St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Des Moines offered to sponsor a new congregation in the western suburbs. The offer was met with great enthusiasm and on January 27, 1956, sixteen people met in the home of the Rev. and Mrs. Robert Hedges. By April, the yet unrealized church named itself St. Timothy’s after St. Paul’s “beloved son in the faith.” The name symbolizes our spiritual relationship with our sponsor St. Paul’s,” explained one of the attendees. On September 9th, the first services were held at the Gnemeth Masonic Hall with 72 people attending the service and 15 children in the nursery. After the service the new congregation went to the site of the proposed church where a brief service of dedication was held.
During 1957, services continued to be held at Gnemeth Masonic Hall with more and more families attending. The first St. Timothy’s choir was formed in January. Most of 1957 was dedicated to raising funds for the new building. By the fall, the Building Fund stood at $62,000, which included $12,700 pledged by members of St. Paul’s congregation. Architect Charles Herbert presented his sketches of the proposed building at a potluck supper on September 27. His plans called for construction in two stages. The first and smaller unit, was to be called a Parish House which would include church school facilities on the ground floor and a place for services on the upper level.
In July 1958, St. Tim’s congregation gathered for the long-awaited ground-breaking ceremony. As Fr. Hedges dug down to turn the first shovels of dirt, the shovel struck a large rock (the rock that still stands by the front entrance). Tradition tell us that as he struck the rock, of course he said, “Upon this rock I will build a church.”
In January 1959, Fr. Hedges became full-time Vicar to the new congregation. By this time the congregation had grown to 400, including 140 children in Church School. All the children (ten classes full) were meeting in the open basement room. On September 5th, St. Timothy’s Nursery school opened with a full enrollment of 20 children. Its students were three- and four-year olds and met on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings from 9 to 11:30 in the undercroft.
At the Annual Meeting of 1963, the motto “Open the Door in ’64” was adopted to promote the building project for the south wing of the church. In July a Building Committee was appointed to proceed with preliminary planning for the construction of the main church building.
The big news of 1965 was the construction of the new building which got started quietly on March 17th with electricians bringing the new conduit and lines that would be used to power the expanded building. Soon the construction was noisily going full force.
Then the unthinkable happened: on June 27th, a violent storm struck West Des Moines and winds clocked at 65 miles an hour flattened the new church structure! Everything above ground was completely destroyed and the concrete floor, to which the arches were attached, was shattered when they fell. Over $37,000 worth of damages was done.
By August the debris had been cleared, the foundation repaired, and the gallery and retaining walls had been completed-again. On June 12 1966 the new church building was dedicated at a 7:30 P.M. service. Bishop Smith officiated at the dedication of the church building and celebrated Holy Communion. Four hundred people gathered to praise God for this wonderful blessing.
The first St. Timothy’s carnival was held on June 30th to July 2nd in 1967 and netted about $1,000. The rides and games were provided by Steelman Brothers Shows. Advance tickets were seven for $1. The church managed the food stands with food being supplied by the congregation.
In 1969 a new Baldwin organ was given anonymously to St. Timothy’s with the stipulation that it be considered a continuation of the memorial organ which was purchased in 1963, partly from memorial funds. The first organ was a home-made item that a friend of Fr. Hedges made with a vacuum cleaner motor. Parishioners eventually got used to the whining noise it made until it warmed up!
The first year of the new decade saw St. Timothy’s “full of contagious enthusiasm” as reported by Fr. Hedges in the February St. Timothean. He challenged that enthusiasm with “70 in 70,” a call for 70 people to be confirmed in 1970. The most any one year had had was 58 so this was an ambitious challenge.
The General Convention directed the trial use of a new lectionary which began on the first Sunday in Advent. The exciting point of the new lectionary is that for the first time in history Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans were using the same lessons each Sunday. In another ground-breaking decision, the bishops departed from a 400-year old tradition and voted to allow unconfirmed young children to take communion.
The 6th annual carnival was held May 26th through May 29th in 1972. One of the favorite booths was the dunk tank, especially when Fr. Hedges was on board. A ticket to dunk him was a whopping $10! On June 18th St. Timothy’s had its first ordination. Jerry Godwin was ordained as a deacon by Bishop Righter who was the celebrant. Jerry was an organist and choir master at St. Timothy’s in 1965 while a Drake student, and taught music for a year before enrolling the seminary. After ordination his first position was as curate at St. Timothy’s.
The September 23rd General Convention faced many critical issues in 1976. Two major decisions were reached at the convention: women were accepted into the priesthood and episcopate and the Proposed Book of Common Prayer was accepted for a three year period, as a companion to the 1928 Prayer Book.
