Later this month, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church will mark its 170th anniversary as a congregation.
The church is planning to host an open house with tours and a celebratory luncheon during the weekend of Sept. 24-25.
It is one of the county’s oldest churches.
According to history compiled by the late Tim Sloan, a lifetime member, sometime in early 1846, Covington area Episcopalians, led by Dr. Charles Glover Fisher Sr., were organized into a congregation by the Reverend James W. Rogers, an Episcopal priest who had charge of the county’s mission stations, namely Trinity (Mason), Ravenscroft Chapel (Brighton), and St. Paul’s (Randolph).
The new church was dedicated to St. Matthew, who was one of the 12 apostles and the writer of the first gospel.
A small church building was constructed on the opposite corner from the present structure in about 1855 or 1856 and in 1858 the current building was constructed.
Among the charter members were, Dr. Charles G. Fisher Jr., Mrs. Annie Fisher Hamilton, James Baker Hamilton, Mrs. Jacob Tipton, Judge James Byars, Joseph Green, F. M. Green, Mrs. Elizabeth Baker Jones and her four sons and five daughters, Dr. Hugh Rose and family, W. P. Malone, J. J. Malone, the Lauderdale family, the Newman family, and the McGregor family.
Following Reconstruction, in the 1890s, the life of St. Matthew’s Parish was at a low ebb due to irregular services.
“Through the efforts of Mrs. Maria Baker Lemmon in maintaining a regular church school, the doors were kept open,” Sloan wrote. “She prevailed upon Mr. J. Allie Green to act as church school superintendent, in which capacity he served for over a decade. In the late 1890s, under the ministry of the Reverend J. M. Northrop, the church was greatly revived and was active for a number of years. Miss Sara Lemmon and Mrs. Bessie Lemmon McQuiston served as organists during this period and St. Matthew’s had both a splendid vested choir and vested acolytes.”
The last 120 years have brought many changes, both to the congregation and to the building, with a fellowship hall added in the mid-1900s.
Each year the church celebrates the feast day of St. Matthew, its patron saint, on the Sunday closest to Sept. 21, and this year’s celebration will take place all weekend long.
In conjunction with the Heritage Day festival, St. Matthew’s will host an open house with tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The church is located a block from from the Historic Court Square at 303 S. Munford.
The public is also invited to attend services Sunday morning, beginning at 10:30 a.m., that will be conducted from a 19th century prayer book. Following services, a luncheon will be held in the fellowship hall.
All are welcomed and invited to attend, especially former members and attendees.