St. Michael & All Angels Church is an urban community church located in Northeast Portland. Since its founding in 1910, St. Michael’s has been blessed in many ways.
Early lay leadership developed into baptismal ministry through the development of opportunities for life-long Christian education and formation. A thriving Sunday School Program for children and young people led to Christian formation opportunities for all ages. This, in turn, supported the development of baptismal ministry.
The parish has a tradition of carefully planned liturgy along with high-quality music of diverse styles. Parish staff and leadership approach the realities of an increasingly diverse community as an opportunity for evangelism and outreach.
In The Beginning
Early in the twentieth century, following the great Lewis and Clark World’s Fair, Portland was growing rapidly. Streets were plotted, new homes built, businesses and churches started, including St. Michael’s. As the first decade of the century was nearing its end a group of Episcopal families in the Hollywood area of Portland began discussing the challenges of getting to church on Sundays: typically a long, dusty (or muddy) trip. Finally in 1910, a group of 38 people formally appealed to the Bishop to establish a church in their community. Their action was unique and would instill in this congregation the notion that lay people could indeed take the initiative and effect change within the church.
The first church was a little brown wooden building. Plainly finished and heated by a small wood stove, it held about 100 people. Less than two years after opening, St. Michael’s was bursting at the seams, and plans for expansion began. After World War I, the original church building was moved to the present location on the corner of Broadway and NE 43rd Avenue.
The prosperity following the Great War allowed work to begin on the current stucco/concrete frame structure. It was designed by a noted local architect, Ellis Lawrence, and completed in 1922. The style is that of a Welsh country church. The former church building became the Parish Hall, where the Sunday School met and grew to over 300 participants by 1932, thanks to the leadership of Earl Gardner, the Sunday School Supervisor from 1922 to 1962. The congregation was thriving.
In the 1930s, as the entire nation including Portland was suffering the effects of the Great Depression, lay leadership which had created St. Michael’s took the lead once again. The Vestry led the parish to financial stability and successfully petitioned the Diocese for parish status. To celebrate and underscore this change in status, they also built a new Parish Hall and demolished the original wooden structure.
The 50’s Boom Years and the Changes of the 60’s
The disruptions of World War II led to a period of retrenchment within the parish. Then in 1947, Fr. George Turney began building St. Michael’s music and children’s programs – a project that would define his ministry here. The 1950s were a time of economic boom and prosperity. In those years 450-500 children were crowded into the Parish Hall for Sunday School. By 1952, the next expansion of St. Michael’s was funded and completed. This wing was then called “The Nativity Chapel” and used for children’s worship, with classrooms below. Meanwhile, separate Girls’ and Boys’ Choirs were established in addition to the existing mixed adult choir.
As St. Michael’s entered the turbulent 1960’s, the community served by the church was undergoing a drastic change. Young families were moving to the suburbs, and a new focus for youth was needed. A Men and Boys Choir was organized under the direction of Jay Shisler and was affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music in England. The choir gained local, and then regional and international attention, and made several concert tours in this country and to England. Meanwhile, under the liturgical aegis of The Rev. Eric Gration, who had become rector in 1958, St. Michael’s was designated a “Trial-use” Parish in the mid-1960s and began using and evaluating revised versions of the liturgies that would eventually lead to the creation of the Book of Common Prayer of 1979 (our current Prayer Book).
More Change and Growth in the 70’s and 80’s
A vibrant youth group and a strong music program, combined with innovative liturgy and excellent preaching, marked the 1970s. This was also the decade of the All-Parish Family Camp at Gearhart which attracted over 100 people (nearly half the parish at that time) for a week of recreation and reflection on our call to seek and serve Christ in one another. The parish was transformed into a true worshiping community by this experience, and as had been the case so often in the past, parishioners — in this case encouraged and supported by the parish clergy — made it all happen.
As the 1980s began, St. Michael’s sixth rector, The Rev. John Scannell, began his ministry. This decade was marked by growth and expansion with an emphasis on embracing and celebrating the presence of the Holy Spirit among and within us as we reached out to the community. Worship and music also changed. The “New” Prayer Book (or 1979) replaced the various paperback liturgies of the previous 15 years, and a new hymnal was introduced. The choirs evolved from separate choirs of Men and Boys, and Women and Girls, to a Men, Boys and Girls Choir and a Women’s Choir, with the latter then becoming a Mixed Adult Choir. As the congregation grew, Fr. Scannell worked in collaboration with the parish leadership and a church architect to develop a long-range plan for the parish facilities. This led to the remodeling of the church, Parish Hall, and much of the church school area in the late 1980s.
More Growth in the 1990s and early 2000s
In the early 1990s, the combined vision of Fr. Scannell and parish leaders led to the introduction of the modern Catechumenal Process and the development of Baptismal Ministry as the central calling of this worshiping community. This calling harkened back to the founding of this parish and to the lay leadership provided at key points is its history. This decade also saw the revitalization of the music program in the form of a mixed adult choir of approximately 50 members under the direction of Dr. Scott Tuomi, Associate Professor of Music at Pacific University. Then, as the decade was drawing to a close, the Joyful Noise Arts Program and Children’s Choir was formed, bringing our youngest voices back into musical leadership in worship.
Beginning in the latter part of the 1990s, St. Michael’s thrived, growing at a rate of approximately ten percent each year for over a decade. Members were transformed by their experience in the Catechumenate and embraced their baptismal ministry. Visitors and newcomers were welcomed and included. All kinds of diversity was celebrated. Liturgically, this manifested itself in the creation of new musical leadership provided by jazz musicians who formed the Takes the 5th Choir and Band. Outreach also continued to expand as the parish reached out to the Hollywood District and beyond. In recognition of this transforming work, the parish was designated a “Jubilee Center” by the National Episcopal Church.
St. Michael’s Today
St. Michael’s has been blessed in many ways since its founding in 1910. Early lay leadership developed into baptismal ministry, and a thriving Sunday School program for children and young people led to Christian formation opportunities for all ages, which in turn, furthered the development of baptismal ministry. A long tradition of carefully planned and executed liturgy, combined with high-quality music and enhanced by a creative response to the changing needs of the increasingly diverse congregation, improved our opportunities for evangelism and outreach. Meanwhile, we have refined our identity as the Body of Christ, and been strengthened for service in and for the wider community and the world. Our mission is to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world, and our community’s history has equipped us well for this work.