Below is a short history of our parish. If you want the long (and I do mean … long) version, click here.
A Narrative History of St. Michael's Parish
St. Michael's was founded in late January of 1976, when a group of eighteen families united to form a new Episcopal congregation in Norman. Initially, the group met as a house church, and the first services were held in the recreation center of the Westwood Apartment Complex. In the following months, as the size of the congregation increased, services were held at the United Christian Fellowship Center at the University of Oklahoma. By mid-March attendance had grown significantly and a larger and more permanent location was needed. A small frame church located at l423 24th Street SW was purchased, and our first services were held there on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1976, with 143 persons in attendance. When the church officially became a mission of the Diocese, we chose the name St. Michael's and began the search for a priest. Wallis Ohl was invited and accepted the call to become Vicar of St. Michael's and assumed his duties on January 16, 1977. The next week Bishop Chilton Powell confirmed our first Confirmation Class. In May we published the first issue of our church newsletter, Mike's Missal," which continues to be sent out to parishioners monthly. That year we also began to look for land to build a larger church. We initiated a property fund drive and identified the property at Imhoff Road and Highway 9, where we are currently located. Within a few months, as a result of the fund drive, a gift from the diocese, and a gift from the Price Family Living Memorial to Inez Price, we were able to purchase the property. The land was paid off and ground broken for the new church building in July of 1980.
One of the early outreach activities of the congregation in 1979 was sponsoring a refugee family from Vietnam. Parishioners raised funding to bring the Trinh family (father, mother, and six children) to Norman, located a house for the family, found a job for the father, and volunteered to tutor the family in English. The Trinhs became self-reliant and remained close to members of the church until 1987 when they moved to San Jose, California.
On November 6, l980, only four years after being a house church, St. Michael's formally became a parish, with Wallis Ohl as our rector. During the next year, the church building was constructed and plans were made for its furnishing. A group of women made needlepoint kneelers to go around the altar rail, which today still remind us of their love and dedication. In July of 1981, St. Michael's new church building was dedicated and consecrated with full fanfare, bagpipes and drums. This was followed by a week of festivities. By the end of 1981 St. Michael's had a total communicant strength of 243.
In 1983 St. Michael's entered into a relationship with St. James, Rweibare, a parish in West Ankole, Uganda, as a result of initial correspondence between the two rectors, Wallis Ohl and Nekemiah Nyabwere. We continue to be true companion parishes and part of VOOM (Volunteer Oklahoma Outreach Mission) and the Diocesan relationship with Anglicans in Uganda. Several St. Michael's parishioners have made trips to West Ankole and our companion parish.
In 1984, William Bippus accepted a call to serve as Curate at St. Michael's. After his ordination on March 30, 1985, he left to serve as Rector of St. Paul's parish in Marionette, Wisconsin. In 1986, St. Michael's celebrated its tenth birthday and fifth anniversary of moving into the new church building. That year St. Michael's also hosted the annual Diocesan Convention.
In 1990, St. Michael's supported a new Hispanic mission in Oklahoma City and members served on the first Hispanic Commission. In April new facilities were dedicated for Santa Maria Virgen, the Hispanic Mission under the direction of Bishop Hugo Pi'o, former Bishop of Honduras. Santa Maria Virgen continues to be a flourishing community today.
A diaconal servant ministry was started in June of 1991, with the ordination of Lynn Woodward. Her continuing ministry at St. Michael's has expanded to include Kairos Outside, a ministry to women with loved ones who are incarcerated, and Camp New Hope and Camp New Start for children of an incarcerated parent, as well as a Christmas Party for these children.
In 1991, Wallis Ohl left St. Michael's, Norman, to accept a call to St. Michael's in Colorado Springs. He is now Bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas, but his spirit and pioneering leadership are well remembered. St. Michael's called Richard Burris to serve as Rector. He began his ministry March 1, l992. Theron Walker served as Curate at St. Michael's from 1996 to 1998, in a shared ministry with St. Anselm's Canterbury Association at the University of Oklahoma.
The year 1996 was significant as the twentieth anniversary of St. Michael's, and once again we hosted the Diocesan Convention. The next year we again felt the call to grow in Christ's love in a physical as well as a spiritual sense and we began a building expansion program. The existing Inez Price Wing was renovated to accommodate a chapel with a columbarium, a new choir room, vesting room, library, and bookstore. A large new wing was built, that includes a youth room, education classes for all ages, and a well-equipped nursery. In addition, a new full-sized kitchen was added to the original building. Since 1982, the building has provided space for the Southwind Montessori School, established and directed by a parishioner, Carol Zerboni. The school is an educational asset to St. Michael's and to the larger community of Norman.
In August 2004, Father Burris resigned as Rector to become the Comptroller for the Diocese of Oklahoma. His presence continues to be felt in the leadership he fostered among our laity, and we have parted good friends.
We continued under the leadership of our Interim Rector, Father Roy Baker until August, 2005 when Father Jack Wilcox was called to be our Rector. Since July 2006, Janet Schisser serves as our Deacon. Laura Blazek is on paid staff as Formation (Youth/Education) Director.
In April 2008, Father Wilcox resigned as rector. In May, we burned the mortgage on our education wing and we took time to acknowledge renovations to our memorial garden. Also in May, Father David Egbert joined us as our interim rector. Starting in September we began our discernment process as we search for the new Rector that God is calling for us.
The end of 2009 finally saw our search for a new rector come to an end. We began anew in January of 2010 with Father Alan Sutherland as he accepted our call to be our rector.
In November 2014, Father Sutherland retired. Also in November, Father Tom King joined us as our interim rector. Starting in March, 2015 we began our discernment process as we search for the new Rector that God is calling for us.