Rebecca Smith Lovelace ’70: Building a Church from Scratch
Rebecca Smith Lovelace ’70 had worshipped at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church her whole life, until late last year. Now she’s part of St. Anne’s, a Conway, South Carolina, congregation, worshiping in the chapel at Coastal Carolina University. Here, Lovelace and other Episcopalians have started their own church.
Hers is one of several such groups created following an ideological split within the national Episcopal Church. At its 2012 general convention, leaders voted to allow the blessing of same-sex unions. The South Carolina diocese, including clergy from St. Paul’s, disagreed with this vote and broke away from the national church. The South Carolina diocese “believes in the inerrant truth of the bible; I’m comfortable questioning part of it,” Lovelace says.
St. Paul’s congregants who sided with the national church were suddenly without an official Episcopal home. Scrambling to put new leadership in place after the split, Lovelace took one of six spots as a layperson on the Diocesan Standing Committee. She is now also one of three on the steering committee of St. Anne’s, her burgeoning new worship group that numbers around seventy people every Sunday.
St. Anne’s has several gay and lesbian members holding leadership positions and they recently hosted their first openly gay priest. Several gay couples have sought refuge in St. Anne’s from the icy reception LGBT folks commonly receive at other churches, according to Lovelace. “I didn’t agree that we should have second-class citizens of the church,” she says.
The new church plans to do “more than Sundays at ten a.m.,” hoping to incorporate Sunday school, supper clubs, bible-study groups, and community outreach.
Draped over the altar in St. Anne’s is a cloth that belonged to MHC professor Chris Rivers’ grandmother. They found a brass altar cross on eBay and the hymnals, bibles, and prayer books flooded in from churches from Virginia to Texas. “We’ve had to form a diocese from scratch,” Lovelace says, but adds, “it’s been easier than I thought because so many people have been so generous.”
—By Olivia Lammel ’14
April 22, 2013
Thanks for the good article about Rebecca … and congratulations to your editors who had to condense a story about such an outstanding woman into such a little bit of space.
This has been a remarkable adventure, and would not have happened without her vision and the inspiring persistence of the congregation to overcome enormous barriers. There was nothing easy about this, and the opposition has been aggresive and bitter.
Just to be clear, St. Anne’s is not simply about creating a more inclusive church community, celebrating the loving and empowering presence of God among his people.
We are all childern of and created by GOD, he will neaver turn his back on us. Thanks be to a fine
groupe of of christian people, who has started a chuch where all good people are welcome. I’am very thankful that our gay ans lesbian brothers and sisters who love GOD can worship in a loving and friendly church. I do not think many people understand how our gay and lesbian family and friends have been treated by other “straight” people who call themselves christians. My Conway family loves this church, I look forward to vacation time when I can come to church with them. In Christ Love,Marvin Block Johnstown, Ohio
Great article!! And 70 is not a bad number at all for a newly formed congregation! Golly, the Episcopal Church that I belong to was started in 1849 and weekly attendance is 125, so at the rate that you are going, you could be larger than us! Keep up the great work and know that you are in my prayers. Thank you for keeping the Episcopal Church and the Worldwide Anglican Communion alive in South Carolina!
Nice article! We do have a joyful, worshipful Sunday morning these days, and are so grateful for Rebecca’s leadership and the many gifts from supporters around the US, including the especially lovely antique ones from Professor Rivers. In a few months, our soon-to-be parish church, St. Anne’s has grown from about 25 to about 70! God is good–all the time!