History of the Holy Comforter

It all started 37 years ago . . .

Fifteen faithful people gathered at the home of Annie Mary and Marion Jones-Williams in Montevallo on the evening of 11 October 1983, seeking to establish a church that would continue the traditional beliefs, customs, and doctrines then being discarded by the Protestant Episcopal Church.

These 15 sought the advice of the Rev. Edward P. Whatley, then rector of Trinity Chapel in Tuscaloosa, which was affiliated with the Diocese of Christ the King of the Anglican Church of North America.  Before the gathering dispersed, they signed of statement of intention to create the Parish of the Holy Comforter and to affiliate with the diocese.

“It is our faith and hope that the Parish of the Holy Comforter b e a part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which is the mystical Body of Christ; and for that purpose we pledge ourselves, in the sure confidence that when two or three are gathered in His Name we shall have the promised love of God, the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit,” the statement declared.

It was signed by Reuben A. Triplett, Janet W. Seaman, James D. Seaman, Mary E. Snider, Jimmie E. Snider, Virginia J. Fulton, Jesse J. Jackson, William C. Wiygul, Marion Jones-Williams, Annie Mary Jones-Williams, Alice Gayden Latture, Shirley Fulton Jackson, Laura Beth Wiygul, and later, by Matthew J. Jackson.  Fr. Whatley agreed to serve as rector of the new parish.

The first service was held on a beautiful sunny Sunday, 16 October 1983, at Seabrier Farm, the home of James and Janet Seaman in Brierfield.  Jesse Jackson, as lay reader, conducted the service of Morning Prayer, attended by 16.  Services for six succeeding Sundays were held in the home of Reuben Triplett on Spring Creek Road outside Montevallo.  The living room was turned into a chapel with an improvised altar and chairs placed in rows.  The household dog, Baby, sometimes participated.

Joe Farmer at the organ

Dr. Michael Ford lent a chord organ, bringing sacred music in lieu of hymns read aloud by the congregation.  Fr. Whatley celebrated the first Holy Eucharist on 13 November, with Shirley Jackson picking out the melodies of hymns with one hand.  The singing was not, as those charter members recall, very good — but it was a joyful noise made unto the Lord.

Dr. Jesse Jackson, lay reader

In December, the fledgling parish was able to rent the vacant Wilton Methodist Church building from the City of Wilton.  Services were first held there on 11 December 1983, the Third Sunday in Advent, with 22 in attendance.  In January, the Rt. Rev. Robert Sherwood Morse, bishop of the Diocese of Christ the King, came from Oakland and celebrated communion for 60.  Later that month, the vestry began negotiations to purchase a plot of land at the intersection of Ashville Circle and Highway 119 in Montevallo.

In March, a sign went up at the site, marking it as the future site of the Church of the Holy Comforter.  The building fund grew slowly but steadily and in April 1987, Bishop Morse turned the first shovel of soil and blessed the property.

A church of our own

Construction began that fall and continued into the new year.  The parish, and the community, gave generously to complete the project.

The first service was held 26 April 1988 in the newly built church.  In June, Bishop Morse returned to dedicate the building and bless its contents.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Sherwood Morse celebrates communion at the dedication of the new church with the Rev. William Marvin, rector of both Holy Comforter and St. Bede’s Anglican Church in Irondale.

Bishop Wiygul celebrated Holy Communion in a special service marking the church’s 35th anniversary on 14 October 2018.  He graciously allowed us to post his sermon, on the From the Pulpit page.