Sanctuary : pre-fire
The Story of St. Christopher’s
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church came to life in 1933 as Holy Trinity Mission, a congregation consisting of a small group of families and individuals. It was said that the name “Trinity” was chosen because at the time Hobbs consisted of 3 communities: Hobbs, New Hobbs, and All Hobbs. However, a short-lived predecessor, Trinity Mission, had been organized earlier, in 1930, by Rev. F.B. “Ted” Howden, Jr., Vicar to Lincoln County Episcopalians, to serve about 20 communicants. In 1931, with the collapse of the area’s oil boom and the onset of the Great Depression, the Mission pretty much disappeared. For a short while in 1931, a Captain Hamilton of the Salvation Army, under the oversight of Rev. Hall Pierce of Carlsbad, provided a few services for the very few remaining Episcopalians. After Hamilton left Hobbs, Rev. Pierce provided services for Hobbs and for Carlsbad until 1937. During the 1930’s and 1940’s, services were held in the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, funeral homes, public schools, and private homes. This peripatetic existence did little to promote convenience or stability for members, guests, and visiting priests, let alone for church growth. So, by the late 1940’s, this small parish of 12 families decided it was time to build its own church. Earlier, in 1945, Holy Trinity Mission changed its name to St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. The change wasn’t universally accepted and in 1951 it reverted to Holy Trinity. Less than a year later, in February of 1952, the church settled on the St. Christopher name which has remained ever since.
Returning to the late ‘40’s, the 12 families of St. Christopher’s began raising money to build their church. A parcel of land at the SE corner of Permian Drive and Fowler Street was donated by Guy and Estelle Rogers. An outstanding architect, Frank Stanhart of Roswell, was persuaded to design the new church. It would be the only church in Hobbs built in the territorial-adobe style. Money was raised, materials donated, and contractor Bill Roth hired to build it (with “sweat equity” from church members). While the church was under construction, a small house at the east end of the property was used for services and then for Sunday school classes. It now houses the church office. Finally, in 1949, the church was completed. Over the years, a parish hall was built and a building for classes and storage connected the hall to the church. In the 1960’s, a fire destroyed parts of the sanctuary. In 2001, a major arson fire did much damage to the church. These calamities were met with resolve by the growing church and the necessary repairs completed.
With a stable church home and an increasing population in Hobbs, the congregation grew to more than 100 members by the early 1970’s. Soon the church faced a precipitous reversal of fortunes. Serious differences concerning the new Episcopal Book of Common Prayer caused several members to leave St. Christopher’s and form Holy Trinity Missionary Episcopal Church in a house-to-church conversion, six blocks away on Lea St. (Trinity closed around 2013, was purchased by the Diocese of the Rio Grande, re-converted back into a residence, and is now St. Christopher's vicarage (though still in need of some repairs)). Then the oil and natural gas economy suffered a severe recession over the course of about 15 years. That led to a further decline in town and church population. By the late 1990’s, St. Christopher’s returned to mission status.
During its 83-year history, The St. Christopher’s Church congregation has raised at least four priests who have served churches in other parts of our nation. A fifth is now in preparation. St. Christopher’s has been served by 19 priests, some serving only occasionally, with more than one parish, especially during the earlier years. Most served for two to four years. Exceptions have been Rev. Stephen Williams, who served for eight years (1986-1994); Rev. Edwin Watts, ten years (1994-2004); and Rev. Amos Gaume, 20 years (1960-1980). In February, 2016, the Rev. Beverly A. Moore-Tasy became vicar of St. Christopher’s. Under her leadership, the church has once again begun to grow.
Material for most of this essay was derived from the St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church 75th Anniversary booklet compiled by Gil Hinshaw (2009).
Architect Frank Stanhart's original drawing
Lit up like a Christmas church
Before remodeling the front
St. Christopher's Episcopal Church