To welcome, to rejoice, to be Jesus in the world!
The Early Years
Our parish began in 1963 with Bishop Cole celebrating Holy Eucharist in the Diocese's mobile chapel, placed on Broad River Road in the rapidly growing St. Andrews area of Columbia. With forty enthusiastic communicants and a newly appointed Vicar, the Rev. James Rowland, a new mission church – then named St. Jude's Episcopal Church – was admitted to the diocese in 1964. Services were held in St. Andrews Elementary School while a frame church, later to be converted into classrooms and parish hall, was built at 2700 Haymarket on four acres of land adjacent to the proposed Columbia High School. It was consecrated in 1965 by Bishop Pickney.
By the time the Rev. Charles B. Weesner was appointed Vicar in 1967, the congregation was already crowding the original facilities. A new church building, with sanctuary, church offices, and classrooms was built and completed in 1970. The worship space reflected the liturgical renewal taking place in the church, with the altar placed so that parishioners could gather around it for receiving communion.
In 1971 The Rev. Robert E. Long was appointed Vicar and he oversaw St. Jude's increase to over 400 communicants. The Rev. John M. Haynes was called as associate Vicar in 1973 and St. Jude's was admitted as a parish of the Diocese in 1974.
With continued growth in the northwest portions of Columbia, the diocese began expanding all across the area. Between 1974 and 1979, several new mission churches were formed, including St. Mary’s in the St. Andrews area (under the guidance of St. Jude's associate Vicar, Fr. Haynes), St. Alban's in Lexington, and St. Francis of Assisi in Chapin. These were years of rapid transition for St. Jude's, which sent out over 150 communicants to help start these new congregations. The church responded positively to the spiritual and liturgical renewal taking place throughout the church and emphasized mission and outreach ministries during these years. The church also started a kindergarten program which became well-known throughout Columbia for the quality of its program.
The Decision to Relocate to Irmo
In the summer of 1979, the Rev. Robert E. Libbey became Rector. Although St. Jude's experienced some growth in the next few years, it became evident that its location had become a highly transient area with a highly transient congregation. In 1985, a Diocesan study recommended that a new church be built in the growing Irmo area immediately. It also recommended that St. Jude's do a detailed study to consider relocation. A study committee was formed in January of 1986 and on May 18, the congregation voted to relocate to Irmo.
The parish reverted to mission status in the Diocese and in July of 1986, the church was renamed The Episcopal Church of St. Simon and St. Jude. Under the leadership of Sr. Warden Jim Wallace, a building site at 1110 Kinley was selected in the fall of 1987. A Service of Dedication to establish an Episcopal mission church was held December 6, 1987, at the site. On April 10, 1988, the original church on Haymarket Road, which had been sold to Columbia Pentecostal Holiness, was deconsecrated by Bishop Beckham. Our first services in the Irmo area began on April 17t at Irmo High School.
With Lewis Burke as Building Chairman and Hank Avent as architect, building plans were drawn up, presented to the congregation, and approved by the vestry. On June 26, 1988, a Service of Ground Breaking was held at the new site. Worship services continued at Irmo High School as new families and individuals began to join us in this mission venture. On the evening of Epiphany, 1989, a Feast of Lights Service was held in the new unfinished building. Our first celebration of Holy Eucharist was held on April 30, 1989, followed by a picnic on the grounds.
On Pentecost, May 14, 1989, the congregation made a festive procession from Irmo High School to the new church. Father Libbey carried the altar stone from the Haymarket St. church and placed it in the new altar. Holy Baptism was celebrated in the new font, again designed to reflect the current liturgical renewal within the church, and Holy Eucharist was celebrated.
The Episcopal Church of St. Simon and St. Jude was formally dedicated and consecrated on Sunday, September 10, 1989 – 25 years after its organization as a worship community of the diocese.
Growth, Growing Pains and Maturity
The decade following the consecration of our parish was a time of rapid growth for St. Simon & St. Jude. More people moved into the Irmo area, attracted by good schools, convenient shopping and Lake Murray. At the same time, the congregation grew by focusing on three things: excellent Christian Formation for children, youth and adults; outreach to the disadvantaged in the community, and creative music and liturgy. We established a Boy Scout Troop (Troop 312), an after-school tutoring program (Homeworks), and began producing musical plays and drama using the talents of members of the congregation. By 1999, we were also able to add a second building to our campus, the Ruth M. Field building, which gave us much needed space for Christian Education.
Father Robert E. Libbey retired on the Feast of St. Simon & St. Jude, 1999, and after a year long search, The Rev. Lynne E. Jones became our new rector. She guided the church for three years during a time of upheaval, both within our nation (after the 9/11 attack) and the larger church (after the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson). During Mother Lynne's tenure, the parish undertook an extensive visioning process and adopted a new mission statement: to welcome, to rejoice, to be Jesus in the world. This continues to be our mission to this day. In 2004, the Rev. Jones took a new call to serve at Bethesda by the Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. She was succeeded by the Rev. Charles Davis, Sr., who served as both long-term interim and priest-in-charge.
Following the retirement of Father Charles in August, 2008, the church called the Rev. Mark A. Abdelnour, a former member of the congregation, to serve as priest-in-charge. He was subsequently installed as rector by Bishop Dorsey Henderson on the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, 2009 and served until his retirement on Pentecost, 2021.
The Episcopal Church of St. Simon & St. Jude has always had at its heart a vital and stimulating worship life, and a strong focus on ministries that serve the congregation and community. Our most valuable resource continues to be our active and creative lay membership, drawn from all walks of life and representing all age groups. In our diversity, we are held together by our common commitment to serve Christ and his Church. With gratitude for our past, we look to the future with hope, confident that God will guide us and all others to share in Christ's ministry to the world.