Saint Thomas’ Church began in May of 1953 when 22 families gathered in an abandoned television studio on Post Oak Road in what was then the far southwest corner of Houston. Each person brought a prayer book and a hymnal; each paid 50¢ for one chair to sit on and one chair to share with future guests.
That spirit of providing for themselves and for others fueled the growth of the church and its primary mission: Saint Thomas’ School. From the beginning, parishioners worked to make sure that facilities would be available for students.
In November, 1953, the new church received a missioner as priest, and shortly afterwards applied for mission status in the Diocese of Texas.
For several months, it was a mobile church, meeting in parishioners’ homes, a local elementary school, the Rectory — a rented house in Bellaire — and in an old office building. Meanwhile, the congregation raised $40,000 and purchased a piece of property in the new Houston subdivision of Meyerland.
Through the summer of 1955, the congregation met for church in a wooden-floored army surplus tent — air-conditioned by raising the tent’s side flaps — and for a time afterwards in a temporary wooden building. At Easter 1972, just short of the 20th anniversary, our current sanctuary was consecrated. In May of that year our fifth class of seniors graduated.
In 1985 the parish called the Rev’d Jack L Jackson as the second Rector of St Thomas’. During Father Jackson’s incumbency, the church and school continued to grow, and Quinn Hall, a multi-use building that served as church, gym and theater from 1957 until the current church building was completed in 1972, was replaced by the Murray Center, which contains a gym, library, theater and nursery. Quinn Hall was named in memory of Bishop Clinton Quinn, who was Bishop of Texas when the parish began. He named it Saint Thomas’, because, he said, he “doubted it would succeed.”
The Rev’d Wayland Coe succeeded Fr. Jackson in 1995 and served as Rector until his retirement in 2005. In 2002, a new high school building, with an art studio, choir and orchestra rooms, and computer labs was added to the campus. Fr Coe served for a time as President of the Prayer Book Society, and, after the death of St Thomas’ beloved first organist and choirmaster, John Moseley, called Beal Thomas as Mr. Moseley’s successor. Soon thereafter, the parish, after a capital campaign, replaced its digital organ with a superb pipe organ from America’s premier organ builder, Schoenstein and Co.
Upon Fr Coe’s retirement, the parish called the Rev’d Christopher Bowhay in 2006. Under Fr. Bowhay, the parish continued to set standards of excellence in traditional worship and music, calling Ken Axelson as organist and choirmaster to succeed Beal Thomas. The parish also focused on its ministries of welcome and fellowship, and saw significant growth in its population of families and young people. During Fr. Bowhay’s tenure, the parish began Saint Thomas’ Preschool, expanding its mission to support families of pre-school age children.
In 2012, Fr. Bowhay accepted a call to a parish in Tennessee, and Ken Axelson retired as organist and choirmaster. After an extensive search, the parish called the Rev’d David Browder to be its fifth rector and a distinguished English musician, Dr Giles Brightwell to be its organist and choirmaster. Both Mr Browder and Dr Brightwell began their tenures in September of 2013.
Hurricane Harvey struck Houston at the end of August 2017. In the floods caused by the storm, the church and school suffered damage to 70% of its campus and the homes of many parishioners and school families suffered flood damage. Despite damage to their own homes, many parishioners helped rescue and shelter their neighbors, and came together after the flood to do the work of cleaning out the damaged buildings on campus. Saint Thomas’ continued its schedule of services, meeting outdoors on the Sunday after the flood and reopening the school two weeks later. Within six months, the parish built a temporary campus in the parking lot across the street, replacing buildings destroyed by the flood.
Saint Thomas’ will build a new academic and office building to replace the flood-damaged classrooms and offices, and will restore and update the church. Church renovation is scheduled to be complete in the first half of 2020 and the new building is scheduled to be complete by the spring of 2021. The renovation and new building are designed by Merriman Holt Powell, Architects, and will be built by Tellepsen.
In 2018, the award-winning young organist Bryan Anderson, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, joined Saint Thomas’ as Director of Music, and organist/choirmaster.