St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

403 Traverse St.

Elk Rapids, MI 49629



The Rev. Dr. Kathleen Kircher

  Senior Pastor


 The Rev. David Mellor

  Associate Pastor



Winter Schedule

Sunday — 9:00 a.m,

Holy Eucharist

Children Welcome



Our Parish and its History

St. Paul’s is a historic parish in Elk Rapids, a harbor and resort town on Lake Michigan’s East Grand Traverse Bay, 15 miles north of Traverse City. In summer, the community doubles in population, and the congregation swells accordingly; our 150 members include many who live elsewhere some of the year but remain faithful communicants and pledging members and take an active part in life at St. Paul’s.

    The parish was founded in 1867 as the Church of the Covenant by a pioneer priest who traveled a circuit by schooner. In 1869 we called our first rector, the Rev. Albert Lewis, and in 1871, renamed as St. Paul’s, we were admitted as a parish of the new West Michigan Diocese.

     In 1910, St. Paul's began to decline when the town's major industry closed, and we eventually became a mere mission of Traverse City's Grace Church (which, ironically, had originally been a mission of St. Paul's). Not until the 1970s did the area begin a revival, this time as a destination for tourists and cottagers drawn by the recreational opportunities offered by the region's dunes, forests, streams and lakes.

     Despite signs of renewal in the congregation, a newly ordained deacon named Fredrick Myers was sent in 1981 to close the mission. Instead, called by God, he generated new enthusiasm. Ordained a priest here later that year, he saw St. Paul's restored as a parish in 1985 and remained as our rector until he retired in 2000.

     The Rev. Catherine Woods Richardson was with us as interim until we called The Rev. Cynthia M. Spencer as rector in July, 2002. She left after 18 months, and we now enjoy the leadership of two priests under an arrangement perfectly suited to a parish such as ours in a seasonal community. The Rev. Dr. Kathleen Kircher, long a summer visitor to the area, is our senior Pastor, and fills the pulpit from May through October. In our off-season months, November through April, we heed the “Call to Common Mission” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church by engaging The Rev. David Mellor as Assisting Pastor. He has been — and remains — pastor at Elk Rapids’ Calvary Lutheran Church. This step has opened the way to making both parishes stronger and more effective, while preserving the unique identities of each, and has led to numerous occasions of joint worship and fellowship.

     St. Paul’s distinctive, American Gothic structure is a landmark in the community. Begun in 1881 it was completed in 1884. In 2007 we will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone. Over the years it has been remodeled and expanded, but we still worship each week in the same building. We completely restored the interior in the early 1990s as part of a project that saw the addition of a new narthex and undercroft and installation of a ramp and elevator for handicap access. In 2002 we completed major exterior restoration to preserve the soaring, vertical board-and-batten design of the original.

     St. Paul's today is blessed with a stable, welcoming, loving congregation that is truly a church "family." We have a lively music ministry and choir, a dedicated chapter of the order of Daughters of the King, a hands-on vestry, strong outreach and caring programs, and a large corps of lay ministry participants.