In December 1980, Fr. Hedges celebrated the 25-year anniversary of his ordination. It was also about this time that St. Timothy’s parishioners were starting to “Pass the Peace.” True to his nature, Fr. Hedges message in the St. Timothean that month was to gently discuss this revived custom (from very early liturgies) of passing the peace.
In September 1981 St. Timothy’s celebrated its 25th birthday with three observances. On December 15th, Fr. Hedges tendered his resignation after 25 years of sharing his ministry with us.
On February 21, 1983, The Rev. William H. Morley was issued a call to serve as St. Timothy’s second rector and accepted. In May, the Family Violence Center, a shelter for abused women, opened and subsequently was operated by the Children and Families of Iowa. In December St. Timothy’s held a linen drive for them, beginning a long association between St. Timothy’s and the Family Violence Center.
Saint Timothy’s marked its 30th Anniversary as a church in 1986. Our 30th Anniversary year was closed out with a highly successful Stewardship campaign and a commitment to moving forward with our efforts to finish the work on the building and to hire an additional staff clergyperson.
In January 1990, Fr. Morley resigned as rector of St. Timothy’s to accept employment in the secular world. In February Bishop Epting joined the vestry for part of their all-day retreat. He helped them to determine how St. Timothy’s would form a search committee for a new rector and how to proceed during the search period.
In August 1992, the vestry called the Rev. Mary Purcell to serve St. Timothy’s with us and she was installed as our third rector in October.
In February 1995 the vestry approved a motion to establish the Children’s Ark for the pre-school Sunday School. Ed Wilson and Dottie Carpenter who were approved to teach the class had already researched the program and prepared materials. There were two key issues: The room would be locked to ensure the materials were kept in the appropriate place and the class would begin at 10 AM and end at 11. The launching of the Children’s Ark sparked lots of enthusiasm from the young children and their parents.
In May 1995, Mary Purcell announced that, after a time of discernment, and meetings with the Bishop, she had chosen to follow God’s calling to a focused ministry of pastoral care. 1996 saw St. Timothy’s celebrate it’s 40th anniversary. Celebrations ended with a picnic at Pearson Park. As in previous years when St. Timothy’s was without a rector, the business of the church continued in good faith.
In June 1996, the Rev. Dan Smith accepted the vestry’s call to become the fourth rector of St. Timothy’s. He and his family moved to Iowa in mid-August. As part of his position on the Finance Committee, Maurice Cain agreed to marshal the Stewardship drive for 1996.
In January 1997 a committee of interested parishioners began to explore the possibility of developing a columbarium or memory garden as an alternative to traditional burial or interment in a cemetery. Nearly two years later on November 7th 1999, the Columbarium Wall and Memory Garden was dedicated.
On Jan 22, 2000 Fr. Smith celebrated the first Saturday night service at St. Timothy’s.
The building renovation and the capital campaign to raise the funds to pay for it were the dominant activities for the 2001. The theme for the campaign was “For Tomorrow’s Ministries.” Planned renovations included completely remodeling the lower level Christian Education area, adding an elevator to provide handicap accessibility to both floors, a new entry from the parking lot, new lights and windows in the sanctuary, and eight classrooms plus an education office and room for the Children’s Ark.
In October 2002, Fr. Smith announced that he had accepted a position as Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Missouri. Then in December, Mother Jean assistant rector said she was retiring, effective the end of the month.
In June 2003, St. Timothy’s celebrated with Duncan Burns who was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons by Bishop Scarfe. This was also the year St. Timothy’s prepared to send two more young men to the seminary. (St. Timothy’s ranks high among diocesan churches in the number of seminarians they have had over the years.) Mitchell Smith went to Seabury Western Seminary and Brian McVey went to Trinity School for Ministry.
St. Timothy’s called the Rev. Mary Cole-Duvall to be its fifth rector in 2004. In October we formally celebrated Mary’s call as rector of St. Timothy’s. It was a glorious celebration that included not only members of St. Timothy’s but also members of Mary’s previous church.
In October 2005 the FreeStore received its 501(c)3 rating which meant it became an independent charity. Of course, the FreeStore and St. Timothy’s would always be bound together in purpose and history. The by-laws state that one FreeStore board member will be a member of St. Tim’s vestry. The 501(c)3 rating just meant they can solicit money from other sources and perhaps help from other churches or independent organizations.
In 2006 St. Timothy’s celebrated its 50th aniversary.
This information is from “St. Timothy’s 1956-2006: Fifty Years of Memories” by Shirley Cruse, Dororthy Wilson and Terry Swanson. The 80 page book is available for order by contacting the church office.