St. Thomas Church began in 1858 as a mission to Lowndes and Butler Counties led by Deacon James Jarratt. Though he found on his arrival in Greenville only two Episcopalians (both of whom moved away shortly thereafter!), he was able to bring together enough Christians to build a little church which was completed in 1861.
The mission struggled through the War Between the States, losing two of its founders in battle, to emerge strong and capable, becoming a self-sustaining parish in 1867. After the departure of Mr. Jarratt a number of young rectors came and went, until 1882 when the Vestry decided (at the urging of the LRS – Ladies Rectory Society) that to get and keep a well qualified priest, a rectory should be built behind the church, facing Church Street. The Rev. George Upton of Louisiana agreed to come here, arriving just as the Rectory was being finished. Under Mr. Upton’s stewardship the little parish grew ever stronger. Mr. Jarratt’s remains were brought from Milton, Florida and buried under the altar, above which was installed the memorial window we see today in the present church.
From the time of his arrival, Mr. Upton and the Vestry had hoped to build a bigger church. Finally in 1896, after much fund raising, particularly by the ladies of the parish, the church we know today was constructed. Mr. Upton was its designer, materials purchaser and building superintendent. If we seek his monument, we have only to look around us.
After the death of Mr. Upton, the only rector to die in office, the parish carried on with the leadership of three successive priests, until, with the coming of the Great Depression followed by World War II, there was a gradual decrease in membership. We were without a full-time rector from 1943 until 1952 when the Rev. Yates Calvert Greer arrived fresh from seminary at Sewanee and a year at Cambridge University. Father Greer made his mark on the parish in his four years of service, updating the physical plant and acquiring many new memorials.
From the 1950’s our parish has remained strong enough to be self-supporting and a contributor to the Diocese’s good works. The old rectory had been used since the 1940’s as a parish house, office and Sunday School building. In 1981, under the leadership of the Rev. Larry Williams, a new Parish House was built. The previous pattern of having young priests come for a few years, followed by a period without a priest, was repeated for almost the rest of the century.
In 1997 the Rev. Fred Lindstrom came as an interim priest and was so well received that, with the Bishop’s approval, he became our permanent rector in 1998, and served us and the wider community and Diocese until his retirement in 2010.
After a thorough search for a new priest, the Rev. Reid T. McCormick accepted our call and became our current Rector in February, 2011. He and his wife Jackie live in our newly acquired rectory on North College Street. With Father Reid’s leadership the parish continues to be a vibrant, growing and involved church family.