Roanoke VA

Parish Restoration Project

St. John's Restoration booklet (PDF)Click here to see the Parish Restoration Booklet

On Sunday, December 11, 1892, St. John’s Episcopal Church opened its 
doors for the first time at the corner of Jefferson Street and Elm Avenue. Though the congregation had existed since the 1830’s, the completion of its new church building provided unprecedented opportunities for mission and ministry to downtown Roanoke and the broader community.

The construction of the church was not without its trials. Conflict within the congregation about whether to build the new church at all threatened to halt the project and resulted in a split that seeded our sister parish, Christ Church (a relationship we now cherish). Additionally, the Roanoke economy in the early 1890’s was in a downturn, and a shortage of construction funds was a chronic problem.

Some of the challenges, and the responses to them, are comical in hindsight. As one example, since the property on which the church was being constructed previously had been unoccupied, a neighbor had created a cesspool on it into which his sewer line drained. Initially, it wasn’t obvious which neighbor was the source of the refuse. Building supervisor William C. Noland found himself going house to house along the block asking suspicious Roanokers if he could examine their sewer lines ! The culprit was finally identified and the problem fixed. As another example, in order to raise funds for construction, the Ladies Guild hosted a benefit extravaganza at the Roanoke Opera House, including an original two-act comedy entitled, “A Box of Monkeys!”

The faithful people of St. John’s overcame all obstacles in order to build this church as a testament to the central place of God in their lives and their community. The names of the nineteenth century saints who provided leadership then still echo within the walls of the church, names like Tayloe, Sorrell, and Bryan. 

One hundred-seventeen years later, another group of parishioners realized that this glorious building has been entrusted to our present generation. The church was in dire need of mechanical, electrical, and acoustic updating and improvement, as well as aesthetic restoration. These parishioners recognized the vital necessity of preserving and restoring this fine church so that it can continue to serve as a center of mission and ministry in Roanoke. Their work, too, was not without challenge, and they, too, persevered.

The fruit of their fidelity and labor is highlighted in these pages. You are invited to use this booklet as a guide to the church and as a locus of reflection upon the gifts God has given St. John’s. You are also invited to worship in this place as we give abundant thanks to God. 

Grace and peace,

The Reverend Barkley Thompson, Rector

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

Click here to see the Parish Restoration Booklet