St. Paul's Episcopal Church

For over one hundred years, St. Paul’s has continued to meet the needs of congregants and community members alike from its location at the corner of North Fifth Street and Columbus Avenue.

On January 9, 1868, Bishop Alexander Gregg appointed Rev. Silas Dean Davenport to establish an Episcopalian mission within Waco. The Parish of St. Paul was subsequently organized on March 19, 1868, and the Reverend W. W. Patrick served as its first rector. St. Paul’s original congregants met outdoors and in private homes prior to the construction of a building on Fourth and Webster in 1870. When that structure was sold to the city of Waco in 1878, the church moved to North Fifth Street and Columbus Avenue. While the new sanctuary was under construction, parishioners temporarily attended services in the building’s basement. In 1897, in order to accommodate increased numbers, the sanctuary underwent further renovations. St. Paul’s has the distinction of being Waco’s oldest-standing church building still in use by its current congregation.

The church bears the marks of its long history. For example, cracks in the wooden floor of the sanctuary mark where the original walls stood before the expansion in 1897. If one looks close, numerous divots in the wood created from years of wear from high-heeled shoes are also visible.

The church contains beautiful stained glass windows. The windows all have stories of their own due to their association with donors. For instance, the windows of the four apostles were presented to the church by the Pidcoke family of Pidcoke, Texas, to serve as a memoriam to their parents who had long since passed and whose grave sites were unknown. Rumor has it that the depiction of Saint Luke bears a striking resemblance to Reginald Pidcoke himself. Not limited to the sanctuary, stained glass windows adorn many other areas of the church, including the bell tower. The stained glass window found on the second-story platform of the tower is attractive for more than its colorful panes. All around the edge of the window, one can find the penciled-in signatures of the men who worked to build the bell tower.

St. Paul’s bell tower is three stories tall and only accessible by ladder. It houses St. Paul’s antique bell. The bell is the only known item left from the original St. Paul’s location on the corner of Fourth and Webster. Though over a hundred years old, the bell still rings to welcome parishioners to church services every Sunday.

Valued for both its rich history and present ministry, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church remains a dynamic member of Waco’s greater faith community.

 

Images

Souvenir Postcard<br /><br />

Souvenir Postcard

Completed in June of 1879, St. Paul's Episcopal Church cost $14,500 to construct and furnish. The rectory, visible in the left corner of the image, had to be rebuilt when it was severely damaged by a fire in 1897. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Pastoral Welcome (1913)

Pastoral Welcome (1913)

Rev. William Postel Witsell greets parishioners in front of the parish house. It was common for the rector to meet with congregation members before and after the service in order to foster a sense of spiritual community. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

The Nave (pre-1920)

The Nave (pre-1920)

Although the top of the image is damaged, much of the period detail is still visible. Note the gas lamps and the suspended ropes that allowed the dormer windows to be opened. The script above the altar reads "Holiness becometh thine house O Lord forever." | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Joyful Ringing

Joyful Ringing

In 1875, the children of St. Paul's Sunday School gifted this 1,029 pound bell to the church to mark the Advent season. The inscription reads "Come ye, and let us go up to the House of the Lord." The photographer drew the bell's clapper onto the image. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

St. Paul's Exterior (circa 1930s)

St. Paul's Exterior (circa 1930s)

Note the close proximity of the rectory, the parish house, and the church's south wall. During this period, the rectory was rented to Central Christian Church for use as their parsonage, as St. Paul's rector found the space too big for his needs. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

The Four Evangelists

The Four Evangelists

These windows depicting St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John were part of the original stained glass art adorning the 1878 church building. R. C. Pidcocke donated the windows in memory of his parents, the Reverend Richard Burton and his wife Harriet Millicent Pidcocke of Staffordshire, England. It is rumored that St. Luke bears a curious resemblance to Pidcocke. | Source: Image courtesy of Randy Schormann View File Details Page

Sacred Space

Sacred Space

Pictured above is the sanctuary of St. Paul's as it stands today. The church has managed to accommodate the needs of contemporary ministry while preserving the historic character of its building. | Source: Image courtesy of Randy Schormann View File Details Page

Audio

A Warm Loving Place

Laura Dossett Smith speaks of her experience going to church as a young girl at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the 1930s. | Source: Smith, Laura Dossett, interviewed by Betsy Oates, March 2, 1977, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Paige Sullivan, “St. Paul's Episcopal Church,” Waco History, accessed July 26, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/39.

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