchanan on April 12, 2008. The first wedding in the new building was joyously celebrated on April 26, 2008, joining Lana Petfield, daughter of Denny and Kathy, and Kevin DeLeon. Martha was the celebrant in a service which included Holy Eucharist. 8We were further blessed that year when Robin Teasley, a seminarian from Redeemer, joined us for an internship in September. Judy Carlson had recommended Robin “check out” St. Matthew’s for this field work. She would stay for almost two years and become a beloved part of the St. Matthew’s community. And the Blessing of the Animals was extra special that year with the addition of a puppet play of Noah’s Ark, performed by Dr. Charles and Barbara Fischer. Barbara Fischer ended her long‐standing and extraordinary service as warden and Tom Carr was elected.
2009: Discerning our way in this new place. We undertook a planning process to help us find where our passion for outreach and in‐reach was calling us to move. A food pantry was a clear call to us, the vestry approved it, and work began to establish a relationship with CCHASM (Chesterfield Colonial Heights Alliance for Social Ministry) and become one of their resources. We began our service to the community through the food pantry by providing food to two families per week. Parish members brought needed food items and store gift cards for perishables and volunteered to pack the bags and to meet the families at the church to help with getting bags in the right hands and cars. The Blessing of the Animals was held in the barn, where Martha blessed, among the regular suspects, a horse and a lizard, which watched her carefully from a post. Seminarian Robin led a discussion during Lent on our journey, and the outline for this history was produced with the help of all in attendance. By now, growing pains were very evident. Space for Sunday School classes, as well as worship space, prompted investigation of an addition to the facility in keeping with the original site plan and with what the vestry believed the encouragement of the diocese. (At the time of this writing those plans are on hold, along with the financial commitments for the project.) During this time, under the leadership of Paul Grinter, the existing garage was re‐purposed and the EYC finished its interior for a place for youth activities. Confirmation services led by Bishop Hollerith included nine parishioners, who were received or confirmed. It marked his first of what we hope will be many visits to St. Matthew’s. Cindy Duffus was ordained a transitional deacon on June 13 at Redeemer Midlothian. It was a joyful day for St. Matthew’s, and many of the congregation attended to celebrate with her. The following day, Cindy returned to St .Matthew’s to preach the sermon. Ordained to the priesthood in December of that year, she is currently serving as priest‐in‐charge of Ascension Episcopal Church in Mt. Sterling, KY.
2010: More changes. In February, our beloved Rector Martha announced that she would retire in April. There was a joyous celebratory dinner and a tearful service to celebrate and conclude her years of ministry with us. Her God‐given gifts, so richly bestowed on St. Matthew’s, touched all our hearts and lives and will forever be seen as the foundation of our story. The vestry requested that the bishop approve Bob and Ruth Partlow as our interim rectors on a part‐time basis, to assist us in the transition to a new Rector. It was felt that they had a relationship with the parish that would be a benefit to us and to them in this role. The vestry appointed a search committee to undertake the process of discerning congregational priorities for a new rector. However, in November, following a Mutual Ministry Review with diocesan deployment officer Michael Speer‐Jones, the relationship with the Partlows was terminated by the vestry. The diocese suggested that the Rev. Earnest Graham serve as our supply priest until another interim was found or other decisions made. We welcomed Earnest as celebrant and preacher on December 5 and found him to be a valuable asset to us in a difficult time. To ensure administrative continuity during this interim period, we hired a part‐time secretary, Eva Weck, whose considerable skills and grace continued to be a rich blessing to the rector and congregation. Prior to this time, the church had been served by Olive Colgan as a paid part‐time secretary during the time we worshipped at Camp Thunderbird, and by volunteer Sib Baucom for a time after moving to the new location.
