St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, founded in 1822, is the oldest Episcopal church in Lynchburg, Virginia. St. Paul’s is in Province III of the American Episcopal Church and a member of the Lynchburg Convocation in the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. Our church is a community of individuals united by our beliefs, Anglican traditions, and commitment to Christian fellowship. Our members span an wide of ages, backgrounds, races, and walks of life. We believe that our differences make us strong, and we celebrate each person’s unique contribution to our community of faith.
On September 14, 1822, a meeting to organize a Protestant Episcopal Church in Lynchburg was held by a group of citizens, including descendents of parishioners of the Church of England church that was built here in 1765 and closed with the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783.
The Rev. Amos Treadway was the first minister; in 1824, the Rev. Franklin G. Smith became pastor of the small congregation; and, that Christmas, Mr. Smith administered the Holy Communion according to the form of the new American Episcopal Church, which was the first occasion for that service in Lynchburg. Soon after, construction began on what was to be known as St. Paul’s Church. Built at the corner of Church and 7th Streets, the building was first used on May 18, 1826. By 1848 the first building proved too small, so the Vestry authorized a new structure on the same site. Construction was completed for services on Easter Day, April 20, 1851. By 1887 a new, larger building was again needed.
The Vestry acquired property at 7th and Clay Streets and Frank Day, a Philadelphia architect, was chosen.The Romanesque building, constructed of gray granite, cost $70,000 and held its first service on December 22, 1895.
Considerable renovations and improvements to the church were made in 1960 and again in 1999. Known as the “Mother Church” in Lynchburg, St. Paul’s clergy and vestries have helped to organize other Episcopal churches in the area and were instrumental in the establishment of Sweet Briar College in 1901 and Virginia Episcopal School in 1916.
St. Paul’s parishioners have always been involved in the life of their community. In 1856, with no public school system in Lynchburg, the women of St. Paul’s created a program to educate underprivileged children, which continued until 1926 when it was reorganized into the Industrial School for Girls in the church neighborhood. In 1885, St. Paul’s parishioners created the Episcopal Cot Society for needy people at Memorial Hospital.
The tradition of St. Paul’s outreach programs has continued and in recent years has included ministries such as Interfaith Outreach Association, Salvation Army, College Hill Family Education Program, College Hill Neighborhood School, Churches for Urban Ministry, Free Clinic of Central Virginia, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, Daily Bread, Boys and Girls Club of Central Virginia, L’Arche, and programs to support the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
St. Paul’s tradition of fine music began in 1826, when a new organ, the first west of the Tidewater, was installed. At the inaugural service in the present building in 1895, a vested choir, the first in the city, was introduced. The present organ is a three-manual Schantz with 41 ranks and 2,239 total pipes; today our music program includes adult and youth choirs, and hand bell choirs.