History of Otey Parish

History of Otey Parish

Sewanee’s first Episcopal service took place in 1858, one year after The University of the South was founded. Following the Civil War, services were held in Otey Hall, the first building of the University (named for the Rt. Rev. James Hervey Otey, first bishop of Tennessee). By 1868, services had been moved to the University’s newly completed St. Augustine’s Chapel. Not long after, the University administration and local residents recognized the need for a parish church as the only means of ensuring representation in the diocese and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Consequently, Bishop Charles T. Quintard called a meeting in 1870 that led to the founding of St. Paul’s on the Mountain, today known as Otey Memorial Parish. The church began with about 60 communicants and by 1900, membership had grown to more than 300. The church helped establish 29 area missions, many of which later became parishes or diocesan missions. The present church building was dedicated in 1891 as Otey Memorial Parish, while the old building was given to St. Mark’s Mission, Sewanee’s African-American congregation. By 1907, Otey’s parish house and rectory were added to the complex.

Throughout the last century, Otey continued to thrive, though membership has fluctuated through the years. During the depression, because of cutbacks at the University, the parish was forced to rely upon diocesan support. By the 1940s, Otey had recovered and again was fully self-supporting. During the 1950s, the church rectory and parish hall were partly renovated and the annual budget tripled.
The most significant event of the 1960s was the closing of St. Mark’s church and the merging of the two congregations into Tennessee’s first fully integrated Episcopal Church. The next three decades saw Otey continue to identify and respond to outreach needs within our community.