In 1947, two groups of English-speaking Episcopalians in Mexico gathered to worship with the Rev. Melchor and Catherine Saucedo in Guadalajara and at Lakeside. The group in Guadalajara became Christ Church and later, St. Mark’s. The small group who had met in a Lakeside apartment on Fridays moved to the Little Chapel, which it outgrew to become St. Andrew’s, named for the patron saint of fishermen.
Anglicanism in Mexico had two inceptions. In the mid 1800’s, numerous British and American citizens came to Mexico to work in the oil, mining, and railroad industries. Their request for English language worship led the U.S. Episcopal Church to send Rev. Henry C. Riley, who on Christmas Day, 1869, conducted the first English language Episcopal service in Mexico City, beginning the long tie between Mexico and the US Episcopal Church (ECUSA).
Meanwhile, Mexico’s long oppression under the Colonial Spanish and their Roman Catholic faith had led to bitterness and intolerance by the state. The 1810 the Mexican War for Independence revealed a deep national desire to break from Colonial Spain, and a longing for a Mexican-centered church. In 1857, while church reformation was encouraged by Mexican President Benito Juarez, three Mexican Roman priests, Frs. Bustamante, Aguas, and Hernandez, led a liberal reform movement within the Roman Church. But, as in Europe, reform efforts were quashed by Rome, and leaders of the movement ostracized. Reformers organized as the Mexican Catholic Church independent of Rome. By 1882, renamed the Mexican Iglesia de Jesus, the Church of Jesus had grown to 7,000 members.
Once again, the struggle with Rome found support from the Mexican Government. By presidential decree, Benito Juarez granted the former Roman Church, San Jose de Gracia in Mexico City, to Episcopalians for their national Cathedral. It is now a national monument. Throughout the 1900’s, both the Mexican Anglican and English-speaking Episcopal churches spread over Mexico, especially in rural areas, vigorously encouraged by the first native Episcopal Bishop, Efrain Salinas y Velasco, and by three young Mexican priests—Leonardo Romero, Melchor Saucedo, and his brother, Jose Guadalupe Saucedo.
The Saucedos had long been protectors of the faith. In the early 1900s, Mel and Jose’s grandfather, Cipriano, was a lay bodyguard who rode shotgun for Bishop Henry D. Aves as he served widely scattered Episcopal missions throughout the Republic of Mexico. It was a rough and exciting time as the Mexican Episcopal Church grew of its own energy without U.S. influence or intervention. In 1907, the Church of Jesus was adopted by the Episcopal Church of the United States as the Missionary District of Mexico, later becoming the Missionary Diocese of Mexico. The word Missionary was then removed, giving the district the right to elect its own Bishop. Mel Saucedo became Bishop of the diocese in 1964. In 1973, the Anglican Church of Mexico was divided into three dioceses and later into five as it is today.
Meanwhile, congregations in Guadalajara and Chapala continued to grow. In the early 1950’s, the US Episcopal Church sent the Rev. Alanson Brown of the Diocese of West Texas to encourage English-speaking congregations. Next, Rev. Alfonso Gomez came to Christ Church in Guadalajara, assisted by Col. M. Barry Watson, Canadian Lay Reader. In 1964, the Rev. Thomas Bond of West Texas served Christ Church and served part-time at the Lakeside congregation, followed by Rev. James P. Dannelley of the Diocese of Texas. Lay Readers served when the vicar or bishop were not available, including Ralph H. G. Mathews, Retired Commodore USN, and Fred Brand, a native of Scotland. The present rectory was formerly Brand’s home.
In 1976, Rev. Ralph M. Carmichael, recently retired from St. Andrew’s in Albany, New York, came to Mexico to study Spanish. He and his wife Jean called on Bishop Saucedo, and Carmichael offered to take on any work available in the diocese. Bishop Mel suggested the growing congregation at Lakeside, and Carmichael was installed that November as the first priest in residence of St. Andrew’s.
