The Story of St. Michaels

A Brief History of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church

Mission, Kansas

In 1942, The Right Reverend Goodrich R. Fenner, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, sent two priests into northeast Johnson County to make a survey of families about the feasibility of establishing a mission in the area. The survey showed a definite need—but for four years Bishop Fenner was unable to find a priest willing to undertake the work.

Finally, in 1946, after hearing Bishop Fenner’s continuous plea for a priest, the Reverend Laurence Spencer, curate at St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, Kansas accepted the Bishop’s challenge. In October of that year Father Spencer moved to Northeast Johnson County to begin his work.

On December 18, 1946, Father Spencer met with 26 men and women to formally organize a mission of the Episcopal Church. On the following Sunday, the first service was conducted with over 40 people present. The location was a small dance studio on the second floor over the Velvet Freeze Ice Cream store in Mission, Kansas. On January 3, 1947 Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church was voted as the name for the mission. Forty-one boys and girls were enrolled in Church School on February 2, 1947, and by 1960 the enrollment had grown to 574.

The current location of the church at 67th and Nall was purchased in the late fall of 1947. On September 19, 1948 the first service was held in the “little white church,” an old Army chapel that had been purchased and relocated to the property.

By 1954 Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church had become the 3rd largest church in the Diocese. Having previously constructed an education space, the parish undertook a campaign to erect the current Nave (Sanctuary). The cornerstone was laid in 1960. By this time Father Spencer had relocated to Colorado and the Reverend Donald Rhaesa was the rector. Father Rhaesa was killed in an automobile accident in 1965.

In the fall of 1965, Reverend Robert Swift was called as our third rector. During Father Swift’s tenure, St. Michael’s continued building improvements including classrooms in the undercroft, an altar columbarium, a paved parking lot, air conditioning, and the addition of a magnificent pipe organ. Father Swift led the parish forward during the transformative period which culminated in the implementation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Father Swift left in 1974 and the parish welcomed Reverend Richard Grein as our fourth rector. Father Grein frequently said that “we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us.” He found a traditional congregation with a traditional building, ready for spiritual growth. Father Grein brought a new level of understanding of scripture and tradition, theology and liturgy. Membership grew and a new wing was added providing more office space. In May 1981, Father Grein was consecrated the seventh bishop of Kansas.

This change brought new opportunities when Reverend David With was called as our fifth rector. Under Father With’s leadership, parish outreach efforts grew. In addition to several other substantial outreach projects established within the local community, St. Michael’s also pioneered a medical and educational program in Haiti.

Since 1984, we have been blessed to have a relationship with the people in rural Torbeck, Haiti, through our partner parish, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Leavenworth. Almost 30 years later, this partnership continues to be the sole source of support for St. Paul’s Episcopal School, which provides education to over 200 children each year.

During Father With’s two decades with us, Cloud Chapel, our beautiful gardens, and garden columbarium were constructed. The parish also received a substantial monetary gift to establish the St. Michael’s Foundation. The investment proceeds of the Foundation traditionally are used to fund outreach programs.

The Reverend Dr. Robert Lord was called to be our sixth rector in October 1996. Father Lord brought with him superb gifts of teaching and preaching. In the middle of his 10 years of leadership, St. Michael’s embarked on a capital campaign to enlarge the parish hall, add upstairs classroom space, and expand and update the kitchen and nursery. In 2006, Father Lord answered a call to serve as the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Winter Park, FL.

In the spring of 2008, Reverend Gail Greenwell came to lead us as our seventh rector. Pastor Gail challenged and inspired us with her impassioned ministry of reconciliation and expanded community outreach efforts. In October 2013 Pastor Gail accepted a call to serve as the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, OH.

In November 2015, the Reverend Dr. Kevin D. Huddleston was called to be the eighth rector, Father Huddleston departed in mid-2017.

In August 2019, the Reverend Dr. S. David Cox was called to serve as our ninth rector.

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