Katrina, frozen pipes can't keep church from dedicating new building

OCEAN SPRINGS — The 10-year vision of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ocean Springs for a new parish hall became a reality Sunday as hundreds of members gathered to dedicate their new 11,000-square-foot building.

Even after a frozen water pipe broke and caused some distractions, parishioners moved forward in good spirits with the dedication of the $1.8 million hall.

The Rev. Wayne A. Ray said members were ready to build four years ago but Katrina halted their plans.

“We have had faith that this project would be completed,” Ray said, “so that we can provide the community with working mission projects. This facility has been an initiative for us for many years and during this time we knew we needed more space to continue to grow our programs.”

Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi Duncan M. Gray III led the dedication and blessing of the new parish hall.

Gray said St. John’s is one of the fastest-growing Episcopal churches on the Coast.

“This congregation and Rev. Ray kept on keeping on with the utmost diligence during this building project,” Gray said.

The hall has Sunday school classrooms, a youth room, full choir room, staff offices, a meeting room, education rooms, a commercial kitchen and conference area.

It will house weekly Al-Anon meetings, Wednesday-night meetings and supper, and church programs, and serve as a volunteer housing center during hurricanes.

“Housing volunteers for recovery efforts was one of our biggest problems after the storm,” said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran. “This church is now poised to assist during disasters with showers, a kitchen, washer and dryers and other community event space. St. John’s is a unique church congregation that is so tight-knit it is like a family here.”

St. John’s Episcopal Church was built in 1896.

Leigh Coleman/The Sun Herald