Get to Know: St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Fulton
St. Alban's Episcopal Church is nestled into a quiet neighborhood in the picturesque small town of Fulton, which is in Central Missouri, near Columbia. The parish is in transition, with a newly assigned part-time clergy person and dreams for the future.
The Rev. Jessica Wachter, a transitional deacon scheduled to be ordained a priest in December of 2022, says she and the small congregation are in the process of reimagining how St. Alban's can continue to be a faithful presence in their community. Jessica says the church is perfectly placed for service -- they're in a multi-racial neighborhood, near an assisted living facility and low-income apartments. She has also seen a lot of addiction problems in the community.
"There's so much opportunity for our church to be a place of welcome and community for people who so often get overlooked by the Church and society," Jessica said. "One of my dreams is for those people to find a place of love and welcome."
This isn't the first time St. Alban's has reimagined itself. According to a 1982 article in the diocesan newspaper "Interim," St. Alban's history includes other "resurrections."
Begun in 1908 as Trinity Episcopal, the church drew almost exclusively on the two colleges -- Westminster and William Woods -- for its patronage. The intellectuality of the college professors combined with the verve of their students to create a young, growing parish.
But the Depression was a particularly harsh time for rural parishes and Fulton was no exception. The church faltered, the property was sold, and Trinity Episcopal died.
The article goes on to explain that a few remaining ex-Trinity members continued to hold services in the local Presbyterian Church. Then in 1960, the Diocese raised $1 million to purchase a "wonderful old home" to hold worship services and to bring in the Rev. Daniel Weeks, who commuted from Mexico, Missouri, to lead those services. The Episcopal Church in Fulton was reborn, under the new name of "St. Alban's."
When the congregation wanted a more traditional worship space, they began using a chapel on the William Woods campus. Then they tried to get the rights to worship in the beautiful Christopher Wren church, which was brought piece by piece from London and reconstructed on Westminster's campus as part of the Winston Churchill Memorial, but the cost was too great for the congregation. They could, however, afford to build a church of their own. Bishop George Cadigan presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for a new church in 1973.
Through the ups and downs of their church history, the people of St. Alban's remain focused on their community. Simone and Doug Camp have been members for about 30 years. They live in Fulton and commute to work in Columbia. So St. Alban's is their main connection to their community. The couple has helped maintain the church through the pandemic and a flood that severely damaged the church basement.
"It's been hard," said Simone. "There's just so few of us. Any project we do -- it takes all of us. We're trying to figure out what is best for our community."
The congregation's community work includes building a little food pantry for their neighbors. The congregation stocked the pantry for the first year, now it is self-sustaining, with people in the community anonymously keeping it filled.
Jessica is working with St. Alban's members to discern what they want and what God is calling them to do in their next chapter. "We'll prayerfully discern it together," Jessica said. "None of us have the answers. We have to trust that God is going to help us figure that out."
Church name: St. Alban's Episcopal Church
Address: 6 W. Ninth Street
Email: [email protected]
Worship Services: Sundays at 9 a.m.
Clergy: The Rev. Jessica Wachter, Transitional Deacon