West Side Episcopal Church to Celebrate Fifth Anniversary ; Congregation Formed from Four Kanawha County Episcopal Churches

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St. Christopher Episcopal Church will host a fifth-anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30.

The event will commemorate the church's unity in coming together from four Kanawha County Episcopal churches on Dec. 30, 2007. With declining attendance and growing operational costs, All Saints Episcopal Church in South Charleston, St. James Episcopal in North Charleston, Church of the Good Shepherd in Kanawha City and St. Luke's Episcopal on the West Side combined their congregations that year. The parishioners decided to base their church at the St. Luke's location on Somerset Drive and renamed it St. Christopher.

A resident of Kanawha City and native of Maine, the Rev. Melissa E. Remington relocated from Buffalo, N.Y., in October 2009 to become the West Side church's rector.

"Our church has been a very unique model," Remington said, "because four Episcopal churches in the Charleston area were really struggling. ... Ultimately, they merged into one church. It's been the most amazing gift and blessing through the power of the Holy Spirit.

"It's my understanding that this is the most diverse congregation, in terms of socioeconomics, race and culture, in the state, and it is growing.

"We try to focus on being a presence in the community and reaching out to the neighborhoods around us," said the rector.

One successful community outreach of St. Christopher Episcopal is its after-school program for students at nearby J.E. Robins and Watts elementaries. Two days a week, the church transports 24 students from the school to the Mary Snow Enrichment Program in the church's onsite resource center. Twelve kindergarten through second- grade students attend the program on Wednesdays and a dozen third- through fifth-grade students attend on Thursdays.

The center was named in honor of Snow, the late area educator who was a member of the church, Remington said.

Church members volunteer their services for the free after- school program. Its two directors are former Kanawha County Schools principals: Juanita Cook of South Charleston, who was a principal at Bridgeview Elementary, and Lauretha Kellum of Institute, one-time principal of Roxalana Elementary.

The program runs from 2:30 to 4:45 p.m. each day. The first order of business, after sign-in and a prayer, Cook said, is to provide a healthy snack to the students. After that, the students tackle the homework assignments they have, with tutorial assistance from the volunteers.

"We look at their homework and help them with what they need reinforcement in," Cook said.

Following homework, Kellum said, the children have a period to exercise their imaginations. …