History of St. Thomas
In August 1982, a small group of Episcopalians in Diamondhead asked the Diocese of Mississippi to accept them as a mission. The first worship service, led by the Rev. Charles R. Johnson from Christ Church in Bay St. Louis, was held December 5, 1982, in the Diamondhead Country Club. Prior to the service the members voted to name the church for St. Thomas.
Ground was broken June 17, 1984 for construction of a church building, and on January 25, 1985 the church was granted mission status. On March 31, 1985, The Rev. Durrie Hardin celebrated the first Eucharist in the church, which was dedicated and consecrated April 10. In 1986, a columbarium and four rooms to house a church school and library were added.
In September 1987, the congregation and its first vicar, the Rev. Meredith Spencer, requested parish status. In 1989, under the church’s second vicar, the Rev. Barry Cotter, the sanctuary was enlarged to handle increased attendance. When St. Thomas officially was named a parish church on January 27, 1991, Rev. Cotter became rector but, by year’s end, accepted the call of another Episcopal church.
The church’s second rector, the Rev. Linda Lowry, served at St. Thomas from March 1992 until June 1996. She guided the church through some difficult times during which the parish’s interests were served by its conversion to mission status.
In April 1997, an interim vicar, the Rev. Joel Keyes, was appointed, and in September the Rev. Brian Seage was called to assist him part time. Rev. Seage became part-time interim vicar in February 1998 and, in June, began serving on a full-time basis.
In January 2002, St. Thomas was again granted parish status and Rev. Seage became rector. During his tenure St. Thomas grew and in spring 2002 a building campaign was launched to add a Christian education and administrative wing, along with remodeling of the parish hall.
May 2005 brought the resignation of Rev. Seage who accepted a call as rector of St. Columb’s in Ridgeland, and the Rev. Ted Dawson served as part-time interim rector until February 2006. In the meantime a search committee was formed, but its work was forestalled by Hurricane Katrina.
St. Thomas managed to escape Katrina’s ravages with minimal damage and served to help the community during the months following the storm as a clothing bank, a meeting place, and as a place to house volunteers from all over the country. Although St. Thomas lost many members to relocation after Katrina, it also has been blessed with several new faces in its family. We look forward to the growth and expansion of our ministries, as well as meaningful worship and liturgy.
Rev. Dawson resigned in February 2006 and Bishop Gray recommended that the Vestry name the Rev. William R. White, a recent graduate of the Virginia Theological Seminary, as Deacon in Charge, with a commitment to become Rector upon his ordination to the priesthood. Rev. White assumed his duties at St. Thomas on July 1, 2006, and was ordained to the priesthood at St. Thomas on January 7, 2007. He served as rector until his retirement in early 2013.
The Rev. Wayne A. Ray, Ph.D., a recently retired pastor, began serving as Temporary Shepherd for St. Thomas in 2013. He served as our Shepherd until 2017.
The Rev. Mary Koppel, originally serving as rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Miami, OK, accepted the position of rector in 2018 with the approval of Bishop Brian Seage. She served as rector until June 2022.
The Rev. Wayne A. Ray, Ph.D., agreed in July 2022 to conduct services and provide pastor care for at least six months, in much the same role as he played as the Shepherd of the flock from 2013-2017.