Our Early Roots
By the early 1980’s, the full-time population of Hilton Head Island had grown to exceed 10,000, with more and more development taking place on the middle and north end of the island. At that time, St. Luke’s, on the south end, was the only Episcopal church on the island, and with the encouragement of The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, Bishop of South Carolina many parishioners there came to see that it was time to plant a new church to serve this growing population.
By the fall of 1985, notions began to take shape as plans. St. Luke’s had just begun to look for a Vicar for the new group when they learned that Bishop Allison had already decided to form a mission and had appointed the Rev. John (Jack) McKee, a retired priest living on Hilton Head, as Vicar. In November 1985, an organizing meeting was held at the Spring Lake Pavilion in Hilton Head Plantation. Thirty-six men and women met with Jack McKee to lead this fledgling flock in establishing a diocesan mission.
Rev. McKee polled the group for their preferences on a name for the Mission Church. When no single name won strong support, he suggested that “All Saints” might work, and the group agreed. They selected Charlie Richman to be the first Senior Warden, John Dixon as Treasurer, and Ann Gibson as Secretary. Click here for a complete list of all vestry officers.
Our First Home
Jack McKee announced that he and Charlie Richman
Pelican Bar & Restaurant
William F. Pelican Restaurant, circa 1985. had made a preliminary search and identified that the William F. Pelican Restaurant was available for use on Sunday mornings.
Worship at the Pelican Bar
Worship at the Pelican Bar, 1986.
Worship in the Hilton Head Highschool Library
Hilton Head Highschool Library, 1988. The very next Sunday, when the restaurant was closed, a group went to study the space and came to an immediate consensus that the downstairs bar there would be an ideal first home for the new All Saints Mission.
On Sunday, December 8, 1985, a group of eight parishioners went early to the Pelican Restaurant to set up for the service. About thirty-five others, men, women, and one child, attended the first part of the 9:00 service at St. Luke’s, then left at the passing of the peace with blessings and parting gifts of a prayer book and a hymnal for each. They drove nine miles up the William Hilton Parkway to the restaurant and held the first service of the All Saints congregation, led by Vicar McKee and Archdeacon Peter Beckwith.
There are still a few parishioners at All Saints today who fondly recall the Pelican restaurant days. Certainly no view of Hilton Head Island could equal the one of marshes and the Intracoastal Waterway behind the temporary altar set up each Sunday for those "Saints." Church members were occasionally interrupted in their prayers by the cascade of ice falling from the icemaker behind the bar. On a wall nearby was a plaque showing a whale exhorting one and all to "Have a Whale of a Day”. Later, the owner of the Pelican restaurant presented the whale sign to the church as a remembrance and gesture of good will.
Jack McGee died in March 1987, and a hard-working search
first Rector committee quickly identified and called the Rev. Dr. Gordon Mann as the next Vicar. By this time, the congregation was beginning to strain the resources at The Pelican Restaurant, which could only accommodate about a hundred people for Sunday services and was of course not available at all for services other days of the week. Gordon Mann arrived in September of 1987 and immediately saw that a new worship space was needed. An agreement was signed with the Hilton Head High School for use of its library for the next two years, starting in November 1987.
"We will build it for the Lord..."
Even while the congregation was still worshiping at the Pelican, plans for building a church had been initiated, and a first capital campaign in 1986 had raised $140,000 for land purchase. In October, 1988, one year after Gordon Mann's arrival, a building plan was presented to the congregation.
The steeple goes up, November 1990. There were 100 contributing pledge units in the congregation at the time they assumed this sizable challenge, and that small but generous number gave $800,000 toward the construction. Walter Greer was named chairman of the design committee, and after interviewing several Island architects the committee selected parishioner Joe Hall to design the church. A detailed questionnaire was sent to communicants, and from the responses Joe identified the congregation's desire for the Island Colonial Style.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on December 10, 1989, and one year later the first service was held, appropriately, on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1990, almost exactly five years after the founding of the congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church. The participants were overwhelmed by the interior beauty of the sanctuary. The buttery yellow walls glowed with sunshine, and warmth reflected in the happy faces of the members. Floors with the appearance of old stone and the simplicity of the pews and the altar section gave the feeling of having stepped back in time. The new space brought requests for musical events, including concerts by groups from the Savannah Symphony.
A New Rector
In November 1991, Gordon Mann was diagnosed as terminally ill and soon had to resign. The Rev. Saxton Wolfe and the Rev. William Shively, a retired priest and member of the congregation, served ably during the interim. Dr. Mann died in November 1992; a search committee had already begun seeking a new Rector.
