Our History

A Brief History of and Introduction to the Church of the Holy Communion

CHURCH of the Holy Communion was founded in 1848 and was from the beginning one of the pioneer Anglo-Catholic parishes of this nation. The main portion of the present building was consecrated in 1855, eighteen months after the Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter began his ministry as rector. By 1871 the building had reached its present proportions: transepts east, north, and south, a recessed and ornamented apse for the altar, the stone High Altar and altar cross, the tile pavement of the sanctuary, and the hammer-beam ceiling modeled after that of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, England, were all put in place between 1868 and 1871. On Easter Day that same year 1871 Dr. Porter introduced the sweeping liturgical changes that were so event-making in his day: the wearing of eucharistic vestments and a solemn liturgy sung by a surpliced choir caused the News and Courier newspaper the next day to assert that “yesterday the Church of the Holy Communion went bodily over to Rome.” Controversial outside the parish perhaps, Dr. Porter’s desire to establish proper Anglican liturgical forms in an edifice fit for Catholic worship was wholly embraced by the congregation. Today our adherence to the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church grounded in a joyful Sunday High Mass continues to be our witness in this beautiful place to the principles of our Father Founder and the Anglo-Catholic movement worldwide.

HOLY Communion’s catholic social consciousness has always made her a leader in outreach to the community. An industrial school in our buildings to alleviate poverty was begun in 1860. In 1867 the Holy Communion Church Institute was started to educate local boys who would otherwise have gone lacking; this school still exists as the Porter-Gaud School. The parish fostered the establishment of a home for convalescent and needy women in 1874, and it sponsored a mission on the upper peninsula for forty years after 1898. In 1916 the first Boy Scout troop in Charleston was established here. In 1940 the Reverend William Wallace Lumpkin, rector, organized Saint Alban’s Parish at the Citadel, South Carolina’s premier military college. Today a food pantry and a medical clinic run by parishioners provide groceries, medicine, and health care to local citizens.

CHURCH of the Holy Communion has been an innovator and a leader in many ways, but she continues to be an unshaken foundational rock for the faithful in an age troubled by intellectual doubt and moral uncertainty. We proclaim here the Faith once delivered to the Saints: Jesus Christ, God and Man, crucified and risen from the dead. We profess the Three Creeds of the Church, proclaim the Scriptures as the Word of God, celebrate the Seven Sacraments for the life of God’s People, and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the most perfect prayer of all the ages. Our devotional life embraces the best elements of the English religious heritage rescued by the Tractarians and their successors in the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century. We proudly use the same liturgy today that Doctor Porter used in 1855, that so excited the press at Easter 1871, that has nourished the lives of Anglican saints since 1549, and of Catholic Christians since A.D.30 and the Resurrection. We see no way to improve on that patrimony.

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