St. Paul’s held its first service in this church building on 23rd Avenue on All Saints Day, November 1, 1902. It began as a mission church of 49 people in May of 1901 with services held in Temple Beth Israel in June of that same year. Like many Episcopal churches, the Neo-Gothic Ecclesiastical style of architecture displays beautifully pointed stained-glass windows and fort-like buttresses, reflecting the sense of strength and tradition of the Anglican/Episcopal faith.
The Rt. Rev. Hugh Miller Thompson, Bishop of Mississippi, met with petitioners and others who were members of the Church of the Mediator, (est. 1887.) in the lobby of the Southern Hotel in Meridian to sign a formal petition to form St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission. Two days later, Bishop Thompson gave canonical consent to the organization of St. Paul’s Mission and A.C. Hunter and J.H. Wright were appointed as "Lay Readers." On July 4, 1901, The Rev. Peter Sears accepted a call as our first Rector and began his duties September 1, 1901.
By the end of 1902, St. Paul’s had 102 Communicants. The first rectory was completed in September of 1903 and was located next to the church. In the following two decades, St. Paul’s experienced substantial growth and reached the level of 353 Communicants. On June 24, 1911, the original Church of the Mediator voted to close its doors and its remaining members were encouraged to join St. Paul’s. A new parish house was opened in 1930 on the same site as the original rectory. A second floor for Sunday school rooms was added in 1950.
A two-story annex with offices, a commons room, chapel and nursery were added in 1973. The third and latest parish house opened in 2005 thanks to the generosity of members and a capital campaign and adjoins the previous one on the south side. Complete with choir rooms and storage space, showers for times of emergency housing or youth lock-ins, and a large kitchen, this annex also supports community groups by providing much needed meeting space.
St. Paul’s has had 19 permanent Rectors, six associate Rectors, 11 Curates and several interim Rectors who have served the church since its founding. In addition, 15 individuals who have entered the priesthood came through St. Paul’s and received its blessing and support. Of those 18 Rectors, two have served as Bishop of Mississippi. Our longest serving Rector was the Rev. Duncan M. Hobart, who served for 19 years (1943-62). The church grew from 325 Communicants in 1943 to a record number of 593 Communicants in 1993. St. Paul’s has a long history of commitment to the Diocese of Mississippi. Rectors and members have served in all key positions on the Diocesan level including Secretary, Treasurer, Trustee, Standing Committee, Executive Committee, and as Deputies and Alternates to General Convention, Diocesan Episcopal Church Women, The Gray Center Board of Directors and Convocation Dean. Also, St. Paul’s Communicants have served as Trustees of the University of the South and on its Board of Regents.
The church has a long history of supporting the greater community, including leadership in restoration and reconciliation efforts during the civil rights, school desegregation eras in Meridian and, more recently, the inclusion and recognition of the LGBT community. It has always opened its doors to other faith communities and community organizations and its members have taken leading roles in housing, food and prison ministries. Well into our second century of existence, St. Paul’s looks forward to continuing to be a vibrant center for worship, formation and ministry in Meridian and beyond.