In 1979, the congregation purchased the Brand home in Chula Vista, creating a home where “summer clergy” could remain throughout the year. In 1990, the church bought a building in Riberas del Pilar, quickly remodeled the former gymnasium, and held its first service on June 3, 1990, with the Rev. Harry Smith from the Diocese of Newark presiding.
On January 1, 1995, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. (ECUSA) recognized that Mexico was ready to become a self-governing province. The Mexican Episcopal Church then separated from ECUSA, becoming an independent province within the worldwide Anglican Communion with the name Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico, and thus St. Andrew’s became an Anglican Church. The Constitution and Canons of the new Anglican Province IX provided for the congregation to continue their use of the familiar Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.
The Rev. Robert Johnson of Panama City, Florida led St. Andrew’s through that transition, and in 1996, the Rev. Iris R. Slocombe, formerly of Grace Episcopal Church in Mt. Clemens, Michigan was installed as Vicar. The congregation began a period of new growth, and on January 26, 1999, St. Andrew’s was granted full Parish status, making Rev. Slocombe its first Rector.
In April, 2005, Rev. Slocombe resigned as Rector for health reasons, and Rev. Andrew Krumbhaar of the Diocese of Central Florida, by then a member of the congregation, stepped in as Interim Rector. A search in 2006 brought Rev. Michael Percival from the tiny town of Westcliffe, Colorado, as the second Rector. Following Fr. Michael's retirement in 2010, the Vestry called the Rev. Winston W. Welty to be the third Rector of St. Andrew's.
Much had changed since St. Andrew’s early days. Responding to church growth, the vestry purchased land adjacent to the church in 1999 and renovated the offices and courtyard. Also in 1999, Lissa Taylor proposed an outreach effort to support local charities. The idea gave birth to Regalorama Navidad, St. Andrew’s popular Christmas Bazaar, distributing more than $350,000 pesos annually. Under the leadership of Senior Warden Russ Aldcroft, with Bob Deschamps and Dryden Jones leading the redesign effort, the church was enlarged to include a new sanctuary in 2003; stained glass windows were installed and a new Allen digital sampling organ was added in 2004.
Recent renovations of the church buildings include a state-of-the-art kitchen, office space for the rector and the office staff, regular and handicapped bathrooms both inside and outside the main building, and handicapped accessibility to the sanctuary and grounds. Our sanctuary now seats 200 people. We also have a multipurpose room, a columbarium, beautiful gardens, storage space and an adjacent parking lot. Church lay leaders are the Senior and Junior Wardens who are members of the Vestry that consists of nine full-time members. Volunteer committees keep church activities running smoothly, and a lay ministry of altar guild, choir, acolytes, readers, ushers, and greeters assists with worship. Working volunteer committees include the Finance Committee, Buildings and Grounds, Outreach, Parish Caregivers, Social and Hospitality, and the Company of Gentlemen.
One of St. Andrew’s assets is its music program. An experienced choir under organist and choirmaster, Timothy G. Ruff Welch, presents its Sunday worship music nine months of the year and prepares special holiday programs. Worshipers enjoy hearing piano, organ, brass, and strings, with selections ranging from medieval chant to spirituals, classical, and original compositions.
The congregation of St. Andrews is an active and diverse community. Average Sunday attendance ranges from 120 in summer to 190 in winter. Eighty percent of the congregation falls between the ages of 51 and 80, including slightly more women than men, with most parishioners in married or committed relationships. Most are retired, and many participate in a wide range of activities and volunteer positions, both in the church and the wider community. Worshipers come from many denominational backgrounds. Confirmation classes are offered to those who wish to become Anglicans.
St. Andrew’s stands in the middle ground of liturgical practice familiar to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church of the USA and invites those without this background to share in the worship service by sitting, standing, or kneeling. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer gives participants a collective voice, and St. Andrew’s welcomes all baptized Christians to Christ’s table for communion. We invite all to share God’s grace through the ministry of charity, hospitality, and fellowship with God and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Compiled from various historical sources; the personal memories of Catherine Saucedo and others; and edited by Connie Percival and most recently by Sheree Nuncio