The History of St. Matthew's

In the spring of 1952, several Episcopalians in the Raytown area wrote letters to Bishop Welles regarding the possibilities of starting a new church in the Blue Ridge-Raytown area. And, so began the building of a congregation in the Blue Ridge-Raytown area. Raytown was a fast growing suburban area, on the eastern edge of Kansas City. Prior to WWII it had been a small rural village started in the 1840's as a blacksmith shop on the Santa Fe Trail.

A group of about twenty people met in June of 1952 for a discussion regarding formation of a mission church. It was decided by the group that, with the approval of Bishop Welles, a mission church to be known as St. Matthew's would be established. Within a month, a new mission was formed, and the first service was held on July 13, 1952, in rented space over Smith Bros. Hardware Store in Raytown. The Rev. David C. Patrick, Rector of Trinity Church in Independence served as Priest-In-Charge and led the Holy Eucharist once a month. In November of 1952, a petition was submitted to the Diocese of West Missouri requesting formal organization of a Mission Church.

Image description In the spring of 1953, after inspecting available church sites in the area, and through the efforts of members of the Mission, the generosity of friends of Bishop Welles, and a small loan from the Diocese, a suitable plot of land was obtained in the central Raytown area. The 3.15 acres included a converted poultry shed and a horse barn approximately forty years old. The purchase price was $6,800. Members and friends of the mission renovated the poultry house, which provided a small but simple and functional place to worship. July 5, 1953, the first service was celebrated in the "Chicken Coop."

A Vicarage was completed in late 1954. There was a severe shortage of space, so the new Vicarage was used for Sunday school classes, dinners, and other events. To alleviate the shortage of space it was decided to renovate the old stone barn that was located on the property. The work on the renovation proceeded through late 1954 and early 1955 using volunteer labor for most of the work. The first service was held in April 1955. As growth continued it became evident in 1956 that more space was needed and plans for a permanent church building commenced. Construction on the new building was completed in time for Easter services in 1958 with an attendance of 348 worshipers at four services.

The 1960's saw continuing growth of the Raytown area, the Raytown School District and St. Matthew's. St. Matthew's gained Parish status in 1960. Fr. Donald Becker, who was the Vicar, was called as Rector. Articles of Incorporation and By-laws were approved by the newly elected Vestry and filed April 13, 1960. During the early 60's many improvements ere made to the church building and adjoining property as the number of communicants continued to grow. Image description This growth necessitated the need for additional space, and addition to the original 1958 building was completed in 1963 as the number of communicants grew to 360. After completion of the building addition the emphasis shifted to landscaping, paving of the parking lot, enlargement of the kitchen area and equipping the new building. Phenomenal growth continued through the 60's. There were over 700 in attendance at five Easter services in 1966. In this same year the bell tower was completed. The last of the stained glass windows were installed in 1969.

In the 70's it became apparent that changes were starting to happen. The average age of the congregation was beginning to get a little older. Consequently church school enrollment began to decline throughout the decade. The demographics of the community began to change as well. The transfers in and out indicate that fewer people were moving to or from the area as a result of job changes as the decade came to an end. The available development land in the area began to be used up and development started to move to the outlying areas such as Lee's Summit and Blue Springs. This resulted in little if any growth in number during the decade and nothing like we had seen in the 50's and 60's.

The 1980's were a time of turmoil and change in the Parish. The continuing demographic changes in the community and the desire of younger people with children to move further out, to newer areas in the suburbs continued to take a toll on both membership and attendance. 1983 saw the resignation and retirement of The Rev. Donald Becker, the first Vicar and then Rector, and priest of St. Matthew's for thirty years. A new Rector, The Rev. Robert Hutcherson, was called and began service in August of that same year. At the end of the '80's, a period during which the parish had gone through some rough times, there was some recovery. At the end of 1989 two hundred twenty-five communicants in good standing were reported. The average Sunday attendance of over one hundred fifty had improved somewhat, but was still only a fraction of those wonderful days of building and growth in the 1960's.

St. Matthew's entered the 1990s facing tight finances and changing demographics. But members marched forward to meet those and other challenges over the decade and into the next millennium.

In 1991 a decision was made to add a 4,500 square foot addition which would contain offices, a library worship center and a vesting room. Additional improvements included remodeling of the kitchen addition of a sacristy, and other improvements. This work was completed in 1993.

St. Matthew's embarked on an ambitious youth program that included two pilgrimages for teenagers in 1999 and 2002. A new Men's Club began meeting. The annual Valentine's Day Dinner began. And dedicated members continued serving as all the volunteers _ such as on the Vestry or on the Altar Guild, choir or nursery _ needed for a full-service church to help people praise the Lord.

In February 2008 Fr. Hutcherson announced his retirement after nearly 25 years of service. His retirement was effective May 31, 2008. Fr. Hutcherson was only the second Rector at St. Matthew's since it's founding in 1953. In August 2008 The Rev. Gary Gilbertson was called as Interim Rector.

Although the congregation has shrunk in size over the last few years, there is renewed energy and commitment which is seen in a parish-wide outreach effort to provide teaching of English as a Second Language and the growing participation in small groups for prayer and Bible study, some using the Rule of Benedict as a guide.

Service Schedule

Sunday

8:00 AM - Holy Eucharist

11:00 AM - Holy Eucharist

Location

9349 E 65th Street
Raytown, MO 64133

Phone: (816) 353-4592

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