HANFORD — The Episcopal Church of the Saviour will be having a very special service on Sunday. The service will take parishioners back to a time over 100 years ago and was prompted by recent research into the history of the church.
“The community should know the type of history that we have here,” said Norma Velvick, a parishioner of the church for over 25 years.
Two weeks ago, the Rev. Dr. John Day said the church received a phone call from someone at an antique store in Fresno, saying the store had a piece of furniture believed to belong to the church. He said the furniture piece — a lectern dated to 1886 — did in fact belong to the church and had been in the church’s original chapel built in 1882.
After acquiring the lectern, Velvick began doing some historical research on the church. During her research, she said she came across a document which stated the very first Episcopal sermon in Hanford happened on Feb. 19, 1880. This coming Sunday happens to be Feb. 19, 137 years later to the day of that first service.
In an effort to celebrate and commemorate the anniversary of that first Episcopal service in Hanford, Day said the church is going to rededicate the 1886 lectern with a special service.
“We’re going to use the actual service that would have been used in 1880,” Day said, adding he obtained a copy of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer that was used during the 1800s. “We’re trying to make this as historically accurate as we can.”
Making the service historically accurate won’t be easy, Day said, especially when the material is over 100 years old. He said the form and style of services had changed over the years and the Book of Common Prayer had gone through a few revisions as well, adding the latest edition of the book — which was revised in 1978 — doesn’t even resemble the old 1800s book.
Day said parishioners might be confused because the order of the service will be different from what they are used to, though, much of it will sound familiar for them. The church’s organist is even going to play music according to what would have been played in the late 1800s.
Through documents, Velvick learned that only four people attended the first service in Hanford, and services were only held once a month due to the reverend having to travel from a different town. When the 1882 chapel was finally built, membership grew to almost 200 people, she said. Day said he hopes to have a larger crowd than the usual 30-40 attendees this Sunday.
The service will take place at 9 a.m. in the original chapel, which had been moved from its original site at South Douty and 3rd Streets to the site of the current church when it was built in 1911 at 519 N. Douty St.
Throughout her research, Velvick found numerous historical items from over 100 years ago, including vases and chairs that belonged in the original chapel and an alter that was not the original alter, but was built by a past reverend.
Mostly, Velvick said she has been cleaning the old chapel and polishing the brass to make everything looks as good as new for Sunday’s service. She has worked every day for the past two weeks, though she said she doesn’t mind because she finds the history interesting.
Velvick also found a cookbook put together by the women’s guild for the church in 1954. She said the book has recipes from before 1912 and five women from the church have agreed to make dishes from the book to serve on Sunday, trying to keep the recipes as close as possible to the ones in the book.
Ultimately, Velvick said she would like to put the book together again, adding new recipes. After Sunday, Velvick hopes to inventory all the artifacts she found and preserve them for the church, while also trying to fill in any gaps in the church’s history.
Parish Administrator Jeff March said he finds the history of the church “really cool,” and said the church is also part of the Hanford Carnegie Museum downtown historical tour.
“It’s great to have this kind of stuff to have around in Hanford,” March said. “I’m surprised about how much that was saved here.”
Day said Sunday's service is going to be fun because of all the old language and he thinks everyone is going to have a good time. Day, who has been the reverend at the church for one year, said what drew him to Hanford was the historical significance of the church to the town.
“This really is quite a remarkable parish — that you would have all of that history still preserved,” Day said, adding it’s a very unique Episcopal church in the entire state.
Not only is the Episcopal Church of the Saviour one of the first churches built in Hanford, Day said they also found out it is the first Episcopal congregation in the geographical area.
“The more research we do, the deeper the mystery becomes,” Day said.