By Hannah Gerken
Sesquicentennial – a word long enough to represent the 150th anniversary of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Downtown Bryan. To celebrate this milestone in the church’s history, several events are planned in October, November, and December.
“As the rector, I see it as a celebration of 150 years of presence in Downtown Bryan and celebrating all of the people who have made that possible through the years; [we are] of course giving thanks to God for that,” says Father Daryl Hay, rector at St. Andrew’s. “But it’s also as a moment to reflect on the future. Downtown Bryan is changing. The neighborhoods around are changing, and even Bryan College Station is changing. So how can we embrace our future and make a greater impact?”
St. Andrew’s will begin the celebration during the October First Friday event with a kick-off birthday party in the church’s parking lot. Local musician Joey McGee will provide music, and in the spirit of birthday parties there will be food and cake for everyone.
On Thursday, Nov. 2, the Evensong, or evening prayer, will be sung for All Souls Day. This music and prayer service will be a chance to pray in honor of the founders of the church and any parish members. A luncheon will be hosted for parish members at Phillips Event Center on Dec. 9 with a visit from the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, Barkley Thompson. To celebrate the day St. Andrew’s was founded, Bishop of Texas Andy Doyle, will be present for worship service on Dec. 10.
St. Andrew’s was originally established in Millican in 1864. However, the church only stayed in Millican for three years. As the railroad extensions grew between Houston and Bryan, the population began to move into the Bryan area. When a yellow fever epidemic lowered the population of Millican even more, the remaining parish members moved to Bryan.
A Rich Tradition of Faith
When walking into St. Andrew’s, it is impossible not to notice the breathtaking stained-glass windows lining the sides of the church. These windows are original to when the church was built in 1914, with only a few exceptions. One window had to be replaced after being destroyed in a storm and two were restored after being vandalized.
The sunlight streaming through the windows brings a magical quality to the church and draws the eyes to the details. Above the altar is one large stained-glass window depicting the Last Supper. This window was recently restored and was taken out of the church for almost a year. The final piece was placed back in the window on Christmas Eve, making for a true Christmas miracle.
St. Andrew’s in Bryan officially opened on Dec. 10, 1867, though not in the location where it resides today. The first church was built at the corner of 25th Street and Parker, a block away from its present-day location. In 1907, plans were started to build a new church on the corner of 26th Street and Parker, the highest point in Downtown Bryan. The cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1912 and the first service was held on Palm Sunday in 1914.
In 2014, St. Andrew’s celebrated 100 years in their current location, making them the oldest church building in continuous use in Bryan.
St. Andrew’s has long been a participant in the B/CS community.
“We are just trying to be good neighbors,” says Father Daryl, “and participate in First Friday, open up our parking to folks who visit Downtown, and to just be a supporter of Downtown Bryan because there are a lot of great things going on here.”
They volunteer with the Brazos Church Pantry, where around 30 churches come together to provide food to those who are food insecure. St. Andrew’s also established a scholarship program with Neal Elementary in Bryan. For 10 years the program has provided scholarships to 5th graders who have the potential to attend college. The scholarship is presented to the students upon their high school graduation. The teachers and principals identify six to eight students each year.
The church also participates in the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network, assisting immigrants facing exploitation, offering counsel, and teaching citizenship classes.
“We are here, and we want to make a difference,” Father Daryl says, “and not just to those associated with St. Andrew’s … but to those in B/CS and beyond.”