How it all began
St. Thomas Episcopal Church was founded in 1956 as a parochial mission of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, located in south Eugene. Several families from St. Mary’s who lived in the newer north end of town were asked by St. Mary’s Vicar, The Rev. Perry Smith, to form the core of this new mission. One young businessman, David Hoffman, at the time the youngest vestry member of St. Mary’s, was asked to find a suitable property for the church. He found a 5 acre filbert orchard on Coburg Road owned by an elderly couple who were willing to sell. The purchase of the property for $10,000 also included a provision for the owners to live rent free for a year in the farmhouse until they could find a new home. In 1957 plans were prepared for our present sanctuary. Originally it was designed to be the chapel of a much larger church and was called the Chapel of Transfiguration (after Fr. Perry’s first church in Wyoming). The first service, held in 1958, was consecrated by Bishop James W.F. Carman. St. Thomas became a parish in 1972, and was consecrated as a church by Rt. Rev. Matthew Bigliardi, Bishop of Oregon in 1974.
In 1961 the first phase of the education building was built and was enlarged in 1972 when St. Matthews merged with St. Thomas. St. Matthews had lost their property to Beltline Highway construction. In 1979, St. Matthews re-established themselves on River Road and the two churches became independent once more. The education building was also used extensively for church-wide activities and meetings.
In 1963 St. Thomas opened a kindergarten with one class. Over time St. Thomas created a multi-classroom preschool to help serve this important need for Eugene. The St. Thomas Preschool, owned and operated by St. Thomas church, fully utilized the education building for 57 years. In 2020 the school dissolved. In 2021 St. Thomas entered into a partnership with Head Start of Lane County to become the full time occupant of the education building.
In 1976, members of St. Thomas led by Jan Moursund created the Aslan House, a place where those with limited means could find counseling services. The center is located in the original farmhouse and is now known as the Center for Community Counseling. Thanks to help from the community, St. Thomas is able to maintain and improve this 60+ year old building.
In 1990, the back 2.5 acres of the property was leased at no cost to FOOD for Lane County, the area’s food bank. FOOD was looking for garden space to grow fresh produce and at the same time St. Thomas was looking for a charitable use for the property that was consistent with it’s mission. St Thomas agreed to provide the water and electricity for the garden. In the late 1990s, they partnered in digging a well which serves the garden to this day. For more information about the Grassroots gardening project: https://st-thomaseugene.net/ministries/the-grassroots-garden/
In 2000, St. Thomas began fundraising to build a fellowship hall attached to the church. The congregation supplied much volunteer work and money and the building was completed in 2001. This 6,000 square foot addition includes two offices, a library, a kitchen, and restrooms. The new wing is handicap accessible and has seating for about 200 people. It has become a very popular place for diocesan meetings and many user groups In April 2013, work began on a much anticipated, on-site columbarium. A beautiful and peaceful Memorial Garden was consecrated in October of that year.
That same year – 2013 – work was completed on the remodel of the space housing the original church offices and Sunday School rooms. An acolyte/lay reader robing room and 3 classrooms were created in this remodel
St. Thomas has been blessed with dedicated clergy leadership. Fr. Steen Whiteside served at the beginning until 1958 when he was called to St. Mary’s. Fr. Edgar (Ted) Tainton then served from 1958 until his retirement in 1982. Fr. Granville Waldron (Bend, Or.) served from 1982 to 1986. When he was called to Vacaville, CA. Fr. Ralph Haines joined us in July of 1987 and served until his retirement in September 1999. The search for a replacement took longer than expected, but in June of 2001 Fr. Jeremy Tyndall (from England) answered our call and served us until he returned to England in April 2008. After another search, Fr. Court Williams (Illinois) started his service in August 2009 until his return to Chicago in August of 2015. In 2011 Rev. Carter Hawley served until 2017. During her last two years she assisted several interim priests. The Rev. Ann Gaillard joined St. Thomas as rector in 2017 from St. Luke the Beloved Physician in Saranac Lake, New York. In 2019 Rev. Mike Watkins came to Eugene from the Diocese of Oklahoma and was assigned to St. Thomas as Deacon.
From its inception, St. Thomas has experienced ebbs and flows in its size and financial stability. However, there have always been energetic and committed parishioners to guide us through successfully. We look forward to the future, with hope and faith that God is guiding us in our endeavors to share His message with all who seek to know Him in their lives.
541.343.5241 | firstname.lastname@example.org