The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion was founded on January 24, 1869, by a group of 23 communicants who met in a brick schoolhouse near downtown St. Louis. In June, 1869, the Reverend P.G. Robert was called as its first rector. Within the first year of Reverend Robert’s term, Holy Communion purchased the property at the corner of Washington and Leffingwell Streets. Construction of a stone chapel began in June, 1870. In June 1876, construction of the church building began. The first service was held on Easter Eve, March 31, 1877, with service of baptism for 13 new members.
By the end of the 1930’s, many parishioners were moving out of the neighborhood and heading westward as the city grew. The parish faced serious financial trouble. The endowment fund which Reverend Robert began faced financial trouble because of the stock market crash. The parish was forced to take on some debt. The Reverend William W. S. Hohenschild, Holy Communion’s rector at that time, advised the parish that it must find a new location if it were to survive.
In 1936, Holy Communion purchased land at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Delmar Boulevard, our present location. While a new chapel was being built, the rector held services at the old church and held meetings each Sunday afternoon at the homes of parishioners. On September 11, 1938, the first services were held in the new chapel. For eight more years the rector continued to hold services at the old church site, to minister to those unable to attend services at the new University City location.
During World War II plans to build an attached church, facing Delmar Boulevard, were put on hold. On the Sunday following the Japanese surrender in 1945, Reverend Hohenschild presented to the congregation his dream to build a “Victory Church.” He requested that parishioners donate to the parish some of their war bonds. The response was immediate and overwhelming; within a short period over $70,000 was raised as a thank offering for peace.
Construction of the new church moved in steps. The undercroft was completed in 1947, and the Cornerstone was laid on May 7, 1950. The first services were held on Christmas Eve of that year. Our longest standing current member of the parish, Burt Mayfield, became a parishioner in 1946 upon his return from military service in the South Pacific.He was married in the church in March, 1951. Both of his sons were baptized at Holy Communion.
Throughout our history, church members have had a committment to caring for our parish and the community at large. In 1875, Reverend Robert decided that the plain white metal sacred vessels were unsuitable. He requested that parishioners bring to the church pieces of silver, coin, and other fragments “to which holy associations are attached.” In three weeks enough silver had been brought to the altar to make the new vessels and the paten. Reverend Robert did not have a horse nor a buggy, so the ladies of the guild saved enough money to buy him both. Traditionally, the ladies’ guild has worked to support the church and the rector in many ways. After the Vietnam War, Holy Communion supported a Vietnamese family who had sought political asylum in America. The parish also participated in Hands Across America some years later.
Holy Communion has a long history of social activism, progressive inclusion, and advocacy for justice. It was the first parish in the St. Louis area to celebrate an interracial marriage, and it allowed the Black Panthers to speak to the congregation about their movement. Holy Communion continues to be one of the most integrated congregations in the Diocese. The parish enjoys amazing, diverse and very capable lay leadership. There is great vision for community service and outreach as well as a deep longing to engage young people and youth in new ways. The congregation enjoys healthy communication and is highly functional. We enjoy financial stability, and have great energy for the future.