The value of any historical study rests in the reminder that we are part of a succession of events and the recipients of a noble legacy.
The inspiration received from the knowledge that in this place there was another generation which proclaimed and acted out the Good News ought to enable us to trust that another generation will follow.
~The Rev. Thomas L. Murdock
Our history as a Church family began more than a century ago, when the southern Oregon coast was a wild and sparsely populated country, a hard journey by horseback from the nearest Episcopal parish.
The first circuit rider missionary was sent to the region in 1873. At that time, about 1,700 people made their homes in Coos County, but the area was far from any population centers.
The first resident missionary, the Rev. Mr. William Lund, was appointed in 1884 and stationed at Coos Bay. Services were held in an upper room over the Sengstacken Building, a general store.
The Rev. Mr. William Horsfall succeeded Mr. Lund, arriving on Easter Day, 1889--services were held that morning in the Empire district, then a separate city and the largest community in the area and the county seat. The Empire parish was known as St. Luke’s.
The first church building was built on Market Street Hill in Coos Bay (then called Marshfield) that same year at a cost of $1,124. Construction was so rapid that Christmas services were held there only nine months after the Rev. Horsfall's arrival. The congregation included 55 adults and 58 children.
The Rev. Horsfall described the new church, "It is a really handsome building, though necessarily small, built on the rise of ground. We are now awaiting the arrival of the next boat from San Francisco, when the lancet windows and the Gothic door and other furnishings are to arrive."
In 1910 the Marshfield Mission attained Parish status, and was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation on September 15, 1911. The Rev. Horsfall was appointed Rural Dean in the Care of Missions, and the Rev. Robert Browning became Rector of the Church at Marshfield.
In 1913 a new church on the southeast corner of Fourth and Market Streets was completed for $11,500. "On entering this beautiful sanctuary," a writer noted, "One was compelled to feel very definitely the spirit of worship." It was a continual struggle to meet the mortgage payments, but financial difficulties notwithstanding, membership increased and many new organizations were established.
Between 1917 and 1921, the Rev. J. Claude Black served as Rector except for a leave of absence to join the military during World War I.
During the years of 1922 through 1929, the Rev. William Cooper and the Rev. Frederick Jennings served Emmanuel. The Church showed growth under their leadership.
When structural problems with the church building developed, a new church and parish hall was proposed for the congregation, then under the leadership of the Rev. Robert Greene. Dedication Day of the third church building, now used as our education wing, took place in 1950. During 1950 a rectory was also constructed on the grounds – currently named the Parish House, this building is used for offices, meetings and outreach work. No sooner was construction completed than plans for the fourth church building were begun and our new sanctuary wing was completed in 1954 during the Rev. Leslie Dunton's term as Rector.
The Rev. Harry R. Heeney served as Rector from 1961 to 1970 and the Church continued to add members under his leadership. He was a liturgical scholar as well as a fine musician. One of the highlights of these years was the dedication of a pipe organ in the fall of 1967.
During this time several community organizations came to rely on the volunteer work and financial assistance of Emmanuel parishioners and other churches in the Bay Area. When the Seamen's Center (first worked for by Father Dunton) became a reality, Emmanuel Parish was there to take its turn. The Senior Activity Center and the Bay Area Child Care Center also received Emmanuel's help.
In 1970 the Parish welcomed the Rev. Thomas Murdock who served as Rector until 1984. Fr. Murdock expanded our commitment to the community and was instrumental in the founding of T.H.E. House, a temporary shelter for the homeless. His counsel was sought by many, member and non-member alike. With Diocesan financial assistance, six curates were trained by Father Heeney and Father Murdock.
In 1985 the Rev. John Congdon became the 13th Rector of Emmanuel Parish and served until he was called to be Dean of St. James Cathedral in Fresno, California in 1993. During Fr. Congdon's term as Rector, the All Saints Columbarium was consecrated by Bishop Ladehoff. The Ecumenical Emergency Food Cupboard opened its doors in the basement of Emmanuel's Parish House in 1985 and with the help of other Bay Area churches continues to distribute food to the needy throughout the year. Also during Fr. Congdon's term, a Healing Service was added as a weekday service, as well as a contemporary prayer and praise service on Sunday evenings which attracted participants from other congregations in the area.
