So....What's St. Paul's About?
In American culture, "small" often has a bad connotation, while "big" equals good or successful. But small churches have much to celebrate and it's part of the pastor's job to make sure churches have good self-esteem.
Dr. Marilyn Johns, Director Small Church Program, Virginia Theological Seminary
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Angelica is a small church. We view that, in the light of Dr. Johns' statement above, a strength and a gift to celebrate. It means our relationships as a community of faith can be strong and vital as we bear one another's burdens and celebrate each other's joys. We are a Church which prays together and is able to come togther around our Lord's holy Table despite the many differences that are present in even a small community of people. The strength of the Episcopal Church, and of St.Paul's Church, is that there is room for all sorts of conditions of people. The flip side to our being a small Church is that it's not easy to get lost among throngs of people and dozens of myriad programs. At the same time, that also means there is room for personal growth and expression with others who are traveling the same journey as you are. We are a Church where conversation is frequent and valued; but we also value and allow those seeking quiet and meditation to find that.
A little about our history . . .
The Episcopal Church in Angelica dates to 1820 when services were held using the Court House. The parish was formally organized in 1827 with Philip Church and James Wilson, Wardens. A building for the congregation was begun n 1831, completed and consecrated in 1834, and then was destroyed by fire in 1847. A new church structure, the current church, was begun in 1847 and consecrated in 1848. A new pipe organ was installed in the 1880's for $1300, the large wooden rood screen and windows were later added as memorials to various members and former clergy. One of the windows given in memory of Thomas C. Thornton was crafted by the Tiffany Studios in the 1890's. The Church continued to grow through the latter part of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
Starting in the 1920's Christ Church has begun a century of clustering and yoking with other Episcopal parishes in Allegany County. In 1975 St. Paul's Church joined with the parishes in Belmont, Bolivar, and Cuba in forming a regional ministry called the Allegany Counnty Ministry, sharing their clergy. During this time there was a priest resident in the Rectory of St. Philip's Church, Belmont and in the Rectory of Christ Church, Cuba. During the 1980's the four parishes of the Allegany County Ministry were joined by St. Andrew's Church in Friendshiip and St. John's Church in Wellsville. The six Episcopal parishes were then served by one stipendiary priest and several resident non-stipendiary priests. Through this time the six Episcopal Churches of Allegany County continued to decrease in size with evetually St. Andrew's Church, Friendship, Church of our Savior, Bolivar, and St. Philip's Church, Belmont all closing within the past two years.
In October, 2014 the Allegany County Episcopal Ministry was dissolved as a regional cluster of parishes united within the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. It was decided the ACEM no longer well served the needs of the individual congregations and, consquently, each parish would continue to explore its own life indendently and as will make most sense in each of the three remaining communities having an Episcopal Church: Angelica, Cuba, and Wellsville.
As a result, St. Paul's Church is now revitalized in our faith to remain a vital outreach for the Episcopal Church in the Angelica-Belmont-Belfast area. We secured the priestly ministry of an Episcopal priest who had recently retired and moved back to Allegany County, The Rev. Richard Hamlin. Fr. Rick was not a newcomer to us as he was one of two priests who founded the Allegany County Ministry in 1975. Fr. Hamlin and his wife, Stephanie, were married at St. Paul's in Angelica in 1976 and the women of the Church provided them a reception on the Church's side lawn. Two of their children were baptized in Christ Church, Cuba and Fr. Hamlin was ordained to the priesthood in Christ Church in 1976. In February of 2022, Fr. Rick retired from leading St. Paul's and is now able to enjoy time with his children, grandchildren and wife, Stephanie.
What others have to say about the Episcopal Church . . .
“I even feel it in the design of the wooden pews. They are well worn, but polished. There is something about it that is used and old, but well maintained. It’s like it’s been touched by so many people that it takes on oil from people over time... You can tell people have held onto them over time, and the wood has been smoothed by age. I think it’s a good image in my mind of this church. It’s been shaped by people over time, and yet it’s timeless and substantial.
I don’t have to go through all these steps to be with God. It’s good to find a church that is simple. A complicated church has a million different rules, one that requires a lot of you to perfect it, and to be a good follower of God. Church shouldn’t feel like a task, or an obligation or pressure. You should be going because you want to worship God in your own personal way with other people. My church is simple and open.
The Episcopal Church is striking, particularly because of the rituals that we participate in. The prayers we are saying are spoken through time by Anglicans around the world. It’s like a time warp, and you come as an individual, but become part of a collective force of people, all speaking the same words as part of the same ritual. It’s a comforting feeling to know that others are experiencing the same thing at that moment, and that you are grateful for Jesus coming. It makes you feel that you are becoming part of the ritual.
One of the first Sundays I went to this church, I remember being on my knees in the chapel, at the altar. I see the priest standing in front of me and I am sharing that I have been away from the church and that I want to renew my faith. The priest lifts my head up and says, ‘You left the church, the church never left you. And all you have to do is come back, because Jesus always loved you.’ It made me feel welcomed, loved, and cared for. It’s some- thing I never felt in my previous church experiences.