Bishop George D. Young III of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee will lead the celebration with a Festival Eucharist Lord’s Supper. Not only will this be the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee for the congregation, but it will also be a welcoming for some 25 newly baptized members, the commissioning of a new vestry (board) and the commissioning of Holder as the new priest and pastor.
Holder said it is appropriate the church is situated in Elizabethton’s “Old Town,” near the Carter County Courthouse: “Two rivers running through it, great mountains surrounding and the sunshine of God’s love blessing all.”
This year’s anniversary marks the beginning of St. Thomas, but Holder said the first record of the Episcopal Church in Carter County goes back to 1859, when William West Skiles, a deacon associated with the Order of the Holy Cross monastic order, traveled from Valle Crucis, N.C., to hold Communion in Carter County.
An early parish of Episcopalians was formed in the 1890s, known as Calvary Episcopal Church and established a church across from First Methodist Church. According to Frank Merritt’s “Later History of Carter County,” that congregation disbanded in 1906. The Episcopalians of Carter County began a reorganizational effort in 1930, led by Harry Keller, rector of St. John’s Church in Johnson City.
Holder said Episcopalians held their meetings at several locations during that time, ranging from the Elizabethton City Hall to the Carter County Courthouse. The congregation must have really appreciated the new stability in 1941, when it started renting the building that formerly housedSouthern Methodist Church. The Elizabethton church was officially recognized at the Diocesan Convention in Memphis in 1942.
Holder said the Methodists began the building in 1861 but construction was halted by the Civil War. It was finally completed in 1867. The building was heavily damaged by a fire in 1988, but was rebuilt in 1989.
In addition to Sunday’s celebration, there will be 75th anniversary events held at the church throughout the year, according to Elizabeth White, chairwoman of the 75th Anniversary Celebration. “We ‘ponder anew what the Almighty can do’ and is doing at St. Thomas — great, new and exciting things in and beyond our doors.”
White said everyone is invited to “celebrate with us at this beautiful old House of Worship praising the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.”