On August 7, 1966, a group of people met in the parking lot of Reynolda Manor Shopping Center and walked up Fairlawn Drive to the site of what would be St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. What was unusual about this procession to the groundbreaking ceremony was that it comprised black people and white people who had been worshiping together for over a year.
Bishop Thomas Fraser had assured that this would be a different kind of Episcopal church when he invited members of Winston-Salem’s three existing parishes to leave their churches and lead the new mission. This made St. Anne’s intentionally racially integrated from the beginning in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of the most segregated cities in the United States at that time.
From May 1965 until early 1967, St. Anne’s met at the Old Town Civic Club. Women wore hats to the worship services or were provided with doilies to cover their heads. Even though our name–St. Anne’s– was chosen in part to honor the fact that women had recently been allowed to serve on vestries, the invitation to serve as acolytes during services was only extended to boys, and the invitation to serve as lay readers requested men only. A chapter of Episcopal Church Women (ECW) was started. The groundbreaking in 1966 was for what was intended to be the first building of a typical Episcopal church campus consisting of a sanctuary, parish hall and education building.
All of this changed fairly quickly. Casual dress was adopted. Girls learned to be acolytes. Women became lay readers and served on the governing mission committee. The ECW chapter died out for lack of interest. St. Anne’s decided that it wouldn’t have any women-only or men-only groups.
The building, designed to be the parish hall and intended for only temporary use as the sanctuary, has been the place where St. Anne’s congregation has worshipped from 1967 to the present. Until 2006, it was the only building on the site–serving as sanctuary, parish hall, church offices, Sunday School, child care center, kitchen, and a Forsyth County polling place. What might have surprised the architects is that the long-awaited second building was not a sanctuary, but a new and improve parish hall.
For 40 years, the ritualistic folding and unfolding of metal chairs in the sanctuary was a prominent feature of this life in community. Parishioners set up chairs for each service–in the round for some years, in conventional rows in others. The chairs had to be stacked against the walls at the end of the service, unless there was to be a lunch in that multipurpose room, or an agape or picnic on the lawn, where the chairs would be set up again.
These space considerations seem to have aligned with countercultural trends that were sweeping the country in the 1960s. That freed-up, pared-down quality extended to many facets of the worship service and community life. Handcrafted hangings and clerical vestments, homemade bread for communion, bottles of wine on the tables at potluck suppers and noon-time agapes, autoharps and guitars for music, and little children included in everything, were some of the practices that made St. Anne’s different in its first few decades.
St. Anne’s willingness to try something new, and be the first to give shape to emerging ideas and respond to emerging needs, continues today.
On December 12, 1964, thirty-three Winston-Salem residents committed as founding members of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church to meet the needs of the rapidly growing northwestern sector of our city and to provide a racially integrated place for residents to worship. On April 2, 1967, a new church on the present site was dedicated. St. Anne’s has been a local trailblazer in racial and social justice. Early on, we provided leadership and financial support for local organizations providing youth programs, counseling, and crisis referral services.
In the 1970s, much of our outreach work focused on meeting the needs for early childhood care and education. St. Anne’s initiated a program that later served as a model for the school system’s volunteer tutoring system. We were instrumental in the establishment of services for children, including those with disabilities, from birth through kindergarten. A church babysitting service later expanded into a licensed daycare center open to the public.
In 1998 the calling of Rev. Carol Henley distinguished St. Anne’s as the first church in the diocese to call a woman as the principal clergyperson. On November 21, 1993, St. Anne’s achieved parish status. During this decade, St. Anne’s partnered with five churches and neighborhoods to establish Neighbors in Ministry, a broad program that included a range of basic services, relationship building with the Latino community, and the AIDS Food Pantry. That same year St. Anne’s participated in its first NC Pride March and has continued to be a vibrant presence in local Pride parades. In partnership with other Winston-Salem Episcopal churches, St Anne’s was instrumental in the establishment of several racial justice and reconciliation efforts, including the Crossing 52 initiative, where interracial supper groups were established across the community. In recognition of our social justice ministry of advocacy and service for the poor and oppressed, in 1995, St. Anne’s was recognized by the national church as a Jubilee Center.
Social justice guided St. Anne’s work in the 2000s with a strong presence in local advocacy and the dedication of a Peace Pole on our front lawn. We continued our focus on education by sponsoring events at a nearby Title 1 school and supporting change in School Board policy regarding the protection of LGBTQ students. We became involved in the Domestic Violence Faith-In-Action Committee and had our first Domestic Violence Awareness Sunday. St. Anne’s presented resolutions at the diocesan convention regarding a pledge of nonviolence and domestic violence training. In 2006, a new parish hall addition to the building was named for Harold L. Kennedy, a local Civil Rights activist and founding member of St. Anne’s.
Despite changes in the clergy, our outreach efforts remained close to the needs of the community, with activities geared toward child development, basic needs for people and pets, and compassionate care. St. Anne’s has maintained a regular presence in larger activities such as CROP Walk. We celebrated our 50th anniversary with a Journey to Justice: Returning to our Roots Initiative focusing on ways in which racism impacts our community life, reconnecting to our parish’s roots in racial justice, and renewing our commitment to racial reconciliation.
St. Anne’s mission statement is “Knowing that all things come from God, we seek to manifest the love of Christ through worship, justice, and community.” Our congregation lives into that mission through outreach and service to both community and national organizations whose work represents our mission.
Feeding our hungry and economically disadvantaged brothers and sisters is an important part of our mission. We achieve this in partnership with two active food pantry ministries and a self-service blessings box accessible from the church parking lot and stocked by the congregation. Monthly, we partner with two Episcopal groups for Laundry Love, where community members are welcome to have their laundry done for free and enjoy a meal and fellowship with partnership volunteers.
St. Anne’s donates to community services, including the Community Care Center, Triad Restorative Justice, World Relief Winston-Salem, and City With Dwellings. In addition to financial support, St. Anne’s provides volunteer support for City With Dwellings, the Freedom School summer literacy program at the local school we sponsor year-round, and the Shalom Project’s interdenominational basic needs programs. St. Anne’s provides meeting space on our campus for community organizations, including the Dulcimer Orchestra; Shape Note Singers; You Can Vote; and Social Animals, a meet-up group for adults with intellectual disabilities.