OUR CHURCH HISTORY
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church has always enjoyed a strong relationship with the adjoining Fort Sill community. During World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, up through Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, St. Andrew's congregation has focused a major part of its energies on helping military families feel secure and welcomed into our parish. The presence of the Episcopal Church in southwest Oklahoma dates from 1869 when the Buffalo Soldiers arrived at Fort Sill, accompanied by their Episcopal chaplain. By the final decade of the nineteenth century, Fort Sill was designated in Missionary District records as a "Preaching Station" in the Indian Territory, specifically Kiowa land. Bishop Francis Key Brooke appointed R. D. Baldwin to lead the congregation as Lay Reader.
After Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache lands were opened for settlement on August 6, 1901, Mr. Baldwin spent the next three months establishing a small Episcopal congregation in Lawton that met for Evening Prayer at 4:00 on Sundays in the Odd Fellow's Hall. Finally, on Saturday, November 23, Bishop Brooke traveled by train from his headquarters in Guthrie to Lawton, and on Sunday, November 24, 1901, he preached at services in the morning and afternoon, baptized an infant, appointed members to the new vestry, and celebrated Holy Eucharist. Our young church was named that Sunday to honor St. Andrew, the apostle whose feast day was forthcoming on November 30th.
The new St. Andrew's congregation rented land on B Avenue, between 4th and 5th Streets, and built a chapel with seating for 75 persons by the end of December 1901. They bought land on the northeast corner of 8th Street and B Avenue in 1904 and moved their chapel westward four blocks to the new site.
America's entry into World War I produced an inevitable flood of young troops through Fort Sill, and the swelling congregation decided late in their second decade that they must build again. With the original chapel attached on the north to serve as classroom space, the new church (still standing today at 8th & B Avenue) was consecrated on November 14, 1920.
That building was home to the growing mission and then parish (1947) of St. Andrew's until the early 1950s. With The Rev. Russell Rauscher as their new Rector, the congregation grew quickly and soon began making plans to move to our present location.
Our current home at 1313 D Avenue, sitting on Comanche land, was designed by Paul Harris, AIA, constructed (with the help of many fellow parishioners) by Clyde Shelton, and consecrated by The Right Rev. Chilton Powell on December 19, 1954.
During the 1990's, the central mission of the church focused on community outreach. That commitment included projects, requiring thousands
of volunteer hours to raise needed funds to support St. John's Baptist Church Food Ministry, Cameron Campus Ministry, the Salvation Army and Lawton Food Bank. Pastoral care ministry for the sick and home-bound was strengthened by St. Andrew's relationship with Hospice of Southwest Oklahoma and the volunteer chaplain programs at Comanche County Memorial Hospital and Southwestern Medical Center.
OUR CHURCH TODAY AND BEYOND
St. Andrew’s mission, to be an inclusive Christ centered community open to the power of the Holy Spirit, remains. Parishioners are still active in the St. John’s Feeding ministry and Salvation Army.
The parish has also gotten more involved in neighborhood outreach through installation of a “Blessing Box for the Body, Mind and Soul,” which provides food, personal care items, small books for children, prayer touchstones, and a prayer request drop-box to those in the neighborhood. The Blessing Box is accessible around-the-clock, seven days a week to whoever passes by.
St. Andrews renewed efforts to reach the neighborhood’s population is becoming more trustworthy and effective. It’s not unusual to find one or more neighborhood residents in the pews on any given Sunday or visiting with the rector during the week. Often as not it is a homeless person. This not only reflects our basic Christian charge but the geographical changes that have occurred (and continue occurring) in the St. Andrew’s neighborhood of Lawton the past quarter-century.
This past year parishioners also made significant monetary donations as well as furniture, clothing, personal items and personal help to more than one dozen families who were burned out of their apartment complex (located near St. Andrews) by a devastating fire.
Several parishioners also support Family Promise, a non-profit program whose mission is to help families experiencing homelessness.