Emmanuel Gothic Emmanuel Episcopal Church
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300 W. Frederick St.
Staunton, VA 24401
(540) 886-8172

Our History

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Past rectors of our parish:

  • The Rev. Robert Carter Jett (1893-1913)
  • The Rev. William G. McDowell (1913-1918)
  • The Rev. Dr. J. Lewis Gibbs (1918-1957)
  • The Rev. Victor S. Ross, Jr. (1958-1965)
  • The Rev. Allie W. Frazier, Jr. (1966-1968)
  • The Rev. John T. Chewning, Jr. (1969-1971)
  • The Rev. Hugh C. White (1971-1982)
  • The Rev. Delmas Hare (1983-1986)
  • The Rev. Walter Dawson (1987-1990)
  • The Rev. Jane E. Sigloh (1992-1998)
  • The Rev. Walter D. Clark (1998-1999)
  • The Rev. Edward M. Covert (1999-2012)
  • The Rev. Shelby Ochs Owen (2013-)

A Brief History of Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Emmanuel Church was founded in 1893 as an offshoot of neighboring Trinity Church. The new group of Episcopalians sent a letter of intention to the bishop on March 6, was granted permission to form a congregation on June 8, met officially for the first time at the YMCA on June 27, and called their first rector, the Rev. Robert Carter Jett, on June 30.

From the very first, Emmanuel has shown concern for the community and provided a theologically based vision of the Church as calling men and women to God's justice. Emmanuel has always been a church accepting and tolerant of change, so the parish has become a community in which political and religious conservatives and liberals work and worship together in mutual respect and caring. We have welcomed women to leadership positions.

In 1990, Emmanuel engaged a team from the Alban Institute to help us at a crisis point in our history. From the Alban experience came a reaffirmation of our desire to continue as a community. Part of this reaffirmation was the decision to become more consciously and intentionally a laity-led parish. This is accomplished by hiring part-time clergy particularly adept at helping the laity take on roles many would traditionally see as "the priest's job," including adult and children's education, outreach, stewardship, and fellowship.

Emmanuel has experienced a spiritual renewal since 1990, and a slow but steady growth. Our average Sunday morning attendance is 95. We are a parish comfortable with our size, being neither complacent about growth nor frantic about not becoming larger. We are an active congregation that welcomes new members to the ministry of Jesus Christ.

In November 2012, Rev. Ed Covert announced that he was retiring as rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, a position he had held for the past 13 years. In the history of our parish, only one other rector had served longer: Rev. Dr. J. Lewis Gibbs (nearly forty years). On February 3, 2013, Emmanuel welcomed the Rev. Shelby Ochs Owen as our new priest in charge, and on July 1, 2015, she officially became the rector of our congregation.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church copper roof

Our church building

Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as seen from the southeast side,
after the new copper roof was installed in the spring of 2009.

On February 23, 1894, the vestry of the new parish voted to use the plans for the church made by local architect T. J. Collins. The Gothic Revival brick structure was built in 1896, with a simple interior, a center aisle on a north-south axis, and lights fitted for both electricity and gas. The construction contract was for $10,082.

In response to changing liturgical practices, the church was remodeled in 1903-1904 to provide for a high Victorian-Gothic chancel with a richly decorated vaulted ceiling. This drastic renovation effected an east-west axis for the center aisle, an extension of the west wall to allow a polychrome chancel, and enlarged seating for the choir. The marble altar, with a depiction of the Last Supper, was given in 1911 in memory of a Stuart Hall girl who died earlier that year at the school. The reredos was added in 1916. The parish house wing was built in 1930 in a Tudor Revival variation of the Gothic style. The pipe organ was installed in 1942 and rebuilt in 1992. The stained glass windows were cleaned and repaired in 1993. Later in the decade, the electrical system was updated and the nave was restored with new plaster, decorative painting, and carpeting. More recently, an elevator was installed to make the sanctuary accessible to all. In the summer of 2008, the "Emmanuel" stained glass window behind the altar, and the "Angel" stained glass window on the north side of the church, were carefully removed, cleaned, and fully restored to their original beauty. In the spring of 2009, the old slate roof was replaced with copper sheeting that will preserve the structure against water damage for several decades to come. Our latest major improvements have been the restoration of the stained glass window on the east side in March 2012, a major upgrading of the electrical system in late 2014, and the installation of a new furnace in October 2015.

Our parish banner

The new Emmanuel Staunton banner was displayed for the first time at the consecration service for Bishop Mark Bourlakas in Roanoke, in July 2013. The cross design replicates the crosses that adorn the sanctuary of our church. Below the cross are representations of Betsy Bell and Mary Gray hills, the defining geographical feature of the city of Staunton, as well as a number of the wildflowers native to our area.

Mountain Laurel,
Black-eyed Susan,
Trumpet Vine,
Bull Thistle,
Star of Bethlehem.

Emmanuel Staunton banner

Trumpet Honeysuckle,
Wild Bergamot,
Solomon's Seal,
Violet Wood Sorrel,
Common Blue Violet.

Our church's place

Emmanuel Episcopal Church belongs to the...

Augusta Convocation, which is part of the

Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, which is part of

Province III (Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania) of the

Protestant Episcopal Church U.S.A., which is part of the

Anglican Communion, which is part of

The Universal Christian Church

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