The Village of Greendale is one of three “greenbelt communities” built in the U.S. in the 1930s by the Resettlement Administration under President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The three pre-planned communities (Greendale, WI; Greenbelt, MD; and Greenhills, OH) were patterned after the British “garden city” concept to provide residents with a country-like setting and to limit growth. The original Greendale center was occupied in 1938 and contained 170 acres with 572 single and multi-family dwellings. It has since expanded to over 2500 acres and about 20,000 residents but it retains its garden concept and charm. The Village center draws visitors from a wide area.
St. Thomas of Canterbury’s history includes the legacies of two churches — St. Thomas the Apostle in Hales Corners and St. Hugh of Lincoln, which began on the current site.The first Episcopal services in this area were held March 22, 1953, at the Hales Corners home of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Champlin. Eventually, St. Thomas the Apostle Church was built at the corner of Ridge Road and Highway 100 in Hales Corners. That building later was converted to the Hales Corners Library and has since been removed.
Services in Greendale also began in 1956 in a donated residence that is now used as the Rectory. Current parishioners Charles and Mary Fleming were among the first members of the congregation led by Fr. Gordon Olston. A small round church, known as St. Hugh of Lincoln, was built in 1960, on the site that includes the current sanctuary of St. Thomas of Canterbury. The Rev. John R. Edwards was assigned as first vicar to serve both St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Hugh of Lincoln congregations until 1962 when the Rev. James Kaestner was called and served until 1969.
Merging the Congregations
Discussions began about merging the two congregations but there was no agreement. From 1969 to 1972 St. Thomas was served by the Rev. Michael Stolpman and St. Hugh by the Rev. John T. Splinter. In 1972, the Rev. Robert A. Winter was named to serve both congregations. On July 17, 1973, the congregations voted to merge and selected the Greendale site and the name St. Thomas of Canterbury. The little round church was expanded in 1976-77 to its current size. The congregation became a self-supporting parish of the Diocese of Milwaukee on October 21, 1977, with Fr. Winter as its first Rector.
The Rev. Dale Coleman became the second Rector of St. Thomas of Canterbury in August, 1983, after Fr. Winter moved to Ohio earlier that year. While Fr. Coleman was Rector, the parish became one of the first participants in the Diocese’s Living Our Baptismal Covenant (LOBC) program of Christian formation and renewal. He was called to a parish in Shreveport, Louisiana in August, 1990. The Rev. Gary Green served as the third Rector of the parish since from January, 1991 until December, 1996. Mother Martha Berger was our interim priest in 1997 and part of 1998. We were then served by a number of priests until the calling of the Rev. Dr. Wayne Fehr, in the spring of 1999. He served as our rector until his retirement in January, 2006. The church was again without a rector until September 1, 2006, when Rev. Carla B. McCook became the Priest-in-Charge. She came to us from St. Paul’s church in Salem, Virginia. We called her to become our permanent rector on September 28, 2008. Carla left in XXX and is currently the Bishop’s Assistant for Christian Formation. On XXX the Rev. Mark Moore accepted the call to become our Rector and started his ministry with us.
Gifts to the Church
The building expansion period in 1976-77 included countless hours of work by parishioners sharing their time and talents plus many special donations. The stained glass windows in the Nave were donated by Ruth H. Holt in memory of her husband, Lester. The first four windows, donated in 1983, depict the elements of Creation: Earth, Fire, Water and Air. The last two windows, donated in 1984, depict the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.
An anonymous donor gave the church an Allen Digital Organ, which was installed in November, 1988. In the fall of 1989, the parish received a generous bequest from Rachel Toll’s estate. Funds from this have been used to establish a library, remodel the balcony, Rector’s and secretary’s offices, put new carpeting in the sanctuary, and a canopy over the front entrance to the church.
Another major gift to the parish is the Christus Rex, crafted in Italy, and donated by Nancy Koss and her family in memory of her husband, Casey. It was first hung in the Sanctuary in the summer of 1996.
In 2001, we received a bequest of $20,000 from the estate of Norbert and Marcelle Schoeneman, who were members of this parish since the mid-1970’s, and before that were members of St. Thomas the Apostle in Hales Corners. Some of the $20,000 bequest was used for a midi attachment to the organ and to replace the faded canvas canopy over the front entrance with vinyl canopy that will not fade, carpeting in the nave and Fellowship Hall, more cabinets in the balcony, and, in August 2003, new appliances in the kitchen.
A bronze sculpture titled “Love’s Bond” (pictured at the top of the page) was placed in the meditation garden, to the right of the front entrance of the church, in memory of Norbert and Marcelle Schoeneman. The rectory was completely remodeled during the spring and summer of 2006 through contractors and the “sweat equity” of many dedicated parishioners.
The care of the church is the result of careful stewardship – both financial and through the “sweat equity” of dedicated parishioners. The church, the Rectory and the spacious grounds continue to be lovingly cared for by vibrant and dedicated parishioners.