History of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator,
Harbert, Michigan, 1962-2019
Foundation and Mission Years
The Episcopal Church of the Mediator was founded in 1962 as a parochial mission of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in St. Joseph, Michigan. A small group of retirees and former Chicagoans held their first church service with 22 adults and children on May 13, 1962 at the home of Mr. & Mrs. C. Trego Prindeville on Stickles Road near Three Oaks, Michigan with the Rev. H. Stewart Ross of St. Paul’s presiding.
In late 1962, Molly Pitcher Winery owners Mr. & Mrs. William Rutledge, provided their office as the site for Sunday service (now the current location of Cafe Gulistan on Red Arrow Highway in Harbert). The Episcopal Church Women (ECW) even adopted the name, St. Molly’s Guild, in tribute to their church at the winery and it still bears the name. At that time, parishioners called themselves “The Chapel of the Mediator” since many founding members were from The Episcopal Church of the Mediator in southwest Chicago, Illinois.
In 1965, Mediator became a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. The parish purchased a vicarage on Prairie Road in Harbert. The Rev. E. Joseph was appointed the first vicar in August 1965. In 1966, Maude Baer, one of the church founders, purchased and donated 4.5 acres of land at the junction of Red Arrow Highway and Lakeshore Road, where the church now stands.
A year later the parish initiated a building campaign to design and construct a church. They broke ground on October 21, 1967 and held the first service in the church on Palm Sunday, April 7, 1968. The service of dedication was May 1, 1968 and featured the performance of an original composition by famed church & choir music composer, Kent A. Newbury, son of parishioners Bill & Dorothy Newbury. The parish paid off the 15-year mortgage for the church in five years and burned the mortgage in June 1973.
A Parish at Last
In 1975, no longer a mission church, the parish was able to support part-time rectors yoked to St. Augustine’s of Canterbury in Benton Harbor. Most priests served Mediator for 1-3 years. However, in 1980 the Reverend Charles Frandsen became Rector of both churches and served for 8 years. For the next 14 years, he continued to serve Mediator as interim or supply priest whenever the church was in need due to clergy turnover.
In tribute to his love for, and service to the congregation, the Nave Rose Window is dedicated to, and designed with elements in tribute to Father Frandsen and his family.
A Growing Church Presence
In 2002, the Reverend Paula Durren became a half-time Rector of the Mediator. By 2005, the congregation began to consider the need for building improvements and, for the church to grow, a facility expansion. In support of growth, in 2006, Mother Paula became the first full-time Rector fully supported by parish stewardship. In that same year, Mediator initiated a capital campaign for improvements to the 1968 building and discerned that God was calling Mediator to the construction of a new church to achieve a fully handicapped-accessible facility and grow the congregation.
From 2007 to 2010 the Mediator engaged in raising funds to design and construct a new church; secured a conservation easement for the property north of the church with generous support from Mediator neighbors on Lakeshore Road and Chikaming Open Lands; secured a mortgage for the balance of funds needed for the new church, broke ground in September 2009 and dedicated the new church on July 17, 2010.
In 2008, the church organ fund purchased a W. Zimmer & Sons, Inc. pipe organ from Gunter Koch. It was stored while the new church was being funded and built. The organ was first played at Christmas Eve services in 2010. The organ dedication was held on October 16, 2011 and dedicated in memory of Erna Mae Kyle Koch, 1924-2006.
In 2018, inspired by the donation of a major unrestricted gift and Mother Paula’s vision to burn the mortgage in the New Fire of Easter Vigil, a campaign to eliminate the remaining debt was launched. 50 Easters after the Church of the Mediator was built, the congregation paid off the mortgage of the new church, in eight years, and burned it at Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018. In September 2018, Mother Paula retired, after serving for 16 years, the longest serving Rector in the church’s history, who led the parish to build a new church as well as retire the mortgage debt.
In 2019, the congregation is once again poised for transformation. 57 years as a “small but mighty church” in Harbor Country spreading the Good News and following the teachings of Jesus Christ in actions of service, witness and compassion.
Updated in 2019 by K. Hogan-Garrett: Sourced from “In the Beginning,” A brief history of the formation and early years of the Church of the Mediator by Betsy Cole, 2002, and with information from Rev. Paula Durren, Paul Cromheecke, and annual reports 2005-2018.
Come Visit Us!
We are part of a unique Lake Michigan community just a short drive from New Buffalo, MI on Red Arrow Highway. We are also conveniently close to another lakeshore community, Saint Joseph.