The Church of St. Mary the Virgin was established in Big Spring, Texas under the Rt. Rev. Alex C. Garrett as the western-most mission in the Mission District of Northern Texas (later the Diocese of Dallas). Bishop Garrett conducted the first Episcopal church service in a school building in March 1885, and, following a gift of land donated by Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Walstead, the Bishop gave his consent for the organization of the Mission of St. Mary the Virgin in November 1885.
On February 25, 1886 he laid the cornerstone for the first church building. This first building was destroyed by a tornado in July 1897. The cornerstone for a new building was laid September 5, 1899,and the completed church, which served the congregation until 1959, was consecrated in July 1900. During this time the Diocese of Dallas was divided and St. Mary’s became part of the Mission District of Northwest Texas (later the Diocese of Northwest Texas). St. Mary’s gained parish status in 1935. By the 1950’s, growth in communicant strength necessitated building a new plant at a new location. Therefore, in 1952, there was a building campaign which led to St. Mary’s moving to its present location at Goliad and Tenth. The present, beautiful building, modeled after monasteries of the Middle Ages, was designed by Harwell Hamilton Harris, a noted Dallas architect. (See Harwell Hamilton Harris, the Design of St. Mary’s, for more information.)
A bell, which had been cast for “Ecclesia Sancta Maria, Big Springs (sic), Texas” in 1899, was moved from the belfry of the old church and installed in the Bennett Memorial Garden. The first service was held in the partially completed building on February 23, 1958. On August 7, 1966, the present Nave and Sanctuary were dedicated by Bishop Quarterman. This represented the completion of the original architectural plans and closed the fourth side of the patio area.
Outreach and Projects
In 1968, the ECW began a new venture with a second-hand shop to provide clothing and household goods very inexpensively to the poor as well as to provide funds for church projects. The “Bargain Box” was opened for business November 2, 1968 and was closed due to changing community need in 1995. The proceeds of the “Box” paid the last $4,000 of the mortgage on the new church and the full purchase price of the building which housed the shop. Other gifts of the ECW include new choir and acolyte vestments, Altar supplies, a church nursery, improvements in the kitchen and Parish Hall, and $5,000 toward the purchase of a new pipe organ built by Casavant in Quebec, Canada: a fifteen-rank organ, German classic in design.
The newest major project of St. Mary’s is Canterbury a non-profit corporation which provides safe and affordable housing for the elderly and disabled under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The project consists of two buildings: Canterbury South, with 120 units, is largely rent assisted while Canterbury North, with 59 units is all rent assisted. Residents of North and South must be able to care for themselves or make some suitable arrangement to provide their care.
St. Mary’s has also reached out to indigents by providing through donations for a food cabinet in the church office. Those needing food or travel money to help them along their way will find that help in our church.
St. Mary’s provides for its own needs through the ECW, EYC, Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Altar Guild, Sunday school, social events, and most important of all, through ongoing and prayerful efforts to develop spiritually and try to know God’s will and do His work now and in the future.