2011: Blessings and challenges. The search committee conducted two surveys of the congregation, one to assess blessings and challenges and one to assess ministry skills priorities. Top blessings were the people, a welcoming and caring community, and worship/Christian formation/spiritual growth; top challenges were parishioner involvement and membership growth. Priorities for ministry skills were preaching and pastoral care. The search committee used these results in screening candidates and developing interview questions. At the same time, the vestry decided, on the advice of the diocese, to seek a rector time‐certain rather than a permanent rector at this time. This decision would allow the parish to choose a rector for two years, with the option of inviting that clergyperson to stay if it was deemed a good fit or to seek someone else if it wasn’t. The diocese provided information on potential candidates for consideration by the vestry and search committee. The vestry and search committee jointly decided who should be interviewed and each group conducted interviews. The unanimous choice of each group, with no reservations, was the Rev. Earnest Graham, who accepted and was approved by the bishop in June. Earnest’s clear and ever present spirituality, his gift for preaching the gospel in ways that reach a diverse congregation, and his passion for pastoral care, as well as his previous administrative experience, made him the clear choice. The search committee and vestry were blessed to be able to call him to St. Matthew’s at this time in our journey. On June 18, Robin Teasley was ordained a transitional deacon, and many of the St. Matthew’s congregation were there to support and celebrate with her. Although she was a member of Redeemer, all of the St. Matthew’s community considered her ours. On July 11, Earnest began his service as St. Matthew’s second rector. On Wednesday, September 21 at 7:00 p.m., the Celebration of New Ministry service installing Earnest as our Rector time‐certain was led by the Rev. Canon Ed Tracy and attended by many of the St. Matthew’s family. Of course there was a potluck supper prior to the service to enhance the hospitality of the evening. Praise be to God! And through it all there also were: Easter egg hunts and Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers prepared by the EYC, and adult socials, like the annual ornament exchange at the Petfield’s and Atkinson’s and Goss’s and Spiers’s and EYC lock‐ins and camping trips with field and fundraising events, like the big yard sale and walks for cancer and juvenile diabetes and letters to Congress supporting Bread for the World, encouraged by Skiddy, and Epiphany bonfires with chili at the Hudgins’s and volunteering at the Central Virginia Food bank and liturgical synchronized swimming at the annual picnic at the friends of the West’s and October Fest bonfires at the Lewis’s and vestry Christmas parties at Martha’s, where we decorated her tree, and Newcomers’ Wine and Cheese gatherings at the Atkinson’s and Christmas Mother and shoe boxes and Book Club meetings, organized by Nancy Alpine and Most especially, God’s love and grace!
Submitted October, 9, 2011. The preceding portion of this history of St. Matthew’s Chesterfield was prepared from a parish chronology created by participants in a Lenten supper series developed and led by then Seminarian Robin Teasley. It was drafted by Barbara Fischer and Lin Corbin‐Howerton, with assistance from the Rev. Martha Jenkins, Dianne Lewis,Tom Carr, Elsa Bennett, Lynn Hillman, and Denny Petfield. The presentation on October 9, prepared by Charles Fischer, included pictures from significant events and created a kind of walking tour thru our history for the congregation.
2012: New Rector, New Beginnings. During the 2012 year, we continued our annual programs, including Lenten season study, Easter Egg Hunt and Shrove Tuesday Pancake supper hosted by the EYC, adult socials, Blessing of the Animals, book club group hosted by Nancy Alpine, food pantry headed by Tammy Piguet, CCHASM Thanksgiving program, adoption of a Christmas family, intergenerational Advent program, and adult social ornament exchange Christmas party. An outreach committee was formed with ten members, chaired by Bonnie Bell. Updating began on the garage in order to extend the capacity of our food pantry outreach. Improved lighting, wiring and insulation were added. We were blessed to have the Rev. Eve Butler-Gee as our deacon during the year. Eve was ordained on December 15, 2012 and left us to serve as rector of St. Martin’s Brandon, Prince George. Children’s books were collected, reviewed, and stickered for use at the emergency room at Johnston Willis Hospital. The church property was spruced up with new gravel for the parking lot, plantings, and mulch. Blue Jean Sunday was initiated by junior warden Greg Bennett to give the congregation the opportunity to maintain our buildings and grounds. Parishioners paint, plant, weed, and do whatever needs to be done on a quarterly basis. In addition to on-going maintenance, a major improvement was made on the property. Lynn Hillman headed a drive to have lights installed in our parking lot. Not only was this an improvement for our safety, but we also were able to complete one of the improvements required by the county. During 2012, we began saying the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish during some services, to the delight of our Spanish speaking parishioners and led by Father Earnest and Edna Mayan.
