St. Timothy’s History

In the latter part of 1957 and early part of 1958, several families who had been attending St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo began to explore the possibility of establishing an Episcopal Church in the Gull Lake area.

Seven couples (Dr. and Mrs. Philip Barry, David and Eleanor Bailey, Fred and Jane Bowers, Suzanne and Preston Parish, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pender, Franklin and Virginia Shire, and John and Pom Sides) met with the Rev. Charles E. Bennison, then rector of St. Luke’s, to discuss the available options. Upon learning that the first step was to establish a mission, action was taken to initiate the process.

The first place of worship was at a farmhouse owned by the Parish family at 6533 Williams Road, Hickory Corners. The first worship service was celebrated by Father Bennison on January 19, 1958. Eighty-nine adults and children attended. Considerable effort was made to provide a church atmosphere, with an improvised altar and an imitation stained glass window. The Bowers family gave a brass cross for the altar. St. Luke’s provided used hymnals and Books of Common Prayer. Boat cushions were used for kneelers.

Dr. Lavere Davison, deacon, and George Post, layreader, from St. Luke’s served as officiants until the end of summer, 1958, when the Rev. Alan King, an assistant to Father Bennison at St. Luke’s, was made vicar of the Mission of St. Timothy’s. Father King served in the capacity of pastor until May, 1960. In the interim, Charles Bennison had become Bishop of the Diocese of Western Michigan and assisted St. Timothy’s in the selection of a new vicar, the Rev. David C. Patton, then rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in Allegan.

The congregation gained parish status in 1961, and Father Patton was installed as the rector. During the period that Father Patton served as rector, the congregation moved from the farmhouse to the Richland Community Hall for two years, and subsequently to its present location.

At Father Patton’s urging, the Vestry and congregation agreed that it was time to provide a church building. Thanks to the foresight of Fred Bowers, the Vestry decided to purchase the 44 acres of land on which the church now sits. Bill Stone, a local architect, was asked to undertake the design and building project. Since the structure was somewhat non-traditional, there was a fair amount of controversy, but the members finally united and agreed to go ahead with the building. Bishop Bennison was instrumental in establishing the size of the building. He felt space to accommodate a congregation of at least 200 needed to be provided. A fundraising campaign was launched which resulted in pledges that approached the total cost of the building. On the basis of these pledges, a loan was arranged. Unfortunately, a disastrous drop in the stock market forced the sale of some securities at a depressed price, leaving the congregation with a substantial mortgage. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 14, 1961. The first service in the new building was held on September 9, 1962. Father Patton continued as the rector of St. Timothy’s until August, 1964.

St. Timothy’s stumbled along with help from St. Luke’s and the efforts of lay readers in the congregation until January, 1965, when the Rev. G. William Brumbaugh from Bemidji, Minnesota became the new rector. Father Brumbaugh remained as rector until July, 1974. In December, 1974, the Rev. Richard S. Bradford became rector and remained with the parish until November, 1986.

The Rev. Richard G. Baker, retired priest, acted as interim rector until the search committee could complete its task.

In August, 1988, the Rev. Richard Stravers became rector. In 1989, the congregation completed building a rectory on the grounds. The Stravers family, including three daughters, was the first to live in the rectory. During Father Rick’s tenure, two services were held on Sundays for some time. The Social Ministry Committee was also formed during this time. Its first activity was the Alternative Christmas Market, which continued annually for 12 years. This group continues to facilitate projects to help the needy in our community as well as nationally and internationally. For the 30th in 1991, the entire church building was refurbished and rededicated. The Rev. Kathleen Kingslight joined the staff as associate rector from 1994 to 1997, when she went to St. Barnabas in Portage as rector. In 1999, Father Stravers resigned to become Executive Director of Open Door and Next Door Shelters in Kalamazoo.

The Rev. Val Ambrose then served as interim rector.

In 2000, the search committee called the Rev. Knute Jacobson as rector, who arrived from West Virginia with his family of four boys. His wife, Rosemary, later became the Music Director and initiated a children’s bell choir. During this time, Father Knute and a committee led by Scott Russell conducted a capital campaign and completed a major addition to the building which included an elevator, meeting room, rector’s office, youth room, spacious Narthex, and additional restrooms. A smaller and more recent capital campaign added a wheelchair ramp to the altar, new carpeting in the sanctuary, and removed the large “battleship” lecterns in the front of the church. The Jacobsons left in 2010 for a church in Missouri.

The Rev. William Whiting then served as interim rector.

In 2012, a search committee called the Rev. Joel Turmo as rector.  He, his wife Melissa, and their two sons currently live and serve at St. Timothy’s. After more than 50 years, St. Timothy’s Church, Gull Lake remains a healthy and growing congregation. The faith journey continues!

Leave a Reply