St. Paul's Episcopal Church
27 Plains Road (Box 82)
Windham Center, CT.

History of St. Paul's
           
Anglicanism has a long history in Windham. In the summer of 1735, the Rev. Samuel Seabury of New London preached to a gathering of about 80 men and women on the Windham Green. Following the Revolution and the consecration of Samuel Seabury (the New London minister’s son) as America’s first Episcopal bishop, an “Episcopal Society” was established in Windham. Ministers were regularly invited to the town to preach and conduct services, usually in public buildings or private homes.

By 1833, the number of Episcopal families had become sufficient to support a resident minister. With the assistance of the Rev. Levi H. Corson, the society organized a committee that sold subscriptions and solicited funds to purchase land and build a church. The church, dedicated to St. Paul, was built in 1833 and Bishop Brownell consecrated it on April 11, 1834.

For the next 100 years, St. Paul’s went through cycles of prosperity and decline. A mission church was founded in nearby Willimantic, and in 1869, the vicar’s residence was transferred to that location, leaving Windham Center without a resident minister for the next seven decades.

Between 1832 and 1931, 27 incumbents served the parish. Typically, a priest would accept St. Paul’s call, serve for three or four years, and then move on. This pattern was broken in 1931 when the Rev. Benjamin B. Styring arrived at the parsonage in Willimantic. He provided stability for the next 15 years, serving parishioners in Windham, Willimantic, and the rapidly growing college community in Storrs.

By 1946, the need for another clergyman in the area was apparent. The Rev. Harry W. Heermans was called to serve St. Paul’s, Windham, and the new parish of St. Mark’s, Storrs. His home was the vicarage across the street from St. Paul’s, giving Windham Center its first resident priest since 1869. The Rev. Eastman succeeded the Rev. Heermans in 1949, followed by the Revs. Hollman, Glazier, and Ellwood. The last two rectors had sole charge of St. Paul’s, Windham, following the transfer of the Rev. Hollman to the new rectory built for St. Mark’s, Storrs, in 1956.

The 1950s and 60s were years of accomplishment for St. Paul’s, Windham. The church was restored, redecorated and a small parish hall was added. Services were held twice on Sundays at 8:00am and 9:30am with the Eucharist celebrated once a month. There was an active Episcopal Church Women’s group and the first annual parish fair was held in 1969.

The 1970s were a difficult decade and for several years the parish lost its ability to support a full-time priest. There was high turn over; several priests served for only short periods of time: the Revs. Hadden, Theuner, Cummings (four years), and Guinan. There was conflict within the parish for a time in the late 70s related to a priest who seemed to create division between parishioners, which lasted even after his departure. Also, during this same time period, there was a church treasurer who embezzled funds from the parish.

The 1980s brought new hope and a determination to move forward and prosper. After a two-year calling process, the Rev. Henry Galganowicz was called in 1980 to lead St. Paul’s in this endeavor. The new prayer book was introduced, followed by the new hymnal. Weekly celebration of the Eucharist at both Sunday services was instituted. The stewardship campaign provided significant growth of pledging in his second year. Other accomplishments included an expanded adult education program, re-emphasis on music, and perhaps more importantly, a substantial increase in lay participation in worship and parish life.  However, financially, St. Paul’s remained a struggling parish. In 1984, the church became a diocesan “aided parish,” receiving decreasing grants from the Diocese for several years until the operating budget was balanced. Following the Rev. Galganowicz’s departure in October 1988, the Search Committee and the Vestry investigated our financial plight fully, particularly its effect on the parish’s spiritual life and growth. The parish as a whole concluded the needs of St. Paul’s would best be served by a part-time or working priest as vicar, with continuing reliance on strong lay leadership, which had been fostered over the previous decade. There was some difficulty in locating candidates for the part-time priest vacancy.

