A Brief History
EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE MESSIAH
Episcopal missionaries reached Murphy in 1853. By 1860 a one-fourth acre of land had been purchased. The current Carpenter Gothic sanctuary was completed in 1896. The missioners and congregation rejoiced as the church was consecrated a mission and named Church of the Messiah in 1902.
The features of the exterior that research suggests are original are the building’s frame, bell tower, porch and sacristy. Those of the interior that are likely original are the altar, bell, floor (later carpeted), the herringbone paneling (meaning slanting in opposite directions to form V’s) to the roofline and from roofline to the steep peak, more of the paneling nailed in taut horizontal rows. The wood is heart-of-Georgia pine.
Sometime between 1902 and 1962, Messiah replaced wooden with aluminum siding to reduce termite damage, and during that same period, replaced ordinary windows with stained glass.
In diocesan convention journals from 1918 to 1951, in the years for which this congregation submitted parochial reports, Messiah sometimes rises to parish but then frustratingly reverts to mission status, with services as infrequent as once a month. Beginning in 1951, Messiah had a priest who resided in Murphy.
If one tours the church you might want to quietly and reverently stand at the front of the raised chancel (platform) looking out over the pews from the altar. Imagine native Englander and cradle-Anglican William Beal and his family, and all other families over the years whose faith has been nurtured and kindled in this house of worship over the years. You might then look up to see what can be termed a central worship element high above the sanctuary’s forward elevation above the red door. There you will see a descending dove that is arguably the outstanding decorative artwork in the town of Murphy. Now, maybe on bended knee, look inside the original altar. There, quite amazingly, you will see words which were somewhat crudely scribed by a tired yet satisfied 1896 missionary, Frederick W. Wey: “To the honor and glory of God.”
Adapted from “North Carolina’s Final Episcopal Frontier,” by Tom Bennett, 2016