St. Columba's Episcopal Church

Our History

St. Columba Chapel in 1909
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4201 Albemarle Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20016
202-363-4119 (phone)
202-686-2671 (fax)

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Office Hours

September through May:
Mon. through Thurs.,
9 am to 5 pm
Fri., 9 am to 4 pm

June through August:
Mon. through Fri.,
9 am to 4 pm.

Please note that clergy are generally off on Fridays.

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St. Columba's, 1909

St. Columba’s celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 1974, a century after the Reverend John H. Chew, rector of St. Alban’s, began holding services in Tennallytown on the Georgetown-Frederick Pike. He held services in several buildings in the area or, in good weather, under an oak on a half-acre of land given to the church by William D. C. Murdock. In 1875, a rough mission chapel was built in the shade of the oak tree. A parish house was added in 1900 with a stage and a circulating library. At that time, about 200 families used the chapel’s spiritual and recreational resources. In 1904, St. Alban’s Jubilee Year, the chapel was given the name of St. Columba’s, for the Irish-born missionary to Scotland.

St. Columba’s community progressed and took over its own support in 1921, becoming an independent parish in 1924. On St. Columba Day, June 9, 1926, the cornerstone was laid for the present church building and the first services were held in it in April, 1927. The Albemarle Street wing of the present parish hall was completed in 1959. In 1981 the church interior was repaired and renovated and a new tracker organ, built by the Flentrop Company in the Netherlands, was installed. The Albemarle Street parish hall wing was renovated in 1989 and the Butterworth Street wing and Common were added.

Principal clergy serving the parish have been:
William Welton Shearer, 1915–1930
Emmanuel A. Lemoine, 1931–1941
Charles Randolph Mengers, 1942–1969
William Edwin Swing, 1969–1979
William McDonald Tully, 1980–1994
James M. Donald 1995–2005
Janet Vincent 2006–2013

From the time of its founding, St. Columba’s has been a neighborhood church and a center for the community. During the rectorship of Randy Mengers, the parish planned for growth, opening St. Columba’s Nursery School and building a new parish hall. In the 1970s, under Bill Swing, growth accelerated with the reorganizing of the Sunday School based on a revitalized 9:15 am service, the systematic building of choirs and other musical and drama groups, and with a variety of small groups. In the late ‘70s, St. Columba’s became the largest parish in the diocese.

In the 1980s, under Bill Tully, growth continued with added emphasis on outreach, small groups and personal spiritual growth, stewardship education, and ministry to newcomers, as well as the near-doubling of our physical space. In the 90s, the church has continued to grow — in many dimensions — and the decade has also brought a desire to participate more fully in the life and needs of Washington, D.C. That focus has led to development of a transitional program for women who have been homeless, a program to help support a city elementary school class through college, and a partnership with Holy Comforter Parish.

On St. Columba Day 2013, the parish wrapped up an extensive capital campaign that will, in addition to addressing crucial building repairs and improvements, also allow us to pursue dreams and make plans to extend our mission and service to the community.

There's more to our story ...

If you had come to St. Columba's in 1884 ... by the Rev. Margaret Guenther (PDF)

St. Columba's: A Brief Chronology by the Rev. Margaret Guenther/Updated by Barbara McGowan (PDF)

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