The members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church of White Sulphur Springs have established a fund with the Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation (GVCF) to ensure that the church has the resources it needs to continue its vital work. Church Missioner Chris Thompson stated “the purpose of establishing a fund is twofold: first, we are investing in our community by being a part of the Community Foundation, and second, we are helping St. Thomas establish a perpetual source of funding to provide for the maintenance of its historic church building.”
St. Thomas is committed to the Episcopal Church’s mission not only “to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom” and “to teach, baptize, and nurture new believers,” but also “to respond to human need by loving service.” To that end, the members of the church take an active role in the White Sulphur Springs community. They participate in many community programs like the Happy Kids Project to aid at-risk youth by providing school-related items and assistance in funding enrichment activities. They also provide families with seasonal clothing and toys at Christmas. Money for these activities has been raised through rummage sales and at events like their annual Labor Day Fair that has occurred for the past 65 years.
St. Thomas has a long, proud history. A 1902 publication claimed “services of the Episcopal Church have been held at the White Sulphur Springs by visiting clergy from time immemorial.” The first record of an Episcopal service in White Sulphur Springs dates from 1847, when Bishop John Johns of Virginia visited to preach. The exact location is unknown. When the Grand Central Hotel was completed in 1858, services were held in the ballroom of the hotel. Preparations for the construction of a church building were made in 1859, but delayed due to the Civil War. In 1879, a lot was purchased on the grounds of the resort and building construction was completed in 1886. At that time, services were held only during the summer months when guests attended the resort; however, in 1913 when the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway purchased and expanded the property, renaming it The Greenbrier Hotel, services were held throughout the year. In 1931, the church building was raised, rebuilt, and consecrated on the land where it currently sits on Main Street.
The historic church building has many interesting architectural and design features. The original sanctuary was designed by J. Crawford Neilson of Baltimore and his partner John Niernsee who also designed Johns Hopkins Hospital and buildings at Washington and Lee University. This sanctuary contains a beautiful stained glass window featuring St. Paul with the “Sword of the Spirit,” that was installed in 1956 as a memorial to Loren Robert Johnston, General Manager of the Greenbrier from 1931 to 1942, and Special Representative to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway during World War II, when the hotel served as a hospital. Another remarkable feature of the church is its organ built by Roosevelt Pipe Organ Builders, a company renowned for its quality.
GVCF is comprised of a collection of 100 funds, each with a separate agreement, donors, and philanthropic purpose. When appropriate, each fund makes an annual grant to the community. For more information about The St. Thomas Episcopal Church Fund, GVCF, or to learn how to establish a fund to benefit a cause you are passionate about, contact Courtney Smith, executive director, at 304-645-5620 or .