St. Alban's revitalizes St. Mary's in Bolton
According to The Rev. Billie Abraham, "Bishop Duncan Gray III, visited St. Alban's several weeks ago and was not at all surprised that St. Alban's had come forward with an offer to help revitalize St. Mary's. The common denominator was an appreciation for history. St. Alban's is preparing to celebrate its 153rd anniversary on the last weekend of October. St. Mary's also has a long history, but it does not have an active congregation at this time. That is changing!"
In response to St. Alban's desire to help revive St. Mary's, the Episcopal Diocese gave Rev. Abraham permission to reopen the church and celebrate the Holy Eucharist once a quarter. Assisting her efforts will be Harvey Smith, Lay Worship Leader from St. Alban's, who will lead Evening Prayer two times per month.
In addition, programs featuring music and the arts will be help in conjunction with the Evening Prayer services. The programs are planned by the members of St. Alban's and St. Mary's, coordinated by James Anderson and Marty Mellon of Bolton.
To provide out reach to the community, Jim Drake of St. Alban's established a web site for the efforts to revitalize St. Mary's.
"An Ornament to the Diocese" Reopened for Worship
On Sunday, September 12, 2010, at 4:00 p.m., the Holy Eucharist was celebrated at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Bolton. The Reverend Billie Abraham, rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church at Bovina, officiated. The service was the first to be held at St. Mary's since the church closed its doors a decade and a half ago.
St. Mary's, located in the heart of Bolton, is one of the oldest Episcopal churches in Hinds County. As early as 1855, Bishop William Mercer Green, the first bishop of Mississippi, celebrated the Holy Eucharist in Bolton. Following the service, Bishop Green wrote in his journal: "The day was pleasant and I found, on my arrival, a large congregation of blacks as well as whites comfortably seated under the cotton shed. The crude extemporary seats were covered with clean cotton bagging and set on a triple tier of bales."
The cotton-shed service compelled local villagers to work for the establishment of an Episcopal Church in Bolton. On April 8th, 1872, members of the vestry signed articles related to the organization of St. Mary's Church. Four years later the church was built and the first service in the new church was held April 10th, 1876, with Bishop Green officiating.
The Collect for the occasion proclaimed: "O most glorious God, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain; Graciously accept the Dedication of this place to thy service; and grant that all who shall call upon thee here may worship thee in spirit and in truth, and may their lives show forth thy praise: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"
Bishop Green later made note of the historic service in his journal: "Preached at Bolton in their new and beautiful church, which, though in an unfinished state, may claim, both in design and workmanship, to be an ornament to the Diocese, and a monument in praise of the taste and labor of the builders."
For over a century, St. Mary's remained active as a church family and played an important role in the community. It was a sad day for the town when the church closed its doors due to a dwindling congregation.
St. Alban's joins in the clean-up and repair of St. Mary's
In preparation for reopening the historic church, members of St. Alban's designated two Saturdays as "work days". The first work day was held August 21st and participants of all faiths came from Edwards, Bolton and Raymond to help with the clean-up. During this time, all of the pews and woodwork in the church, as well as the beautiful stained glass windows, were cleaned and repaired. The next work day was held Saturday, August 28th from 8:00 a.m. until noon with a picnic following.
Among those attending the first work day were Carolyn and Marty Mellon, former members of St. Mary's, and Dan and Brenda Mashburn. Dan, a long time member of the Bolton Methodist Church, recalled growing up in Bolton and going to school in St. Mary's parish hall.
"The Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal churches were like families in the community," said Mashburn. Even after St. Mary's closed its doors, Dan made sure that the lights on the cross above the entrance remained lit. "Only once did the lights on the cross go out" stated Dan, "and that was when Katrina hit."
"Terry and Charlie Brantley, members of St. Alban's church and residents of Edwards, were responsible for getting the two churches together," The Rev. Abraham commented. "Terry and Charlie are blessed with an extra sense when it comes to networking. They pulled together citizens of Bolton and members of St. Albans and scheduled work days so the church could be returned to its proper use - a place of worship for a faith community."
The Rev. Abraham, St. Alban#39;s says she looks forward to holding services at St. Mary's. "The interior of the church sets a prayerful atmosphere. The hardwood carving behind the altar and the stained glass windows enhance the worship space. The altar linens have been washed and ironed, the vestments have been cleaned. The church will be completely ready for worship soon."
The Very Reverend Billie Abraham, Rector ◆ The Reverend Deacon Josie Williams
5930 Warriors Trail ◆ Vicksburg, MS 39180 ◆ Phone: (601) 636-6687