About the Parish
Even though the present Gothic-style church building celebrated its 100th birthday in the fall of 2003, the Parish of St. Andrew is over 160 years old. St. Andrew’s was established as a mission station in 1839 when the Domestic Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church in New York supplied a young clergyman, hymnals and prayer books. There were only eight communicants.
The Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, Missionary Bishop of the Southwest, was the first bishop to visit this congregation. Later, as a general in the Confederate Army, he was known as “the fighting bishop.”
In 1843 St. Andrew’s Parish, with 41 members, was admitted to the Diocese of Mississippi. The Diocese at that time had only seven other active churches, all except one located along the Mississippi River. The first building was in use by February 1850 when the Rev. William Mercer Green was consecrated here as the first Bishop of Mississippi. Along with most of Jackson, this church was burned by Union troops in 1863.
When war started, this was a parish numbering 113, but had decreased to 94 by 1869 when Bishop Green laid the cornerstone for a new church one block east of this site. By the turn of the century the congregation of more than 400 had outgrown this building, and Bishop Hugh Miller Thompson reported to Council that St. Andrew’s was building “a large and impressive structure.” He died in November 1902 and in April 1903 his memorial service was held in the newly completed building. His successor-Bishop Theodore DuBose Bratton-was consecrated in this building in September 1903. The Parish House was built in 1923-24 during the tenure of the Rev. Walter B. Capers, D.D. who served from 1919 to 1947 — the longest of any rector in the history of the parish.
As membership neared 1,000 in the 1950’s all spaces were crowded, especially for children’s Sunday School. The building along West Street was added in 1955. The Bishop moved his offices to St. Andrew’s into this new space. The service area behind the church was transformed into the present courtyard as a quiet oasis in the heart of the city.
The wing to the east, added in 1987, virtually uses up the site. The bookstore and staff offices, presently serving more than 2,000 members, are housed in this addition named for the Rt. Rev. and Mrs. Christoph Keller. In 1966, when St. Andrew’s was designated the Cathedral Church of the Diocese, Keller became the first Dean and later was elected Bishop of Arkansas.
About the Architecture
St. Andrew’s Cathedral is generally “Gothic” in style with pointed arches and many features probably were taken from “plan books” of the day. This was the third church for the parish. When built in 1902-03, the roof had a gable in the middle of each side trimmed in the elaborate late Victorian fashion. This was replaced with the present simpler roof and ceiling after fire damage in 1930. The upper windows in the nave, in the entrances and throughout the building were filled with shades of amber glass so popular at the time. Since the 1950’s, these gradually have been replaced with the present stained glass memorials.
The customary cruciform plan is found in the center aisle and the crossing. There are no transepts extending out each side to make the plan of a cross plain on the outside. And there is no central entrance. Most unusual is the sloping floor of the nave which raises the chancel/choir and then gives even more prominence to the sanctuary and high altar with its focus on the cross.
Originally, the altar, lectern, and pulpit were of carved wood. The marble altar, bronze winged angel, and impressive pulpit were memorial replacements. An early spread-winged eagle lectern in carved wood is displayed in the rotunda which first was built as the rector’s office.
There are many symbols throughout the church. The trefoil carved in the end of each pew stands for the Trinity. The X-shaped cross “saltire” in the Cathedral banner, on the stonework and in some stained glass is the emblem of St. Andrew. The older windows in the nave and over the altar are crowded with symbols of Christianity. All are part of the church’s teaching and heritage; and reminders of the true meaning and purpose of these buildings.
All the stained glass windows are memorials to the faithful of this church and in thanksgiving for their devotion. Space doesn’t allow individual recognition. However, in almost every instance, descendants of those memorialized are still active in the life of the Cathedral Parish.