“Thanks be to God! He has heard your prayers! He has answered your prayers!” With these words, the Rev. Janet Echols, Rector of St. Matthew’s, Fort Motte, announced on October 31, 2022, that her congregation will be allowed to buy back their church property. In April, the SC Supreme Court ruled that St. Matthew’s along with seven other parishes no longer belonged to the local congregations and that their deeds were to be handed over to the Episcopal Church.
On October 29, Bishop Ruth Woodliff-Stanley and the Episcopal Standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, to sell the church property back to the Anglican congregation.
Echols called the opportunity miraculous. “I say miraculously because it really was an act of God that turned the tide for us. There were forces at work against us. Your prayers were effective! No other church in our Diocese has been given this opportunity to ‘redeem’ their property. Thanks be to God for answered prayers!”
In addition to thanking her congregation for praying the effort through, Echols thanked attorney Francis Mack, “who persevered through this 10-year journey and did an amazing job as our legal counsel,” as well as Mary Taber and Steve Pittman, (Senior and Junior Wardens, respectively) and their vestry “who have shown great leadership in this season.”
Echols also publicly thanked Bishop Woodliff-Stanley, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina for “her courage, wisdom and grace,” and, in response to requests from her parishioners, provided them with the Episcopal Bishop’s address so they may write notes of appreciation. “In spite of letters and calls from people encouraging her not to sell to us, she made the call,” said Echols.
Bishop Chip Edgar, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina called it a “eucatastrophe.” “This was a classic Tolkienesque ‘eucatastrophe,'” he said, “where six months ago we thought all was lost when the properties had been lost, but St. Matthew’s has had the opportunity to purchase back their building at a price they can achieve. It also opens the door for them to fundraise both for this as well as other needs of their church and mission opportunities going forward. It’s my hope and prayer and even expectation that this starts yet another new day for St. Matthew’s as they look to a future where they can really live into the ministry to which God has called them.”
The church has 90 days to raise the agreed upon price for the property. In her message to the congregation Echols said, “The first thing we need to do is PRAY. Just as I asked you to pray for the meeting – three times a day for five minutes. I am going to ask you that at every meal when you thank God for your “daily bread,” His provision, you also pray for provision for our church. Thank Him for what He has already done, for what He is doing, and for what He will do to provide for us. People around the Anglican Diocese of SC and the world are joining us in prayer.”
The Jerusalem Fund sent an “encouragement gift” of $10,000 to St Matthew’s Parish this week. As a Diocese, we continue to stand together as we labor to build up the Body of Christ in this place.
By Joy Hunter, Director of Communications, 11/8/22