2013: Reaching out to the Community. In addition to continuing annual programs, 2013 brought new additions to the work and play at St. Matthew’s. Bennie and Marcy Thomas hosted an Epiphany bonfire at their home. The parish also began serving spaghetti dinners on the second Friday of each month to provide opportunities to meet and serve our neighbors and hopefully provide some extra income for the parish. The dinners were a hit from the start. We welcomed residents from the Lucy Corr Nursing Home as well as non-church members from the community. Carrie and Lynn Hillman brought their organizational and culinary skills to this effort and the fun the dinner has provided for the volunteers has forged new relationships among parishioners as well. The first phase of needed improvements to the garage was completed, and the garage is now available to house our food pantry stock. This expansion will allow us to serve more people through CCHASM. We also participated in the RAM clothing program initiated by the Church of the Redeemer, Chesterfield. Rebecca Williamson started this great effort at St. Matthew’s to provide clothing to the areas of our state that are in great need. It took two truckloads to transport the bags of clothing we collected! This year we also began our support of the Decatur Street Ministry in Richmond that Deacon Becky Deane began among parishes in this convocation. Lunches packed at the St. Matthew’s, along with water, are taken to a site on Decatur Street. There, a service is led by Becky and the food is distributed to those so very much in need. The appreciation is shown on their faces, and parishioners and Earnest report receiving so much joy from interacting and worshipping with these folks. “What you do for these . . . you do for me.” Another new start for the parish this year was approval by Boy Scouts of America for us to sponsor Cub Scout Pack 2834. Buzz Kohan helped the congregation establish this program and is chairman of the pack committee. The Cub Scouts sold baked goods at one of our Spaghetti Dinners to raise funds for its projects. Our long-term treasurer, Tom Carr, retired from his position after many years of outstanding service. Debra Farrish was elected as the new treasurer, and she and Tom worked together until the end of the year to insure a smooth transition.
2014: More Changes for St. Matthew’s. St. Matthew’s began the exploration of adding stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Elsa Bennett provided several designs for the congregation to select from. She created and brought in two prototypes in actual window size to show how the windows would look with the inserts. The vestry is assessing the costs of creating the stained glass inserts if they are done by our gifted parishioners. It was decided by the vestry that multiple congregants should be trained in CPR in the event it would be needed during a church function. Junior Warden Greg Bennett set up the training, and seven members of the congregation were trained at the church. A Weed and Water schedule was set up to provide our planted borders and natural areas with the care needed to keep them healthy and beautiful. Parishioners with green thumbs—and some with only gritty determination—signed up for this weekly chore during the summer months. Our long-time secretary, Eva Weck, announced her retirement. She had served our church well as a very capable office manager and was a delight to work with. A reception was held for her after Sunday services. It was decided that rather than hire a part-time secretary to replace her, church volunteers would provide the secretarial services for the church. This is working well. We held our first fall festival in October as a fundraiser for the food pantry. We started out small, and it was a huge success. Denny Petfield chaired the effort, planning and organizing the activities, which included games, a silent auction, and making and selling barbecue (cooked on a smoker in the church yard). Sandy Speer, with the assistance of expert peelers and choppers, prepared and cooked gallons of Brunswick stew and it was a sell-out. Adam Queen provided the bouncy house for the kids. All had a great time and significant funds were raised. In August, we learned that our rector, Ernest Graham, had taken a new position in Williamsburg. The congregation was saddened by his departure but delighted that he had found a position close to home. A search committee of six members was formed to lead the parish in seeking a new rector. And a new church year began!
Submitted by Cheryl Rivet, with assistance from the search committee, December 2014.