2018-07-15 / Insight

St. John’s Episcopal in Dryden has existed on ‘three-legged stool’ for more than 100 years

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


St. John’s Episcopal Church senior warden Tim Wright and Rev. Nancy Steele said the woodwork featured in the sanctuary was donated by a parishioner years ago. St. John’s Episcopal Church senior warden Tim Wright and Rev. Nancy Steele said the woodwork featured in the sanctuary was donated by a parishioner years ago. DRYDEN — At St. John’s Episcopal Church in Dryden, a house of worship that’s existed in the town for more than 100 years, faith is a “three-legged stool.”

The three legs of that stool, Rev. Nancy Steele said, are “scripture, tradition and reasoning,” and equally the three legs support the parishioners of St. John’s as they attend the weekly services at 10 a.m. every Sunday. “We’re given a brain for a reason,” said Steele.

The old church with the familiar red doors is on 4074 S. Mill Street in the heart of Dryden, and Steele, along with senior warden Tim Wright, said that despite their congregation only numbering a few dozen, they’ve made themselves ingrained in the community through charity and assistance. And even still, they want to do more. “We try to respond to community and culture but people get the idea that’s all we do,” said Steele. “The church is not here for us, it’s here for the people outside these walls.”


Rev. Nancy Steele has led prayer at St. John’s Episcopal Church for nearly a year. 
Photos by Nicholas Pugliese Rev. Nancy Steele has led prayer at St. John’s Episcopal Church for nearly a year. Photos by Nicholas Pugliese According to Wright, the faith of the Episcopal Church is one of love and acceptance. “For a lot of us, it allows us to be who we are,” he said. “We’re all welcome.” Or, as said by Steele, congregants aren’t asked to “check your brain at the door.”

The charity of St. John’s is evident in the generosity of each of the parishioners, who “never struggle to fill a basket,” according to Wright. “There have been a lot of discussions of what we can do in the community for further outreach.” Currently, the church helps support Linked Hearts, an emergency food pantry in the Dryden area, and, said Wright, parishioners at St. John’s have also reached out to local school officials in order to provide aid whenever needed to students and their families. “We have a direct line,” said Wright. “The township is all behind us.” Wright said most recently the church raised money to allow a pair of students to attend high school prom. “They were very, very thankful,” he said.

St. John’s also participates in various Dryden-area fairs and festivals, including Dryden Days, community Halloween and Christmas crafting. It’s not unusual to see a booth set up with representatives of the church chatting up locals and visitors alike.

Though their numbers are small, the parishioners at St. John’s are closeknit and welcoming to all comers, Wright said. “People really love the feeling here, the love,” he said. “There are no cliques, there’s just a lot of love here, and once they come through those doors, they stay.”

Wright said much of their congregation could be classified as seniors, much like other area rural churches. “As people get older, they want to find themselves, and here, they’re encouraged to be part of the church community,” he said. “A lot of people that come here come from all over, and it works well.”

St. John’s spiritual leader, Rev. Steele, is one of those commuters. Steele resides in Chesaning and makes the 80-mile trip to Dryden on various Sundays and Wednesdays each month. “We’re a team here, I believe we work very well together managing the inside of the church and the outside,” said Steele.

Steele’s been the reverend at St. John’s for nearly a year and spent the earlier decade of her career as a supply priest assisting episcopal churches in a variety of locations like Bay City, Gaylord and Lansing. “I loved that, but I like being in one place now,” she said. “I’ve had the wonderful experience of being in a lot of different places, and it’s very evident this community is very important to who we are.”

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