Small church reaps big gains
By Jessica J. Burchard
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Every seat was filled during Sunday morning’s service at St. Paul’s on-the-Hill Episcopal Church.
An estimated 120 new and old parishioners filed into the basement of the church at 1527 Senseny Road to celebrate 40 years with a festive service at the site.
Joan Inger, a member of the church’s 40th anniversary committee, said the size of the congregation gives the church an advantage.
"From the beginning, including today, we’ve always been a small church," she said during the service. "But God does good things here."
Inger added the church has raised up five priests and two nuns since it was established in 1967.
The celebratory service was led by the Rev. Hilary B. Smith, who came to the church four years ago.
At the start of the service, Smith said St. Paul’s has thrived because of its commitment to its cause.
"This church is the body of Christ, visible to the world," she said. "Churches do well when we focus on the bigger picture and the mission God has set before us."
The mission of St. Paul’s is to help people nurture their relationship with God.
Prior to coming to St. Paul’s in 2002, Smith had worked in larger churches. She attributes the intimate and accepting atmosphere of the church for its continued success.
"This is a church where people can come and be who they are," she said. "We bring out the best in one another."
Smith’s philosophy has attracted many new parishioner’s to the church.
Joan Blair, of Stephens City, has been attending St. Paul’s on and off for three years. She and her family moved to Virginia 31/2years ago from West Virginia.
"We considered a few different churches and we just felt the warmth from Hilary," she said. "My husband is actually the one who found it and he was very impressed with it."
Blair observed the service and took communion while her two children were in the Sunday school program.
"There’s usually a mix of people here," she said. "They’re very welcoming to people with children."
St. Paul’s has undergone several changes in the past few years. In 1995, it became independent from its sponsor, Christ Church.
Recently, Smith has added several more convenient service times to the church’s calendar. The weekly service schedule is 7 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 8 and 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Having more opportunities to attend church fits into modern life, Smith said.
"People are so busy. A lot of them cannot make it to Sunday services because their children have soccer practice or something," she said. "We try to give them chances to come that work with their schedules."
St. Paul’s is at 1527 Senseny Road. For more information about the church, call the church office at 540-667-8110 or visit www.spoth.org