The Genesis of All Saints Episcopal Church • Early Years
Throughout most of its history, Tybee Island was a summer resort for the people of Savannah and the surrounding area. Many families owned summer cottages on Tybee, and other visitors rented hotel and motel rooms. Winter months found Tybee mostly deserted until after World War II, when year-round residency began to grow.
Episcopalians living on and visiting the island began to organize religious services in the late 1940's, meeting first in the old Methodist church (which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1948) then at Tybee City Hall for Sunday evening mass. Several clergy and lay readers from Savannah parishes provided leadership and support. Early records of the Tybee City Council minutes reflect the continued use of City Hall for Episcopal services through the 1950's. Council minutes also record many letters of gratitude from our Bishop Bland Tucker to the City Council.
Formation of the Church
Dr. Craig Barrow
After years of Episcopal services in City Hall, many attendees, especially year-round residents, began to seek a more permanent home for the island's growing number of Episcopalians. In September of 1957, Bishop Albert Stuart and Tybee resident Margaret Register called together an assembly of twenty of the faithful, creating an opportunity for formal steps to be taken to organize All Saints Mission. Word went out to the diocese that All Saints Episcopal Mission was being formed; funds were being raised and land was being sought for a church building.
Mrs. Craig Barrow came forward with a generous donation of a large building lot located mid-island on Jones Avenue. With great joy and gratitude, the small congregation began plans for a ground-breaking in the summer of 1958.
Shortly after donation of the original building lot by Mrs. Craig Barrow, Mrs. Seedlock, daughter of Tybee Island's resident physician, Dr. Walter Morton, donated the adjacent lot which had a small cottage on it. These two lots comprise the current church's landholdings. The cottage has served many purposes over the years and is currently incorporated into the Vicar Samuel S. Wysong Mission Hall. Groundbreaking of the Main Church Building
On a hot and humid July 20th, 1958, the formal groundbreaking was conducted for construction of the All Saints Episcopal Church building. The service was conducted by the first two Vicars of All Saints, Rev. Albert Hatch and Rev. William Bassill.
The building of the church moved forward rapidly. By Christmas, 1958, with a roof overhead, the first worship service was held in the unfinished, unheated building, conducted by Rev. Bassill with fifty-five faithful members and supporters in attendance.
The dreams, wishes and prayers of a small but persistent parish came to fruition on July 5th, 1959, when Bishop Albert Stuart and Vicar William Bassill formally dedicated and blessed All Saints Episcopal Church.
The Windows of Heaven
After the longest serving Vicar, Rev. Robert Manning, retired in 1979, All Saints was blessed with the service of Rev. Paul Hoornstra, who provided the insight and leadership to help us create our church's most beautiful asset: the twelve stained-glass windows and the Rose Window behind the altar. Over a five-year period, 1984 to 1989, Rev. Hoornstra inspired the church to fund and complete this project, dedicating the windows on March 18,1990. Today, we behold in this work of beauty, color and light, our Windows of Heaven.
The Mission Hall
Under the leadership of Vicar Rev. Sam Wysong, All Saints embarked on its most ambitious building project since the building of the church. In 1996, after a concerted effort by all, funds were raised to build the Mission Hall.
On January 26, 1997, groundbreaking for the new hall took place. After well over a year of construction, All Saints dedicated its new hall on December 18, 1998, and over his objections, named it Wysong Mission Hall in honor of Vicar Sam Wysong.
The Memorial Garden
In 2000, the church again began new building projects, both of which were completed and dedicated in that year: the memorial garden on the south side of the church and the conversion of the vicar's office into a choir loft.
The choir loft included three new stained-glass windows, bringing the church total to fifteen, plus a large stained-glass window in the door.
This brief history moves forward rapidly, creating a chronology for the telling of our church's story, thus omitting many names and details of an anecdotal nature. Yet, many of these anecdotes add a human face and depth of interest we felt should be included in our sixtieth anniversary celebration of our rich history:
Shortly after the early faithful began meeting in the old Methodist church building in the late 1940's, a hurricane blew it down, prompting then Bishop Barnwell to observe, "I guess the Lord does not want Episcopalians on the island of Tybee!" Thank God, he was wrong!
When services were held in City Hall during the early 1950's, all the necessary equipment, vestments, hymnals, organ, etc. were donated by various members, Savannah churches and anonymous donors.
At the early services in City Hall, the organ was played by current member Comer Immel's mother, Mrs. Lilla Varnedoe, and sometimes by Comer.
The first three baptisms in the new church were conducted by Vicar William Bassill on May 7, 1959. Current member Jimmy Carter and his two brothers were our first members to be baptized in our church.
One of our earliest Vicars, Rev. Harry Shipps, went on to become our Diocesan Bishop.
Our current Christmas creche was given to us by one of our first Vicars, Rev. William Bassill, "...to the Glory of God and in Thanksgiving...".
Our All Saints banner was designed by Mallory Pearce at the urging of Rev. Sam Wysong. It was stitched by the able hands of Joan Williams.
The stained-glass window in the door of the choir loft contains a memorial rendering of Vicar Samuel S. Wysong (holding a bell) and choir member Chip Crawford (holding a guitar).
Written by Charles E. Powell, based on research by Vicki Worden and George Anne Inglis and Charles Powell. Editing and helpful suggestions by Vicar June Johnson, Vicki Worden, George Anne Inglis, Jane Bridges and George Monro.