A Brief History of St. Thomas’ Church
St. Thomas Church was started from a small group of Episcopalians back in the early 1960’s. Chaplain Charles W. Adams was appointed the First Vicar in 1965. Soon after that, there was groundbreaking for the Parish Hall (the present Adams Hall) and its dedication took place in October 1967. The following year, the Rev. Ward F. Debeck became the Second Vicar. During his time, there was continued growth and not only the debt was paid off on the Parish Hall but a building fund was started with plans for a new church building. Just before Fr. DeBeck’s retirement in 1979, ground was officially broken.
The Rev. Dean Farrar was called and appointed the Third Vicar in October 1979. Construction continued through his first few months as Vicar and the new church was dedicated a year later. With more and more families with infants and young children, St. Thomas thus decided to embark on its third major building program to provide nursery and Christian education facilities. Groundbreaking took place for the Christian Education building in 1987, and the new building was dedicated as “Farrar Center” in December 1989.
In 1992, a Taiwanese congregation formed alliance with St. Thomas and it was the first time that St. Thomas opened its door to non-native speakers of English in the area of Hacienda Heights. The following year, Fr. Farrar left to be Rector at St. Francis in Palos Verdes. In November 1994, the Rev. Betsy Rosebrook arrived at St. Thomas as its Fourth Vicar. As she described, St. Thomas Church was “not a structure, of cement and steel, but a living, breathing, growing body built of and by the children of God.” Indeed, this has always been the Spirit of St. Thomas: to become a living body of Jesus Christ by sharing the good news of His salvation and reaching out to the community in God’s love.
In 1999, the Rev. Deborah Dunn was selected as the Fifth Vicar of St. Thomas, which launched a new decade for the church’s ministry. First, in 2001, St. Francis merged into St. Thomas and bilingual worship services, English and Cantonese, began. Four years later, the merge with the Taiwanese congregation made St. Thomas become an even more diverse faith community.
In 2007, Mo. Deborah left for a new post in Santa Maria, and the Rev. Joshua Ng became the Six Vicar of St. Thomas. During his ten years’ vicar-ship, St. Thomas’ relationship with the local community was expanded further by renting out the space in the Education Building to Montessori School. In addition, several projects were also accomplished, including the renovation of Adams Hall, the building of Memorial Garden, and the rearrangement of DeBeck room for the use of the nursery and children’s Sunday school.
On July 31, 2017, Fr. Joshua left for a new position at True Sunshine Church in San Francisco. The Rev. Fennie Chang was appointed the Seventh Vicar of St. Thomas on August 1, 2017, and since then, she has been working hard on a church-wide movement “No One Left Behind” to encourage all the St. Thomas’ congregation to actively get involved in the church ministries. A brand-new children’s Sunday program called “Godly Play” has also begun at the same time. It is her vision that St. Thomas will become a welcoming and inclusive spiritual home where the seeking will find, the wounded be healed, the oppressed be set free, the needy be satisfied, and above all, all who are gathered at St. Thomas will follow Jesus’ call faithfully to love Him wholeheartedly, care for one another across differences, and reach out to many more in the community in His unfailing love.