Paradis’ oldest church goes out of way to help community

Walking into St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is like taking a step back in time.

The cypress floors still give slightly when stepped on and the building has an air of history.

The Paradis church was built almost 100 years ago as a Presbyterian church, but Episcopals started worshipping there in 1967.

Only about 20 families worship regularly at the location, but church officials hope that number will grow.

“A lot of people don’t know we’re here and we want people to know we’re here,” said Sara Sims, senior warden at the church.

Despite being small, the church family gives back to the community by collecting donations each month for Social Concerns and continuing to help rebuild the area following Hurricane Katrina. The children of the church have their own outreach for Heifer International, a non-profit organization dedicated to relieving global hunger and poverty by providing gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture to financially-disadvantaged families around the world.

Although the membership is low, the church continues to try to add new features and develop a youth program.

The most recent additions to the church include repainting and new art depicting the symbols of the church done by art students and local artist Earl Woodard. Sims said that the next renovations will be new Stations of the Cross.

But the church is still in need of more members. Sims said that many of the current members are advancing in age and that few new families are joining the church.

Through hurricanes and low membership, Sims says that the church’s greatest accomplishment is survival.

“I know that God doesn’t want this little church to go under,” Sims said. “We’re hoping that people who love the Episcopal and Catholic traditions will find that this is a comfortable home for them.”

Sims said that the Episcopal church follows much of the same beliefs as Catholics, but with a few key differences. For instance, Episcopals do not recognize the Pope as the head of the church and believe that communion is more of a symbolic act rather than transubstantiation as taught by the Catholic Church.

Another difference is that leaders, including priests and bishops, in the Episcopal church can marry, and homosexual people and women can be ordained, Sims said.

But like the Catholic Church, Episcopal services always include selections from the Gospel.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 409 Early St. in Paradis, holds services on Sundays from 10-11 a.m. Sunday school begins at 9 a.m.


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