The Rev. Stephen Weisman was called in 1990 and served for one year before he returned to his former mid-western roots for personal reasons; there was both a feeling of loss and concern about the viability of a part time ministry at St. Paul’s. The Rev. Julia Gatta was called as part-time Vicar to St. Paul’s, Windham, in September 1991 and ushered in a 13 year period of much needed continuity. Liturgical music, including chant and plainsong, received new emphasis in services. Adult education was renewed, with a foundations class for newcomers, adult Bible studies, lectures and discussions. Mother Julia’s tenure as Vicar was one characterized by growth in the parish, both spiritually and physically. Meditative silence became an important element of worship. Several major restoration and renovation projects were undertaken, underscoring aspects of growth and renewal during this period. The Rev. Gatta departed in July 2004 to become a faculty member for the seminary at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. In 1990, one of the members of the parish, Scott Stevens, had been ordained as Vocational Deacon, and commenced 15 years of dedicated service at St. Paul’s, Windham, contributing many blessings to the parish and becoming an invaluable source of continuity and spiritual strength. With the Rev. Gatta’s departure, Deacon Scott remained a rock to which the congregation could hold fast during the months of interregnum, awaiting the arrival of an interim vicar.

In November 2004, the Rev. Esther Chuboff was called to serve as Interim Vicar at St. Paul’s. Her arrival began another cycle of growth and renewal for the parish, with increased emphasis on lay participation in the celebration of the Eucharist. In May 2005, the Bishop granted Deacon Scott his sabbatical pending reassignment; he has now started serving a new parish.  The parish of St. Paul’s, Windham, shares a deep sense of spiritual community with previous generations of parishioners who have worshiped in the little stone church. At the same time, it is a vibrant welcoming community, embracing growth, renewal, and diversity.

The Rev. John Burton, began his ministry with St. Paul's May 1, 2006.                              

Historic Buildings of St Paul's

St. Paul’s, is particularly fortunate to have retained its original structure, which appears today much as it did when first consecrated in 1834. The church was constructed from locally quarried stone in the traditional meetinghouse style embellished by gothic windows.  A steeple spire was added to the existing bell tower in 1848. Blown off in the hurricane of 1938 and subsequently replaced, it was permanently removed in 1989, returning the bell tower to something closer to its original configuration. The church building itself was modified in 1954 with the installation of central heating and the addition of a small parish hall at the back.

The most obvious interior modifications to St. Paul's took place at the end of the 19th Century when, reflecting the Anglo-Catholic liturgical emphasis of the period, wooden gothic arches were added, and the woodwork, including the pews, was painted dark brown. Red carpeting was added soon after the turn of the last century and electrified wrought-iron sconces and a chandelier were added in the 1920’s.

A major parish hall expansion was accomplished in 1988-89,
including the addition of a kitchen, bathroom (handicapped access), nursery/ office space, sacristy, and large community room.



The church interior, while evolving over time, retains key elements of its original furnishings. Given the limited space in the chancel area, the altar remains against the east wall. St. Paul’s is virtually unique among Episcopal churches built in Connecticut during the first half of the 19th Century in that it retains its original box pews, which can seat up to 200.  As part of a major renovation effort in 2004, the box pews were restored and repainted white, more closely resembling their original 1834 appearance.


Both of our beautiful original J. Alden Weir paintings were professionally cleaned and restored during these recent preservation initiatives.

A major restoration of the Holbrook tracker organ was undertaken in 2000, ensuring this magnificent historic instrument will continue to grace our services for years to come.


The original lofty gothic windows, covered and shuttered in 1982 because of rising energy costs, were restored to their airy brilliance in 2002, flooding the church with sunlight once again. State-of-the-art interior storm windows were installed to address energy concerns while preserving the character of the original design.

In 1904, Sarah Bingham Lathrop gave the church (with stipulations) an historic home (circa 1732) across the road from St. Paul’s, Windham. This home became the vicarage in the 1920s and since then has served variously in that role or as the Parish
Room, Sunday School, Nursery, and presently as the Vicar's office.


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