A walk through St. John’s Anglican Church in Brownwood is an experience in history.
And for good reason. On Dec. 29, the parish will celebrate its 125th anniversary.
“We are not necessarily the oldest parish in Brownwood, but we are the oldest in our original location,” said Father Michael Mobley, the church’s rector. “As you can tell, they have progressively added on. If you walk out of my office you will see a cornerstone there where they added on later.”
And some of the additions through the years have stories.
In the sanctuary, behind the altar, is what the church calls the “Tokyo Window.”
According to Mobley and historical materials provided by the church, the building’s present stained glass windows were imported from Belgium and installed in 1894 at a cost of $1,400. One of the windows reads “Tokyo.” It was intended for St. Peter’s Church in Tokyo, Japan, but was shipped to Brownwood by mistake.
The churches installed the windows intended for the other, but the window originally intended for Brownwood was destroyed during World War II.
And those stories are the ones past, present and yet to come that Mobley said the parish wants to celebrate on Sunday with services, a cake and coffee reception and a tamale dinner and Christmas carol sing. Eucharist services will be at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The second mass will be followed by the reception in the parish hall and the tamale dinner will begin at 5:30 a.m.
“There is a tradition in this parish that they do a tamale dinner during Christmas season with Christmas caroling and we are going to do that the same night, so that is going to be a busy day for us,” Mobley said.
And the events don’t just mark the passage of time for the church and its parishioners.
“We are going to celebrate our patron saint’s feast day, which is St. John, the apostle and evangelist and gospel writer,” Mobley said. “His feast day in actually Sept. 27, but you can transfer a feast day to the closest Sunday if it is your patron saint.”
And while St. John’s is proud of its past and its community staying power, it is also active in the here and now of Brownwood.
“We are a small parish, but we are a very active parish,” Mobley said. “One of our major outreach ministries is our food pantry which we do Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11-1.”
Church staff said the pantry serves about 80-100 persons, which often means more than just the one that comes by.
“I think our food pantry is good about helping some of the people who fall through the cracks,” Mobley said. “Maybe they don’t qualify [for another program]. Maybe they just had a bad month so they can’t get into that system and we can then come alongside. So that is a major outreach for us.
“And the generosity – all of the people working our food pantry are volunteers.”
And the food pantry doesn’t just provide folks needing assistance with edible items.
“We try to work in conjunction with the Salvation Army and other places in the community,” Mobley said. “Some of them have more resources than we do. But we can do toiletries where most of the other places, because of regulations can’t.
“So we are able to provide things like deodorant, toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, soap – a lot of the things that others can’t do. It is one of the areas where we can really contribute.”
The church is open 24 hours a day, people can come in and pray if they want to.
“Even with the things you hear about people going into churches and vandalizing, we have tried to do this,” Mobley said. “We want our doors to be open – we want this to be a place where you can come. Through the years Howard Payne [University] students have come over here and found this place.
“It is one of the beauties of being in a small town. You can still do that.”
Mobley has only been at St. John’s since July, but he says he felt at home immediately.
“The people in this parish are extremely warm and welcoming,” he said. “When I got here, everybody I talked to was just so very friendly. And they are really a family. Families all have their unique characters but people are very kind and very considerate.