Friday, April 11, 2014

St. John's Episcopal Church - Montgomery

St. John's Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama was completed in 1855. It replaced a more modest brick structure which was completed in 1837. 
The modest St. John's Church in Montgomery.

This plaque refers to the first St. John's Church which existed prior to this structure.
The population of the region had increased greatly with cotton production and Montgomery was the shipping center of the region that produced more cotton than any other place in the world. Further fueling population growth was Montgomery becoming the capital of Alabama in 1846 (after moves from Tuscaloosa, which became the capital in 1826, Cahaba, which became capital in 1820, Huntsville, which held the state convention in 1819 and St. Stephens which was the first territorial capital in 1817). St. John's hosted a Secession Convention of Southern Churches in 1861 and was the church which Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended while the capitol of the Confederacy was in Montgomery. 
One of several reminders that Jefferson Davis attended church here. Another was on the side of a pew, but my photos of that did not turn out. 
Another distinguished member of the congregation.
Beautiful old baptismal font. 

These eagle lecturns remind me of my days as a missionary in England looking in the Church of England parishes. 
It was so dark inside that it was hard to get photos of the interior. 

I enjoyed the stained glass. These celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist. In keeping with its self-identity as a middle path between Catholicism and Protestantism, the Anglicans only recognize these two sacraments, as instituted by Jesus himself, instead of the seven in the Catholic church. The other five treated as sacraments by the Catholics, namely confession and absolution, holy matrimony, confirmation, ordination or holy orders and anointing of the sick, or unction, are regarded variously as full sacraments by some and as sacramental rites as introduced by the apostles without the full ordination of God by others.
I don't understand the symbolism here, but different than any stained glass I've noticed before. 
The symbol to the bottom left appears to be similar to the masonic compass and square and the bottom symbol looks similar to a lyre. 
The good Samaritan. A scripture that I don't recall seeing depicted in stained glass before. 
The Episcopal Church, also known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, was organized after the American Revolution when it separated from the Church of England. This was largely due to the requirement that Church of England clergy had to swear allegiance to the King or Queen of Britain as Supreme Governor of the national church. For obvious reasons, that was not acceptable to the residents of the newly minted states. In 2010, the Episcopal Church had 2,125,000 baptized members, all but 173,000 of those are in the U.S. There are Episcopal churches in Taiwan, Micronesia, the Caribbean,and Central and South America, but more than half of them belong to a diocese in Haiti. The state of New York has more than 200,000 members and the eastern states of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Virginia, and the District of Columbia, have the largest numbers of members per capita. The church is organized into dioceses and governed by a General Convention, but is highly decentralized and more like a confederation. There are over 7,000 parishes, each with a rector, elected by a vestry or bishop's committee within the parish. A group of parishes is organized into a diocese and there are 110 dioceses. The head of the diocese is a bishop. The General Convention has a House of Deputies with a president and vice president that preside at meetings. It meets only once every three years. The General Convention also has a House of Bishops which consists of active and retired bishops and meets regularly. The Presiding Bishop, elected from and by the House of Bishops, and confirmed by the House of Deputies for a nine-year term, is the chief pastor and primate of the Episcopal Church. The current Presiding Bishop is a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first female primate. 

It describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic." It has varying degrees of liturgical practice, from parish to parish, and each will often describe itself as Low Church or High Church. High Church, the majority of parishes, is inclined toward use of incense, formal hymns and more ceremony. Low Church, more rare, is simpler and may have elements such as informal praise and worship music. It has a Book of Common Prayer which contains most of the liturgies and reflects the theology for Episcopalians. 

To date, I've done posts on the following Episcopal Churches: Trinity Church  and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and Old North Church in Boston. 


  1. I hadn't realized the Episcopalians were somewhat of a Protestant-Catholic mixture. Very interesting.

  2. Some really unusual stain glass. Sometimes I love the relative simplicity of the churches of the 1800's.

  3. Really happy you've made good use of my Creative Commons photo of Pargue's old-new synogogue from but it the licence does require attribution - Can you add 'Photo by Adrian Mars / Mindspigot@flickr'or simmilar.

  4. Hi, Bob. I'm a reporter for Episcopal News Service, writing a story about the Jefferson Davis pew. Would it be possible to get permission to include your photo of the plaque? You can reach me at Thanks.