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Spiritual and Community Growth and History

St. Matthew’s became a mission in May , 1961. 

Its first confirmation class was confirmed in 1962. It became a parish in May, 1968.

Thirty-nine years later, in December 2007, a large portion of the congregation chose to leave St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in protest over the consecration of an openly gay Bishop.  The church building was no longer needed and was sold in 2013.  St. Matthew's continues to serve the Westerville community in various, innovate ways at it's new location, an historic house located at 30 East College Avenue and named the Pray Think Love House. 

1961 - 2003

February, 1961 - Eighteen Episcopalians met in the First Presbyterian Church in Westerville, Ohio to discuss the possibility of forming an Episcopal Mission.

On February 12, 1961 - The first service was held. The Rev. Gerald Gifford, Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, celebrated the Service of Holy Communion. Prior to this first service, word had gotten around and sixty persons, eight of them communicants, attended that first service.

The group moved to the Westerville Armory for Morning Prayer on March 19, 1961 and on March 29th, Palm Sunday, the Rev. Richard C. Wyatt, then an assistant at Trinity Church in Columbus, Ohio, made his first appearance in Westerville. The Easter Service, April 2nd, was conducted by the Rev. Harvey Guthrie, Rector at Granville, Ohio.

After several meetings, the congregation decided to request admission as a Diocesan Mission at the coming Convention. On May 5, 1961, the Convention voted to accept. The Diocesan Mission became St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Westerville, Ohio.
 
The Mission soon adopted the Westerville Armory as its meeting place, but met several times at the First Presbyterian Church or at the Masonic Temple in Westerville. On July 1, 1961, Mr. Wyatt was appointed on a half-time basis as Vicar and by March 3, 1962, was placed on a full-time status.
 
February 19, 1962 - Bishop Blanchard confirmed the first class in the Mission. Four persons were taken in full Communion.
 
March 12, 1962 - The Diocese purchased the Bierman property at 233 S. State Street, Westerville, Ohio. It was also at this time that Richard Wyatt became the full-time Vicar.
 
April 9, 1962 - The Executive Committee of St. Matthew’s held the first official meeting in the new Parish House, the old Bierman home, which stood on the State Street land. 
 
August 1962, the Committee moved to inaugurate a Building Program and discussions were begun on the needs and capabilities of the Mission.
 
April 10th, Easter Sunday, 1966 - Bishop Blanchard broke ground for the new building which would house the Sanctuary, an office, and Sunday school rooms. Construction proceeded rapidly and on Thanksgiving Day, although the church was not entirely completed, the first service was held in the new building.
 
December 13, 1966 - Bishop Blanchard formally knocked at the door for admission. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church was dedicated.

The Old Parish House was demolished on January 19, 1967. All activities were transferred from the Parish House and the Armory to the new building.
 
In 1968, action was renewed to obtain Parish status and was granted at the May Diocesan convention. Richard Wyatt was invited to become the Rector of the new Parish. He was installed on October 27, 1968.
 
Church attendance had grown by the spring of 1969. In September of that year it was decided to go to three services in order to provide the necessary Church School space. There were 410 baptized members on the Church rolls at the end of 1969.
 
With the growth of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church came the need over the years for more space. The Narthex with additional offices was added in 1983. Additional rooms for Sunday school classes now being used for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Fellowship Hall were added in 1997. The new Sanctuary was added in 2002 and dedicated May 4, 2003.

2003 - Present

With the election of Rev. Gene Robinson, a gay man, in 2003, as bishop of New Hampshire,  some Episcopal churches started started the process of breaking away from the Episcopal Church in the United States.
 
In December, 2007, the Rector and two thirds of the congregation followed that path and left St. Matthew's.
 
LOSSES/REALIZATIONS
St. Matthew’s found it difficult to maintain its large church building. 
 
This was the beginning of the re-imagining process.  The idea of being “outside the walls” in the surrounding community.  This was expanded to look for ways to bring more spiritual and socially aware community groups in.
 
The building was sold in 2013.  Rev. Dr. Joseph G. Kovitch led the realization that the four walls of a church building did not make a parish (church).  It would start looking for something that would make it possible to have maximum penetration into the community.  The idea of the parish being the Westerville community and worship space being an available hall was developed.  Some members termed this the “Wilderness” - a place where transition was to be the norm.
 
