History of St. John's Episcopal Church

St. John’s was founded by 25 Episcopalians at an organizational meeting on December 15, 1946, following Evening Prayer at First Protestant Church. The Rev. Hubert Palmer, of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Seguin, assisted the Rt. Rev. Everett Jones, Bishop of West Texas. Some of the founders present were Clem & Mattie Boulter, Edward & Rubylien Badouh, Sylvia Proctor, Lilla Alfrey (mother of Jo Ann Bedford), and Roye and Myrtle Swartwout.

By January 1947, the Rev. Hubert Palmer was conducting regular services at the old Iris Harrison Dress Factory (where Jo Ann Alfrey Bedford recalls playing among the coat racks) and later, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Chapel. Sunday school took place in the office of the William Cameron Lumberyard. The Women’s Auxiliary and the Altar Guild began, and members gathered for meetings in each other’s homes. St. John’s was named in honor of St. John the Evangelist and was welcomed into communion with the Diocese of West Texas at Council in 1948.

The property on which our buildings now stand was donated by the Charles F. Guenther family and the Clemens Estate in memory of 7 pioneer families. In 1950, the congregation of 65 began a building program. That first building, completed in 1951, now serves as the central area of the current parish hall.

There was a special closeness in the process of getting started. The men of the church made the first altar, altar rails, and hymn rails. The parish purchased crosses, Eucharistic vessels, and linens from donations; pews, prayer books, hymnals, and the needlepoint kneelers were gifts to St. John’s. A portable organ obtained soon after. Everyone worked together to see the dream of this church realized.

Fr. Palmer (Seguin) and Fr. McClurken served the small congregation. Lay vicars and seminarians assisted. In 1950 the Rev. Sam Monk, fresh from seminary, was appointed first resident priest.

The parish expanded to accommodate the congregation’s growth and built a new addition for Sunday school and offices in 1953. Growth continued, and by 1954, membership reached 165. The Rev. John Herman served from 1954-60. With 214 members, St. John’s achieved parish status in 1955, after 8 years as a mission. Increasing numbers and activities led to a second story addition in 1957.

Women of the church began the Bargain Box Thrift Shop in 1954. As the ministry grew, it was necessary to move it to the old Iris Harrison Dress Factory. Over the years, the Bargain Box made contributions to several parish ministries, one of which provided school children donations. This ministry continues today under Hope Hospice of New Braunfels.

The Rev. Robert Creasy (1960-66) served as the next rector of St. John’s. The church broke ground for the present church sanctuary in March 1967, during the tenure of the Rev. Ron Thomson (1966-72). Lay readers traveled to celebrate Morning Prayer for a nucleus, later developing into St. Francis by the Lake. The long-awaited new church building, constructed of native stone from Fredericksburg, was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Everett H. Jones on February 16, 1968.

Beams from a brandy distillery that later became a Civil War woolen factory were donated by Porter Fearey to create the sizeable rough-hewn cross and reshelve for the sanctuary. The marble altar was a gift from the Guenther family. In 1967 the columbarium was added and modeled after the one at Church of the Good Shepherd in Corpus Christi. Porter and Mary Fearey donated the carillon for the Bell Tower. The church dedicated the Tower to Mary upon its completion.

Ministries continued to develop as membership grew during the tenures of David Wendel (1972-1978), Tom Keith (1978-1984), Robert Keith (1985-1996), and Robert Koth (who assisted briefly in 1989), and Neal Michell (1998-2000).

During the ministry of Rev. Charles Thebeau (2001-2009), the church entered a difficult period that resulted in a split. Under the leadership of the retired Bishop James E. Folts, St. John’s restarted as a mission. During the restart, Bishop Lillibridge appointed Rev. Ripp Hardaway (2009-present) as the Vicar; he is now the rector. Rev. Lucy Strandlund joined us at the curate in June 2020. The congregation continues to thrive as we celebrate the power of resurrection in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Evidence of this power is visible in our renovation and expansion, which includes a new Christian Education wing completed in September 2017.