On January 1, 1992, All Saints assumed full parish status and received its charter at the Diocesan Convention a year later. There were now 300 communicants. During this time the Outreach Commission was formed; a columbarium garden was created, with Barbara Hodges as landscape designer; and the first EfM class was held. Greg Prior
Greg Prior, second Rector The Rev. John Gregory Prior was instituted as Rector in March 1993, coming to Hilton Head Island from St. Paul's Church, Conway, South Carolina. A pre-school was established, and Marilyn Adams was appointed Parish Administrator.
In 1994, with needs for a new parish hall, more Sunday School rooms and a pre-school wing, the growing congregation began planning and fund-raising. Construction began and the new parish hall, honoring the deceased Rector, was dedicated as Gordon Mann Hall in December 1995. The first Stephen Ministry classes were started under the leadership of Greg Prior and Ann Walling, an All Saints parishioner who later became an ordained deacon assisting at All Saints.
Several changes occurred in the Church leadership during the next few years. Saxton Wolfe left All Saints to become a member of Bluffton's Church of the Cross. William Shively retired as part-time associate, replaced by the Rev. Roger Wm. Smith, retired Rector of historic St. Helena's Church in Beaufort. As the parish grew, the Rev. Neil A. Willard was hired as Curate; three years later he was called to Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, Virginia.
In 1999, as the parish continued to grow, plans for construction of new offices and expansion of the sanctuary were begun. Also, at this time, adjacent land was purchased for additional parking. The dedication of the new facilities, expanded 360-seat capacity nave, and new narthex was held in September 2001. In each expansion of All Saints, the original architect, Joe Hall, was asked to plan the additions. In enlarging the church, he did a masterful job of maintaining the integrity of the original building while increasing the capacity. The number of active communicants now had reached 464. The Rev. Morris (Mory) Lent, retired Chaplain of Porter-Gaud School, Charleston, joined the staff as Associate Priest. A Rodgers organ with acoustic pipes, gift of former Islander John Lawless, was installed.
Our Third Rector
Early in 2002, after nine years at All Saints, Greg Prior accepted a call to a parish in his home state of Rhode Island. Roger Smith filled in as interim rector, assisted by Mory Lent,
third Rector while a search committee combed through numerous possible replacements, ultimately recommending the call of the Rev. Richard Carroll Lindsey, then Rector of St. Alfred’s Episcopal Church in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Rick Lindsey took up his duties in February 2003, with an official installation the following month. He brought with him a strong interest in mission work in the Dominican Republic, and Bishop Salmon appointed him to the Anglican Liaison Board with the Dominican Republic – a relationship which over the years has led to the involvement of many All Saints’ parishioners in mission trips and other support of the people and churches there.
Recognizing the need for additional clergy to support the Rector, the Vestry established a search committee and by July 2003, the Rev. Rowena Gibbons had joined the staff. A recent graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, Rowena came as a transitional Deacon and was ordained to the priesthood in December. Her presence allowed All Saints in the fall of 2004 to inaugurate an experimental third worship service, more contemporary and intentionally child-friendly. The experiment ended in May 2005, when Rowena left for a position at St. James Episcopal Church in Mansfield, PA. Bill Shively again volunteered to fill in, joined by another retired priest, the Rev. Charles (Chad) Minifie. The Rev. Sandra (Sandy) Grant, a parishioner who was ordained in September 2005, as a permanent Deacon, also became available to assist. In 2006, another retired priest, the Rev. Donald McPhail, was hired on a part-time basis.
Setting the Cornerstone for Today and Tomorrow Cornerstone LogoBut the Rector and Vestry realized that the status-quo of one full-time priest with part-time and volunteer support was unsustainable, so they began planning a capital fundraising campaign – the Cornerstone Campaign – with several goals. Primary among these were the retirement of the $659,000 mortgage which was eating up over 10% of the budget every year, plus funds for the initial hiring of more full-time staff, and support of local and foreign missions. The three-year, $1,100,000 campaign officially kicked off in 2007. By July of that year, enough funds had been received that the Vestry confidently approved a recommendation to hire the Rev. Mark Brinkmann as an associate priest. 2007 also saw the reconfiguration of the worship space to add the Hay Chapel, designed by Joe Hall and funded by a generous contribution from the Hay family.
