St. John’s Episcopal Church
Sims Avenue was the outer edge of Columbia, and Five Points was a wooded valley with a lively stream crossing it when St. John’s, Shandon Episcopal Church was born. The charter year was 1912, but organizational activity had begun in 1907 with the establishment of a Sunday School in May, 1907. Most Episcopalians in the neighborhood attended the downtown churches. A small cadre led by Mrs. Robert Jenkins, Mrs. Willie Chandler, and Miss Cornelia (“Nena”) Mellichamp, aided by the Rev. W. Postell Witzel, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, led the impetus to provide Sunday School in their neighborhood and set up the program in a small school building at the corner of Lee and Queen Streets.
In due course, this led to the approval of the Bishop for the founding of a “mission” in Shandon. By September 1911, organizational meetings were being held, committees named for the purchase of property and for fundraising, and a Women’s Guild was set in motion. The charter was granted March 18, 1912.
At the first congregational meeting, the name of the new church was approved to be St. John’s- Shandon. When the Bishop made it official, he designated the name of the fledgling congregation to be St. John’s Mission, Shandon.
For a time, St. John’s, Shandon Episcopal Church held sway as a title. In recent decades, this church and its communicants call it simply, St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Thus, the Episcopal congregation at the corner of Wheat and Holly streets is gearing up for its 100th anniversary next year. The Rev. J. Fletcher Montgomery, rector, says that they plan a year–long celebration rather than one focused moment for the Centennial.
“Remarkably, none of the former rectors at St. John’s are living today," he said. “We expect to invite some special guests and speakers, and we have 15 ministry teams who contribute their service all year and will be featured.
“On a date near the anniversary, we hope to present an authentic special service based on the old Book of Common Prayer of 1892, the one that was in use at the time of our founding. You could say that our clergy wears period costumes all the time, since our clerical collar has changed little over the decades.”
The ministry teams he mentions are an integral part of the life of this Episcopal congregation. They enable the membership to carry out many activities and services which would not be possible without their lay leadership, such as music, nursery, teaching, and visitation. Also this provides leadership opportunities for the members.
“ This is a young, healthy congregation,” according to The Rev. Montgomery. “I’d say over the course of a year we might have two funerals and as many as 25 baptisms. Our members like a traditional service and a congregation large enough to carry out many missions but not huge to be overwhelming to newcomers.”
The Rev. Montgomery has served as rector since 1999. A native of Atlanta, he attended Virginia Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and has served churches in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania and Deltona Florida before arriving in Columbia. He and his wife Sarah have two sons, Nick and Mike, both in college.
“Sarah and I believe that if we were not clergy called to this church, we would choose it for our membership because it’s not too large and is filled with youth and wonderful music. It fits us perfectly.”