It took a 1,000 mile trip to realize an important date was approaching.
The Rev. Mark Holland went to Austin, Texas last year as part of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which happens every three years.
While there, he stumbled upon a little fact about his parish, All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Morristown.
An anniversary was upcoming.
“I noticed it when I was at convention last year,” he said. “I looked at a date and said, ‘Oh, ’69. That means were entering into our 50th anniversary. That’s too big of a deal. We should mark that and do something about it.’”
So, upon arriving home, he talked to the vestry of the church, told them about his discovery and they sprang into action.
Today, the church will be celebrating its 50th year as a parish during a celebration in its 10:30 a.m. service.
The Episcopal Church in Hamblen County has been here far longer than 50 years, but today marks the occasion when it became its own self-governing parish.
The first Episcopal Church in Morristown was admitted into union with the East Tennessee Diocese in 1894. Two years later, land was purchased to build the first free standing church.
Around 1900 that came to fruition and a church was built, originally called Saint Ann’s.
But it had not reached parish status yet, Holland said.
“For 70 years, it was called a mission church,” he said.
That meant it was almost completely supported by the diocese and the diocese would provide the rectors. The church had limited input on who could be the priest of the church.
In 1906, the church was renamed All Saints’, the name it holds today. Shortly after that the Rev. Dwight Cameron, became the church’s first rector.
But there were some hard times.
In the 1920s or ‘30s, vandals set fire to the original church. Before the fire, the church had closed down and had been rented out to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. There was just not enough membership to support the tiny church, located near downtown Morristown.
In 1934, the church was reactivated and a priest from Greeneville conducted services. The Rev. Elton Sauls became the resident priest in 1947. The church slowly grew until it reached the point to where it could be its own parish in 1969.
“That was pretty significant,” Holland said.
Holland said when a church becomes a parish, it has a lot more input on who can be a priest. The church has the authority to hire its own rector and becomes more self-sufficient.
There will be some significant celebrations for the service today.
R. Jack Fishman, president of Lakeway Publishers and a member of the church, will be honored as he retires as lay Eucharistic minister.
“He’s been doing this since 1972,” Holland said. “Almost 48 years.”
Other parishioners to be recognized will be Lena Giles, retiring after 50 years on the alter guild, Skeet Jernigan, whose served as treasurer for several years and Lynne Ann Anderson, who has been parish administrator for 32 years.
There will be several baptisms and confirmations during the service.
There will be no 8:30 a.m. service.
“I told the people at the early service I’d only cancel once in 50 years, so they gave me a pass on that,” he said.
Holland is expecting about eight to nine former rectors to attend.
The Rev. Brian Cole, bishop for the East Tennessee Diocese, will be the pastor and celebrant for the service.
The service will end with a time capsule filled with items of today being blessed by Cole and lowered into the ground for parishioners to open in another 50 years.
The day caps off with a luncheon. Holland said there is one thing that people can expect to be served.
“This is All Saints’,” he said. “It’ll be barbecue.”