In September 2009, as the Cornerstone Campaign wound down, the final payment on the mortgage was made, and the parish celebrated a “Mortgage Burning” party the following month. The Campaign also generated $100,000 to help build a church and school in Barahona, Dominican Republic, and an equal amount to support a number of local outreach projects. In that latter category, Ginny Trolley spearheaded the effort to have All Saints became a founding supporter of Family Promise of Beaufort, hosting its first set of guests in September 2008. All Saints has continued to be a host parish ever since, welcoming guests one week each quarter.
2009 was also the year that the Vestry officially created the All Saints Foundation "to establish, maintain, and grow an endowment fund, which is to be used to support All Saints Episcopal Church, its facilities, religious work, missions, and outreach programs." An Endowment Fund had existed since 2006, but there had been little awareness of it and few funds coming in. The Foundation established more detailed guidelines and procedures, together with a Board of Directors to carry out its goals.
For several years, parishioners had noted the spotty acoustics in the nave, and the Rodgers organ was becoming less and less reliable,
Music Director Steven Branyon with the new organ, November 2010. so in 2010 an ad hoc committee did a thorough study of the problems and concluded that the organ should be replaced and that the acoustics could be improved only by a reconfiguration of the choir loft. The Vestry concurred but had to shelve the report without action because there was no money in the budget for such an expensive project. Then, in late March 2011, lightening from a violent thunderstorm struck the church grounds, fatally damaging the organ (and doing some other lesser damage). The insurance settlement, supplemented by a generous memorial donation from Paul and Edie Kopelcheck, suddenly made the plan a reality, and a new Walker digital organ in a newly rebuilt choir loft was in place by the end of the year.
Outside Forces Intrude
All Saints Episcopal Church, being located in South Carolina and being part of the national Episcopal Church, is entwined with the history and actions of those two larger entities. Indeed, some of the threads woven by these two reach back before All Saints even existed, and the most impactful ones reach back at least to the General Convention of 2003, when resolutions passed there led many conservative Episcopalians in the Diocese to become more alienated from the national church. A series of meetings and conversations at All Saints over the next few years identified a strong sentiment for continued unity among all parties, but also a clear commitment to the Episcopal Church, should push come to shove. Actions and reactions over the next few years further strained relations, and the fabric of the union finally unraveled in 2012, when the Disciplinary Board for Bishops determined that actions by Diocesan Bishop Mark Lawrence constituted an abandonment of the Episcopal Church. Then, when Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori followed the recommendation of that Board by inhibiting Bishop Lawrence from his Episcopal and canonical functions pending further investigation, the entire Standing Committee of the Diocese resigned and Bishop Lawrence, together with the majority of clergy and congregants in the Diocese, broke with the Episcopal Church.
All Saints, which reaffirmed its identity as part of the Episcopal Church, suddenly found itself one of the big fish in a much smaller pond. Almost overnight, clergy and laypersons moved from life in the marginalized outskirts of the diocese to prominence among its leadership. In 2013, interim Bishop the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg identified All Saints as a “resource parish” for the Diocese. Many Episcopalians in the southern part of the Diocese found themselves without a home or without clergy; some came to All Saints, but for those who could not, Rick Lindsey organized a cadre of committed “retired” clergy to respond to their needs: Deacon Cathy Brookman and priests Pam Fahrner, George Moyser, Jack Nietert, Gordon Weller, Robert Woodroofe, and former All Saints Rector Greg Prior.
The growth of All Saints continued, and even accelerated throughout 2013, passing 600 by year’s end. The Vestry, among other goals identified at its 2013 retreat, affirmed the need to better serve the growing number of families with young children. At virtually the same time as the Vestry was reaching this conclusion, Bishop vonRosenberg asked the Rector if he could find some use for a young priest, the Rev. Matthew Schneider, an Assistant at Prince George Winyah Church in Georgetown, SC, who had been left without a job when he decided he could not follow that parish in leaving the Episcopal Church. In short order, discussions were held, parishioners were informed, worries were calmed, money was found, and Matt Schneider became an Associate Priest at All Saints on July 15, 2013.
On February 21 and 22, 2014, All Saints hosted the 223rd Annual Diocesan Convention, with parishioner Mark Szen taking the lead as local organizer. Over a hundred parish volunteers pitched in that weekend, capping many months of work to welcome, feed, and support the nearly 300 delegates and visitors. A highlight of the convention was the official recognition and celebration of five new missions, a sign of the growth and vitality of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.