RE-IMAGINING
By 2014 St. Matthew’s had worshiped in three different places.
 
Its “Fresh Expression” accomplishments include many community based programs and projects.  St. Matthew’s name is attached to, and is a major organizer and presenter of:
-children’s and adult drama groups,
-jazz, blues, and other theme based vespers,
-a driving force in the Westerville Neighbor2Neighbor program initiative,
-an Uptown Merchants organization.
 
CONGREGATIONAL CHANGES
The St. Matthew’s congregation has had several major changes between 2003 and the present.
The changes were both forced and elected:
-Learning to overcome anger and suspicion.  These were directed toward the Diocese, current and past congregation members, and our clergy.
-Loss of members.  The large number of members who could not deal with the changes and chose to find other church homes.
-Learning how to advertise.  Being smaller and not having a church building, St. Matthew’s had to learn how to let the Westerville community know what we had to offer them.  This learning process has helped to develop the idea of the St, Matthew’s parish being the whole of Uptown Westerville.


 
A NEW PERMANENT HOME IN 2019, THE PRAY. THINK. LOVE. HOUSE 
 
The Episcopal Church Foundation bought the house as St. Matthew’s new home.
 
The house appears to have been built by W. O. Rowe, a local grocer who bought the lot in 1883. 
William Moses purchased the house in 1888 for $3,000.
 
This house and its next-door twin were built in what is known as Stick Style-Eastlake architecture where decorative wood trim is applied to the exterior of the house. The Eastlake aspect of the design added more geometric ornaments with spindles and relief carvings to make the design artistically complex. The porches on the house retain these ornaments, as well as the decorative awnings over most of the windows.
 
The house is on the state register of Historic Building.
 
St. Matthew’s moved into 30 E College Ave. on February 2, 2017.
 
In June 28, 2018, St. Matthew’s signed a contract to renovate the building, and bring it up to code. Renovations were completed in June, 2019.  It was officially open t that month.
 
Starting in 2016, St. Matthew’s studied the Westerville community to determine how it could best serve it. Over the next three years these exercises in discernment led to focusing on several ministries.  The Religious aspect of service was expanded to a desire to focus on 5 additional community (PHACE) ministries:
  • Printing. This is a printing ministry, designed to print books and other documents that will further the life of all religious people.
  • House. To provide meeting and worship space for the people in Uptown Westerville.
  • Arts. To assist in the furthering of arts of all types in the Uptown community.
  • Consulting. To help other congregations in the Diocese develop their Vision of a church that can exist and grow in this non-traditional church time
  • Education. To be involved in, and develop, Social Justice and education programs in Uptown and other communities.
 
St. Matthew’s Mission goal (Vision) is to spend 80% of its resources on these ministries and 20% on “Life Together”, the life of St. Matthew’s.
 
The COVID 19 Pandemic of 2020-2022 put a stumbling block in the worship life and community PHACE life.
 
In Lent 2021 St. Matthew’s started a slow return to a year without the ravages of COVID 19.
 
In July, 2021 St. Matthew’s started worship at the Otterbein Chapel. Both 8 am and 10:30 am services are held there.  The 10:30 service is streamed using Facebook.

ADDENDUM:

Stop 1
Respite Connections at 5250 Strawberry Farms Blvd, Columbus, OH 43230. 

Stop 2
Central College Presbyterian Church Chapel.  CCPC has a chapel which was its original church building

Stop 3
St. Matthew’s leased a house at 23 East College Avenue, as an office in Uptown Westerville.  This put the activity of St. Matthew’s in the middle of its new “parish.  Quickly the traditional congregation became augmented by a second “street, coffee house, program based” congregation.  Fr. Joseph led this development by becoming the “Village Priest”. Since the leased building did not have a room large enough for worship, Old Bag of Nails restaurant made its 3rd floor banquet room available for Sunday worship. Old Bag of Nails traditionally did this as a contribution to the community.  St. Matthew’s worshiped there until the COVID 19 pandemic of 2019.  Also, for the next two years all worship was done via the internet since in-person gatherings were prohibited by the state government and the Bishop of Southern Ohio.

Stop 4
When in-person worship was resumed in mid-2021, St. Matthew’s approached Otterbein University for the use of its chapel.  We were given the use of the chapel on Sunday mornings at a very reasonable rate.
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