The people of St. Alban’s trace their history through St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Albany, Oregon. As early as 1853 (six years before Oregon became a state) a missionary priest, Rev. John McCarty, held the first Episcopal service on the feast of St Peter’s Day in June in the home of Albany founders, Thomas and Walter Monteith.
During the 1870’s, Bishop Morris became friends with the Monteiths, who had come west to settle the mid-valley, from their home in Albany, New York. Through the Monteith brothers, the Bishop established a contact with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York. St. Peter’s in New York became the sponsor of the small mission in Oregon, and the Bishop was able to buy land for a congregation at less than market value from the Monteiths. In May, 1875, the cornerstone for St. Peter’s Oregon was established with $800 that had been donated from the New Yorkers and $200 raised locally.
The original wooden Gothic church was located on Sixth Avenue, between Ellsworth and Lyon (now the Democrat-Herald parking Lot). The Parish Hall was constructed first, and this may have some cultural significance to this day. When doing some soul searching in the summer of 1998, the Parish said one of its strengths was a great cook…”and we enjoy eating with each other!”
The years between 1900 and the Great Depression were discouraging for St. Peter’s. There was a series of resident priests for limited terms, alternating with long vacancies, even using the building as a rental for other groups because the Parish had become an unorganized mission.
The 1940’s brought a new revival and interest in the Episcopal services soared. By 1951 the congregation purchased a building on Queen and Umatilla. In 1953 the group could joyfully celebrate its centennial with its first resident rector in decades, Father James Kingsley. Under the leadership of Father John Power (1962) the church saw a growth in numbers and pressure for, and conflict over, a new building.
In 1971, Father Joseph Russell brought new life to the group with an expansion of religious education, experimentation with Eucharistic services and an emphasis on community involvement. During his residence in Albany he wrote several books distributed widely in the national church and eventually moved east where his career specialized in Christian education for a diocese in Ohio.
The next significant change came with a priest who brought a charismatic emphasis to the services. St. Peter’s was renamed the Church of the Holy Spirit and reorganized as an Anglican regional renewal center by Father Eugene Horn. During this time, most traditionalists left St. Peter’s.
In 1988 the traditionalist group, who had been associated with St. Peter’s, sought to form a new congregation. The new congregation was recognized by the Diocese of Western Oregon as the Albany Episcopal Mission in May 1990 and admitted to the Diocese as St. Alban’s in January 1991. The group did not have a place of permanent worship. Most of the first year, they met at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and during the last year worshipped weekly at the United Methodist Church. For two years the congregation had a unique experience when they celebrated Easter at Aasum’s Funeral Home.
“These experiences of ecumenical cooperation made the communicants deeply sensitive to its interdependence with other Christian groups,” remembered Father Herbert Barrall, the first vicar of St. Alban’s. “Buildings, however convenient, are not a first essential,” he said. “We can truthfully say our humble beginning has been a significant spiritual experience. It’s exciting to see a congregation come alive with the barest of essentials; water for Baptism and bread and wine for the Eucharist.”
In March, 1993 the group purchased and renovated the Missionary Baptist Church building near Hill and Queen Streets due to a successful building fund drive and a generous loan from the Diocese. By July 1993, the first resident part-time vicar, Father Charles Dickey, was called by Bishop Ladehoff to lead the group. Father Dickey’s five years with the parish were marked by a growth in stewardship and budget planning, a vestry committee structure, the completion of several renovation projects which included the Parish Hall, stained glass windows and a new entrance. In addition, St. Alban’s offered the building to the Oregon Episcopal Hispanic Ministry and another young struggling church, St. Anne Orthodox. Father Dickey retired July 1, 1998.
With current interim priest, the Reverend Robert Morrison and encouraging participation from all parishioners, St. Alban’s is surviving and thriving.