The Rev. Frank Morris joined the staff of Emmanuel as an assisting priest in 1991 after serving in the Philippines. He spent much of his time in pastoral calling and strengthened the Parish by his presence until retiring in 1998.
After a search of more than a year, the Rev. C. Eugene Jennings and his wife, Judy, came to Emmanuel in December 1994 from San Antonio, Texas. Their hospitable kindness and steady natures cheered us, and unified the congregation in a quest to restore our church home, which was badly in need of updating and repairs. At Fr. Jennings' suggestion, a capital fund drive, Forward in Faith, was introduced to the congregation. This visionary campaign was generously supported by the parishioners and resulted in a transformation of the church complex to a new beauty and functionality before his retirement in 2000. Similarly, within the community, Fr. Jennings forged strong ties with the clergy from other churches. With gentle wit and wisdom, he took us out of ourselves, guiding us to accomplish more than we thought possible, continuing the faithful work of our early church builders.
When the Rev. Stephen A. Tyson answered a call to become our Rector in 2001, it signified a homecoming to the site of the early years of his ministry. Emmanuel is the parish where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1975, while serving here as Curate from 1974 to 1977. Afterward, Fr. Tyson and his wife, Celeste, served missions in Monmouth and Dallas, Oregon, and St. John’s parish in Marysville, California before returning to the Bay Area. His retirement in 2013 from Emmanuel brings his ministry full circle.
Together, we welcomed the first class of students to the Emmanuel Parish Preschool and filled the church courtyard with play equipment for the enjoyment of the young ones among us. A nearby home was purchased, remodeled, and became the Shepherd House to expand our facilities for ministry and outreach.
After Father Tyson retired, Rev. Christy Close Erskine came from the Bend area, answering our call in the fall of 2014. Christy was our first female rector, preferring to be called “pastor.” She proved to be a diligent and caring minister to parishioners who were homebound, active in the area’s religious community, and engaged in ministries out of the ordinary, such as the Blessing of the Animals, where pets were presented for a blessing. We will miss her, but wish her well in her retirement in Central Oregon.
Since the retirement of Pastor Christy at the end of January 2019, our Parish had been in transition until the time we called our next pastor. During those months, we utilized the services of supply priests and once-a-month Morning Prayer with Licensed Lay Preacher, Nat Jaeggli. This time allowed the Parish to reflect on what direction we wanted our church’s ministry to take going forward.
The Vestry-appointed Search Committee was diligent and effective. They recommended the candidate they felt best fit Emmanuel, an individual highly qualified to lead us and who came highly recommended by Diocesan officials.
The Vestry and the Search Committee was excited and pleased to announce that the Reverend Patti Hale accepted our call to serve as our Priest-in-Charge for three years beginning January 19, 2020.
We are a fellowship of longstanding. Our strong tradition of Christian service joins a present-day commitment and heartfelt desire to continue the work begun with faith in this place so many years ago.
Rectors of Emmanuel:
Dean William Horsfall (1889-1910)
Robert Browning (1910-1917)
J. Claude Black (1917-1921)
William Cooper (1922-1934)
Frederick Jennings (1935-1939)
Claude Sayre (Bishop's Vicar 1939-1940)
George Turney (1940-1943)
Thomas Lewis (1943-1947)
Robert Greene (1948-1954)
Leslie D.V. Dunton (1954-1961)
Harry Heeney (1961-1970)
Thomas Murdock (1970-1984)
Barry Turner (Interim 1984-1985)
John Congdon (1985-1993)
George Wilson (Interim 1993-1994)
C. Eugene Jennings (1994-2000)
Richard Hicks (Interim 2000-2001)
Stephen A. Tyson (2001-2013)
Christy Close Erskine (2014-2019)
Patti Hale (2020-Current)
Assistant Priests, Assisting Priests, Curates and Deacons of Emmanuel:
Joseph Dubay, Deacon (1963-1965)
Thomas Jeremiah Kavany, Curate (1965-1969)
Alan Grant, Curate (1971-1974)
Stephen Tyson, Curate (1974-1977)
Jerry Lamb, Curate (1978-1980) – He is now the Retired Bishop of Northern California
William Ellis, Curate (1982-1984)
Linda Hutton, Assistant to Rector (1980-1986) Deacon (1986-1987)
Frank Morris, Assisting Priest (1991-1998)