Home. Parishioners of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church are finally home.
Few words or photographs can truly express the beauty of this breathtaking space.
After tragically losing the historical church in a fire on Nov. 11, 2010, the St. Matthew’s church body was taken in by the gracious Grace Lutheran Church. After worshiping there for more than four years, services transitioned back to campus in Parish Hall once it was complete this January.
For years, parishioners, members of the community, students and alumni anxiously walked around the cavity of space that would become their sanctuary. Thousands of painstaking hours and millions of dollars went into its meticulous construction. Exactly five years after fire ripped through this historical treasure, a new church opens its doors, paying homage to the 118-year-old church that was lost, while incorporating modern amenities.
Painstaking detail was taken in making the new church feel like the old one. From the stained glass, to the wooden trusses, to the pews, to the floors, no detail was overlooked.
Using the original plans to replicate the original stained glass, Rohlf Studios of New York was commissioned to create the new windows. Placed in multiple installments and each donated in memory or in honor of loved ones, only two windows will remain after the current commissions are installed in March of 2016. The large windows facing Barrow Street have been designated as the Community Window, as every member of the community is invited to donate as little or as much as they wish. A registry of names will be kept in the church as a legacy to those who have given.
Decorative, cypress wooden trusses were replicated and scaled to fit the new space, which is approximately 30 percent larger. To allow for the beautiful trusses, a crawl space was created beneath the floor to run duct work to prevent the installation of air registers in the walls, which would have made the space look modern.
The wooden pews were made by Sauder Furniture and were designed based on original style, but have the benefits of curvature and lumbar support. The 4,000 square feet of wooden floors are Caribbean Pine and were finished by Lloyd Olson. They look like cypress, but are harder than oak. A sub-floor was built underneath the floors to give the feel and sound of old floors underfoot.
The prayer garden was donated in memory of Dr. and Mrs. R. W. Collins and Dr. and Mrs. S. Clark Collins. It is nestled between the church and Parish Hall and serves as a tranquil oasis in the midst of downtown Houma. Parishioners and the community are invited to enjoy a respite in the garden, finding it a place of prayer and remembrance. The garden is also home to the columbarium, which is a resting place for the ashes of deceased parishioners.
The cost of rebuilding the new space including furnishings was more than $7 million. While insurance did cover the majority of the cost to rebuild, the church has conducted fundraising efforts since the fire to make up for the deficit. An amazing $2.7 million have been given to date by generous donors. With approximately $250,000 debt remaining, fundraising is ongoing until debt is retired.
As the original bell, which was restored, chimes again at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, it rings in a new chapter. These walls will hold a story, too, in this holy place where sacraments and memories are made. It’s a history that’s yet to be written.
Services: 10 a.m. on Sundays
Children’s Sunday School and Nursery are provided.
Special thanks to:
Marvin Gregory – superintendent of the project and a vice president of Byron E. Talbot, Co.
Clifford Smith – building committee chair
Danny Lirette – clerk of the works
The Aesthetics Committee – Debby Fortier, Suzanne Alexander, Carolyn Lirette, Gayle Duhe and Beulah Rodrigue
Rohlf Studios – for stained glass reproduction
Ray Brown – for the detailed work on the church interior
Mike Laverne – for the meticulous detailed woodwork
Lloyd Olson – for floor finishing
Mike Richard – of Chackbay Nursery for building the prayer garden