Our History: A Faith Journey

The Beginning

St. Matthew's Episcopal; Church came into being in response to a church survey conducted by the Episcopal Church in 1956.  This survey revealed that the west side of Spartanburg was projected to show significant new growth in future years.

With help from the Church of the Advent and its rector, the Rev. Capers Satterlee, all Episcopal families living on the west side of Spartanburg were contacted about forming an Episcopal mission to serve that side of town.  A group of twelve families met with officials of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and decided to form a church.  After much thought, St. Matthew's was chosen as the name of the new church.

St. Matthew's first church service was held in the Knights of Pythias Hall on Victoria Road, on Palm Sunday, April 14, 1957.  St Matthew's Church was accepted as an organized mission by the Diocese at their convention held in 1957.

The Knights of Pythias Hall was the meeting place of ST. Matthew's congregation for only a few week.  The church then moved to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church on North High Point Road.  Much planning and effort went into making the Seventh-Day Adventist Church suitable for Episcopal worship.  An altar was procured from a dormant Episcopal church in Blacksburg, South Carolina, put on rollers, and used for Sunday worship.  That altar now sits in the adult Sunday school room.  It was hand-carved by Dr. Pendleton, a prominent missionary and founder of churches in upper South Carolina, around the turn of the century.

A New Church

It soon became clear that St. Matthew's needed a permanent home.  A site was selected on West Main Street, comprising seven and one-half acres and was sold and donated by the Cleveland family.

Rev. John W. Arrington

In June 1959, the Rev. John W. Arrington, III was ordained Deacon and appointed by the bishop to be St. Matthew's first vicar.  In the meantime, construction had begun on the new building and the first service held in the new St. Matthew's Church was Rev. Arrington's Ordination to the Priesthood Service on July 9, 1960.  Rev. Arrington continued as vicar until he left in September, 1963.

Rev. James H. George

The Rev. James H. George became the second vicar of St. Matthew's in April, 1964.  St. Matthew's experienced rapid growth and even had an assistant to the vicar, the Rev. Grayson B. Garvin, and the two priests served the Episcopal churches of Epiphany in Spartanburg and Calvary in Glenn Springs, as well as  St. Matthew's.  St. Matthew's briefly became a parish, an event that was short-lived since the church experienced some serious financial reversals.

Rev. Clifford E. McWhorter

The Rev. Clifford E. McWhorter was St. Matthew's third vicar.  He arrived in 1967 and left in 1972.

Rev. David E. Bridgforth

The Rev. David E. Bridgforth became St. Matthew's fourth vicar in September, 1972.  The church experienced rapid growth and, by early 1975, was self-supporting.  On November 4, 1976, St. Matthew's was accepted as a parish of the Diocese and the Rev. Mr. Bridgforth accepted the vestry's call as rector.  Rev. Bridgforth left St. Matthew's in May, 1987 to become Rector of St. Timothy's in Columbia.

It soon became clear that the church needed a large expansion to the physical plant and in 1982, this effort was made by selling $186,000 in church bonds in only 8 days.  Construction began in the fall of that same year on the new 7,000 square foot expansion, which included new offices, classrooms, a kitchen and a half court gym.

Rev. James Janks

The Rev. James Janks came to St. Matthew's in June, 1988.  During his tenure, the office of Lay Eucharistic Minister instituted as a reaction to the need for more lay involvement in the ministries of the church.  Father Janks left St. Matthew's in August, 1989.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Smith

The first Sunday of November, 1989 marked the beginning of the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Dennis Smith to St. Matthew's as interim rector.  He served in that capacity until October 11, 1992, when he was installed as permanent, though still part-time rector.  We have experienced tremendous growth during his tenure, in faith, in community, and in service.  Our vestries since 1989 have discovered and articulated a Statement of Mission and a Stewardship Statement that have guided all work within this parish.  In that context we have made Worship the central focus of our life and have bolstered that with growing educational opportunities for parishioners of all ages and with an ever-expanding outreach ministry.

Rev. Robert L. Brown

St. Matthew's is a church family on a journey of faith.  We invite you to journey with us.