A HISTORY OF HOLY COMFORTER
Episcopalians in Alamance County first organized in 1879 and attended services at Union Church, a railroad owned building in the center of the town of Company Shops. Plans subsequently were made for a new Episcopal church on a lot bounded by Webb Avenue and Morehead Street; by September of 1880, the St. Athanasius Mission had been constructed and was ready for services. The congregation, in the town which had been renamed Burlington, was granted mission status by the diocese in 1888, and in 1892 was recognized as a full status parish.
Hobart B. Upjohn from New York was hired in 1908 as architect for a new church building which was to adjoin the lot for St. Athanasius and was to face Davis Street. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Holt gave the land and the building to the church, in memory of their daughter who had died at the age of five. The granite structure, which took nearly two years to complete, was named the Church of the Holy Comforter and was consecrated and dedicated during its first service on November 5, 1911.
A new rectory was constructed on the corner of Davis and Lexington Streets in 1917. A Parish House was added to the rear of the church in 1925; funding for this came partly from a trust established by Mr. Holt in 1923 for the purpose of mission work in Alamance County. On November 1, 1934, St. Athanasius was re-opened as a ministry for the deaf, and this church came to serve those from surronding areas and other denominations as well as Episcopalians.
In 1963, a building program was begun which would double the size of the church by adding the Great Hall. A special dedication service marking its completion was held on October 10, 1965. Also in 1965, Calvary Chapel, a separate mission in the county since 1934, joined its congregation with that of Holy Comforter. The other mission in the county, St. Andrew’s at Haw River, maintained its separate status.
In 1980, the Memorial Organ Fund was initiated and the organ contracted for in October of 1982 with Mr. Lynn Dobson. The English Gothic style organ of solid oak was installed in January and February of 1985 and dedicated on April 14, 1985.
In October, 1985, a fund was established to provide for increased parish mission and outreach activity. Enough money was subsequently raised to buy and renovate the former Breadloaf College building on Lexington Street. The building, named the Comforter House, was dedicated on Epiphany in 1987 and presently provides office space for the Family Abuse Service, the Rape and Suicide Crisis Service, and the Christian Counseling Center.
The parish completed in 1990 a major capital funds campaign in which over one-half million dollars in pledges were made. To date, the collected funds have been used to completely restore the roof of the main church building and of the Great Hall.
--- largely adapted from The Episcopal Church in Burlington, 1879-1979, by Margaret Elizabeth Gant.