Get to Know: St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Ironton
Ironton is a small town in the Ozarks, known for its minerals (iron), a civil war battle (the battle of Pilot Knob), and a beautiful historic church -- St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
The church was built in 1869 and is described as "frontier gothic architecture." The plans for the building were drawn by Judge J.W. Emerson, an early community leader and one of the founders of St. Paul's. Native materials, including oak and walnut, were used to construct the beams and the altar. The wood work on the interior and exterior was all hand carved.
St. Paul's is a landmark in Ironton. People call it "the old church." Photographers often use it as a backdrop for special events, like wedding photos and senior pictures.
Although their membership is small, St. Paul's is full of people who love and care about each other. Sherri Howard began attending online services during the pandemic. She loved the message and is now regularly attending Sunday services in person.
"It's like finding a new family you didn't know you needed," Sherri said. She and her partner Kris are leading the "Walk with Love" ministry at St. Paul's, which is working to set up blessing boxes around town, gather school supplies for the needy, collect crochet and knit squares to make blankets for a nearby homeless shelter, and making holiday baskets to give away at Easter and Christmas.
Christian Lancaster serves as the organist for St. Paul's Church. He was grew up in Ironton, but as a Missouri Synod Lutheran. He says he never felt completely comfortable there, but now feels at home in the Episcopal Church.
"You can be who you are and still worship God," Christian said. "It's all about worshiping God and loving each other."
The Rev. Richard Wiskus serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Paul's. He says he has seen the dynamic of the congregation change since he came in 2018. "A good portion of our people are part of the LGBT community. I want the parish to be a place of refuge for them and others."
St. Paul's has an endowment and is listed as a national historic site, so it remains financially stable. But Rev. Richard hopes to lead his small congregation beyond that. "I want us to learn how to be an intentional community. I want us to have a sense of being more than caretakers of this historic building."
Church name: St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Street Address: 106 N. Knob Street
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 62
Worship Service: Sundays at 10 a.m. - Holy Eucharist
Clergy: The Rev. Richard Wiskus