History of St. Matthew's
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church was officially chartered on May 15, 1855. Previously, services had been held in the Court House and in a private home, with the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, the first Bishop of Louisiana and the Rev. T.R.B. Trader, Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Thibodaux, Louisiana officiating. The Reverend Moses E. Wilson, who was present in Terrebonne Parish on the day of incorporation, was named rector two days later on May 17th.
In 1857, Mr. Robert Ruffin Barrow, one of the first vestrymen, donated five lots of ground on Barrow Street, the site of the present church building and first rectory. Before the end of the nineteenth century, Mr. Henry C. Minor donated two lots behind those facing Barrow Street. Through the years additional property was acquired within the first block facing Main Street, much of which is now occupied by St. Matthew's Episcopal School. The first St. Matthew's Church was constructed in 1858 at a cost of $7,050 and about one year later the first rectory was built.
Church records indicate that the real work within the parish did not progress substantially until the Rectorship of The Reverend George W. Stickney, who served from 1858 until 1861. It is interesting to note that the first two rectors of St. Matthew's were on opposite sides during the War Between the States. Father Wilson, a New Yorker, became a chaplain in the Union Army, while Rev. Stickney, left the parish to serve the Confederacy.
From 1861 to 1867, St. Matthew's was without a rector. The Reverend James Philson arrived in 1867 to be succeeded by the Reverend Messrs. C.F.D. Lyne, William D. Christian, Ralph H. Prosser, Frederick Roehl, and Southron R. Duval. During the years 1888 to 1890 the rectory burned and the church building was declared unsafe, requiring its demolition and the construction of the present cypress buildings during 1890-1892.
With the arrival of The Reverend Dr. Gardiner L. Tucker on November 1, 1903, St. Matthew's gained new momentum. Missions were established on Bayous Little Caillou and DuLarge and in the villages of Montegut, Donner, and Gibson, all within Terrebonne Parish. The Parish Hall adjoining the church was added in 1913. Dr. Tucker's rectorship of thirty-five years ended in 1938 with his untimely death. Dr. Tucker was recognized as a leader not only locally, but also in the Diocese of Louisiana, Province of Sewanee, and the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Dr. Tucker was succeeded by the Reverend Dr. Charles E. Crusoe. Until the arrival of Fr. Crusoe there had been no candles on the Altar. During his tenure, brass Eucharistic candlesticks and candelabra were given as memorial gifts. The processional cross and the Wicks pipe organ were gifts in memory of Dr. Tucker.
Father Crusoe's successor in 1941 was the Reverend Clarence R. Haden, Jr. who served at St. Matthew's for two years prior to becoming Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in New Orleans.
The Reverend George P. Pardington assumed the Rectorship of St. Matthew's on February 1, 1944, and served until his retirement in 1975. During his administration a new educational building was erected behind the church in 1955 and dedicated on September 1, 1957, and many other material improvements were made possible, the chief of which was the addition of memorial windows in the church vestibule, nave, sacristy, and choir areas. Although two kindergartens had been privately operated at St. Matthew's over a period of time, it was not until 1970 that St. Matthew's Episcopal School was started by the church. Classes range from Pre-Kindergarten through Seventh Grade and the school has established a reputation for excellence in academic circles.
The Reverend Jervis O. Burns, Jr. was called as rector in 1975. Under his leadership the ministry of the laity was expanded. During 1981 and 1982, parishioners refinished the interior of the church proper, restoring the original stained appearance of the paneling and beams.
In 1986, the Rev. Dr. David A. Powers accepted a call to St. Matthew's. He, too, has encouraged participation by the laity. The giving of six memorial windows in the Parish Hall, depicting the seven sacraments, started in the Canon Burns era, was brought to completion by Rev. Powers. He also broadened participation by the laity and was active in Houma ecumenical affairs. Father Powers resigned in the fall of 1995 to accept a call from All Saints' Episcopal Church in Mobile, Alabama.
The rectory, remodeled and raised for future expansion, has been named Tucker Hall to honor the memory of Dr. Gardiner Leigh Tucker. The church uses this building for office and meeting room space.
The search for the next rector at St. Matthew's resulted in the call of the Reverend Fred. H. Tinsley, Jr., who arrived in Houma with his wife, Judy, in late June, 1996 and conducted his first services on June 30, 1996. He served until April 2003 at which time he was called to serve at St. James Church in Alexandria, Louisiana.
In March 2004, the Reverend Craig Dalferes accepted a call to St. Matthew's. He was accompanied in the move by his wife, Jennifer and son, Charles. They have since had another son, Joseph. On November 11, 2010 a devastating fire destroyed the church, the parish hall, and an adjacent educational building. With tremendous support from the wider community, and by God's abundant grace, St. Matthew's was able to rise from those ashes, and restore those structures, and their contents in about 5 years. The total cost was about 7.5 million dollars.
The opportunities for ministry continue to unfold at St. Matthew's as the congregation looks forward to continuing to fulfill its mission to glorify God, grow in faith, and make Christ known.