March 5 will mark 50 years since St. Philip’s Episcopal Church was established in Hinesville, and Mother Adrianna Shaw, the church’s priest-in-charge, invites the community to an anniversary celebration this Sunday.
Shaw, who also will commemorate her 1-year anniversary with the church Sunday, said that she hopes to see at least a few founding members in attendance.
“Being that this is a military community, many of the people who started the church have moved on,” she said, adding that some also have passed away in the 50 years since the church’s founding. “We’ve invited their children to come, and we’ve invited people who started the church to come.”
Shaw said that despite its relatively small congregation, St. Philip’s has had a major impact on the Hinesville area.
“We have been a small but very steady presence in this community,” she said, noting that the church averages between 45 and 75 attendees on any given Sunday. “They really do some incredible things for a church their size.”
Shaw said that St. Philip’s parishioners operate a homeless outreach and food pantry, as well as a “blankets-to-keep-people-warm ministry.” She said church members also make dolls to give to local hospitals, which in turn give the dolls to sick children.
According to founding member Fred Mingledorff Jr., the church officially was founded on March 5, 1965, after several local residents petitioned the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia to organize a mission in Hinesville.
“We got together with 27 military families and 27, believe it or not, civilian families. It was equally divided,” recalled Mingledorff, who served as the church’s first senior warden. “And (we) decided we wanted to organize a mission.
“Our first service was in Chapel 3 at Fort Stewart on Feb. 14, 1965,” he continued. “We then started meeting in the board room of Coastal Utilities.”
According to longtime St. Philip’s member and current deacon Chad Chaffee, Col. W.F. Mills gifted the property that the church currently sits on to the St. Philip’s vestry in 1965, and construction of the building began in 1967.
Chaffee said that Glenn Bryant, who owned Coastal Utilities at the time, was a “major force” in contributing labor and equipment to the construction of the church, since the vestry was unable to finance the building on its own.
The first service in St. Philip’s — located at 302 East Gen. Stewart Way — was a wedding, held on Nov. 9, 1967. According to Chaffee, the service was performed in the open air by candlelight, since the building had no roof or electricity.
Shaw, who holds the distinction of being the only female priest-in-charge in the greater Savannah area, said Sunday’s commemoration will consist of a Eucharistic service at 10 a.m., followed by a “big celebration.”
Mingledorff, whose wife now serves as a priest at a church on Skidaway Island, said he will be in attendance for Sunday’s anniversary celebration.
“I’m very happy for the church,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s made it for 50 years.”