St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church has said its goodbyes after 73 years last month. But at the very least, it went out with a shout on Tuesday, Nov. 21. “We had a full service with communion. Bishop Michael Hanley presided over the communion, and Father Patrick Tomter delivered the homily. He spoke for longer than usual and talked a lot about the history of St. Matthew’s and its people. It was very lovely,” says Laura Minnick, the now-former senior warden at St. Matthew’s, who described herself as “sort of like a board chairman with a bit more responsibility.”
St. Matthew’s, at 11229 N.E. Prescott St., uploaded various pictures of the event on its Facebook page that show people engaging with the church’s history. One photo depicts two women scrolling through a photo album with the heading, “Finding someone they knew in an old photo album.”
To end things on a high note, Tomter alluded to the valued role St. Matthew’s established for itself within Parkrose. “St. Matthew’s was considered the heart of the neighborhood. What more could be thought? But of course, St. Matthew’s has been supported by many over the years.”
Like Priscilla Hall, who, with her husband (until he passed away) has been a St. Matthew’s parishioner for more than 40 years. “My daughters and sons and granddaughters and my great-granddaughters all went to Sunday School at St. Matthew’s,” she said. “We have four generations of us there.” Priscilla, who lives in the David Douglas School District, said she will attend both St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Hollywood and St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in outer east Portland. For her daughter Barbara Hall, who is a member of St. Matthew’s governing board, it was a profoundly sad day when the church decided to close. She never envisioned her church shutting down. “It’s been my whole life. I grew up there; it’s always just been part of my life,” she said in a telephone interview. “My dad was very involved there; my mom’s been involved there. I guess I was just in denial that [the end] was ever going to come.” She said she’ll be worshipping at St. Aidan’s in the future.
After the service, which was in part business as usual, there was a reception with estimates of between 60 to 75 community members in attendance throughout the evening. In announcing that St. Matthew’s was closing last month, we noted that only about a dozen people could be expected in St. Matthew’s pews on Sundays just prior to its decision to close its doors.
St. Matthews’s Episcopal chapter entered media lore in 2010 (“Schism partitions Parkrose Church,” MCM July 2010) when many of its parishioners ditched their fellows to start St. Matthew’s Anglican Church (currently sharing space with Faithful Savior Lutheran Church at 11100 N.E. Skidmore St.) over ideological differences. The Episcopal church was for gay marriage and female priests, for example, while the Anglican church was not.
“I had a chance to thank a number of people and had a vestry group hug. I almost held it together during the prayers,” says Minnick. “We had a lovely reception: there was food and cake and punch, and people had an opportunity to look at some old photos and such. I even got a chance to sit down and put my feet up.”