Spartanburg was but a village in 1848 when the Church of the Advent was received into union with the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Fewer than a dozen founding members began the struggle. The church building was begun in 1850, but not completed and consecrated until 1864. There were struggles with contractors departing, debts, lawsuits, a Civil War, but through it all Advent’s community of people kept the faith.
While the Church of the Advent is not the oldest or largest church in the diocese, we have grown through the years to become one of the more influential parishes. Our rector, the Reverend W. H. K. Pendleton (1909-1939), was one of the driving forces to have the Diocese of Upper South Carolina established as a separate entity. Dr. Pendleton was also instrumental in the founding of the Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina. Another of Advent’s long-term rectors, the Reverend Capers Satterlee (1944-1968), led the church through the years following World War II and into and through the stormy times of the Civil Rights era.
Advent is home to the first Boy Scout troop in the state. We can boast of being the first church in the diocese to have elected a female senior warden. And we proudly claim our share of notable parishioners, including military heroes, state governors, U.S. congressmen, Cabinet members, industrial magnates, and two Time Magazine “Men of the Year”—James F. Byrnes and William C. Westmoreland. Two of our twelve rectors—Theodore D. Bratton (1888-1899) and Charles F. Duvall (1977-1980)—have gone on to be elected bishops.
Yet the church’s story is much more than the story of our members. Mission work has always been important to the Advent. In the early days, there were missions in the textile communities of Spartanburg and later among the soldiers stationed at nearby Army camps during two world wars. The Advent’s first rector, John DeWitt McCollough (1848-1856, 1859-1875), was more responsible than anyone for spreading the Episcopal Church throughout the upstate in the nineteenth century. McCollough designed twenty churches and began or nurtured more than a dozen congregations. Today, three thriving Episcopal churches in Spartanburg owe their genesis to Advent.
The Episcopal Church of the Advent’s outreach has been broad and active. Our efforts have stretched from coastal South Carolina to the Lakota Sioux Indians in White Horse, South Dakota to a children’s ministry in Cange, Haiti. Closer to home, members of the church were instrumental in founding the St. Luke’s Free Medical Clinic to provide health care for Spartanburg’s working uninsured and have established an endowment fund for the clinic. We are in an active partnership with a predominantly minority local elementary school. Parishioners are in the school on a daily basis; during the summer, the church sends approximately one hundred children from the school to Kanuga for a week of camping experiences. The Advent also joined twelve other churches in forming the Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network (SPIHN) to aid homeless families in the Spartanburg community. In 2002, in recognition of the parish’s commitment to outreach, four of the Advent’s programs were designated Centers for Jubilee Ministry.
In the mid-1990s, a self-study and strategic planning initiative known as Project Epiphany was begun and resulted in a new leadership organization within the church. Under the banner of the church’s Parish Mission Statement—“To show Christ’s light in us through worship and prayer, play and work, sharing and giving, that all may know Him”—the vestry and parish were organized into commissions by six separate mission imperatives: Liturgy, Christian Formation, Parish Life, Pastoral Care, Outreach, and Parish Management. Recently a seventh commission was added, Stewardship.
Project Epiphany also provided the foundation to launch the phenomenally successful Cornerstone Campaign. This resulted in the building of a new Parish and Community Life Center which houses Christian education facilities, a weekday pre-school program, gymnasium, kitchen, and multi-purpose dining/meeting rooms. Additionally, an older parish hall was renovated to create a youth center, and a former education building was renovated into new church offices, conference rooms, and library.
The church campus now consists of five ministry-related buildings and two other office structures. Historically, two full-time priests have served our parish; at various intervals, a third priest has been a part of the clerical staff. Today, we employ a staff of eighteen, including program, support, and maintenance professionals, with an average tenure of eleven years; during the school session, the Advent Children’s Center employs an additional twenty people. The current year’s operating budget is $1.4 million. The Advent Foundation, established in 1983, has assets of over $5 million and provides annual financial assistance for outreach and plant maintenance.