Growing St. Thomas Episcopal Church opens doors this weekend

Growing St. Thomas Episcopal Church opens doors this weekend

St. Thomas Episcopal Church rector Susan Carpenter stands on the front porch of the church’s rectory that received a much-needed exterior paint job as the church prepares for its first-ever open house on Oct. 1 and 2. (Breeze photo by Michael Smith)

SMITHFIELD – Standing in the heart of Smithfield’s Greenville village as the ebb and flow of traffic continues on Routes 116 and 44, St. Thomas Episcopal Church remains a historic sanctuary to the community it serves.

With a growing congregation over the last few years, along with renovations to its structure, the church will open its doors to the community on Saturday and Sunday for an open house filled with food and information.

“Come on by and see what you’re missing,” says church rector Susan Carpenter.

Carpenter says this is the first time the church, which has been a staple in Smithfield since the late 1800s, has had such an open house.

“It’s a way for the community to come in as we open our doors and invite the community to come and see what we’re all about,” said Carpenter. “The community has been noticing we’ve been more active and vibrant.”

When Carpenter arrived at St. Thomas more than six years ago, she said weekend services would bring in around 70 people regularly.

“We have one Saturday evening service and two on Sunday morning,” said Carpenter.

During the last six years, the church has been more active in the community with local food and clothing drives, which has drawn in more locals to its flock.

“Now, we’ve doubled our attendance and the parish is the fastest growing church in the diocese ... which makes the bishop happy,” said Carpenter with a chuckle.

Carpenter noted that in order for the parish to grow, building improvements were needed as well.

Three years ago, the church started a capital campaign for improvements and received a Champlin Foundations grant to make renovations, such as fixing the church bells, which now ring regularly at noon every day.

“The bells cost $20,000 to fix,” said Carpenter.

The renovations started when the church needed to replace the boilers and switched over from oil heat to natural gas – a $132,000 price tag.

“With the money we’ve saved over the last few years in heating bills, the project will pay for itself. We went from paying $18,000 a year for heat down to $5,000,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter also said the church has put in a new alarm system that is compliant with the fire department, a new kitchen, and applied a fresh coat of paint to the rectory. “It desperately needed it,” says Carpenter.

St. Thomas also received a few other donations from locals to aid in renovating and reinvigorating the parish.

“It was very heart warming for us,” added Carpenter. “The improvements help in improving the structure in the community as well.”

The church, besides providing worship service, is also home to 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous as well as Girl Scout meetings.

Other improvements at St. Thomas are on the way, such as reseating the dozen stained glass windows in the church. “We applied for a $48,000 grant for that,” said Carpenter.

With all what the church has done in improvements, Carpenter created the open house for all to see.

“We’re going to have a hot dog roast on the 1st, and on the 2nd have information, outreach, and ministry tables for anyone who has any questions and would like to learn more about what we do,” said Carpenter.

“We are trying to bring the world to the church,” said Carpenter. “I love it here, it’s the best place.”