The Episcopal Church on Guam

The Episcopal Church in Micronesia includes three churches on Guam – St. John the Divine in Upper Tumon, St. Andrew By the Philippine Sea in Agat, and St. Michael and All Angels in Dededo.

Church origins and organization

The Episcopal Church is the name given to the Church of England, or Anglican Church, as it evolved in the United States. As early as 1607, the first settlers in colonial America held Anglican services in Jamestown, Virginia. The Revolutionary War and America’s subsequent independence from Britain led to the eventual separation of the Americans from the Church of England. In 1789, the Americans formally created their own ecclesiastical body, calling the new church the Protestant Episcopal Church, derived from the Greek term “episkopos,” meaning “bishop.”

The Episcopal Church, as it later came to be known, maintains its association with the Church of England, and is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Its organizational structure includes the parish, or individual church; the diocese, which is overseen by an elected bishop; the province; and the General Convention, which is its highest ecclesiastical authority. The ecclesiastical head of the church is the Presiding Bishop, elected by the General Convention.

Beliefs

The Episcopal Church aims to spread the message of Christ to love God and one another. The primary guide for worship is the Book of Common Prayer. This Book contains Bible passages, prayers and liturgies, historical documents of the church, as well as Catechism that outlines the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith. The contemporary Episcopal Church promotes ecumenism and welcomes all Christians to worship, and is increasingly involved in promoting social causes.

Beginnings on Guam

The Episcopal Church first came to Guam in the 1950s, when employees of the federal government working on the island petitioned the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii for a local presence. In 1956, the church acquired land in Upper Tumon, and in 1957, the first Episcopal Church on Guam, St. John the Divine, was established. Shortly thereafter, the St. John’s Episcopal School followed. Both church and school originally existed in Quonset huts, but were replaced with concrete structures after the devastating impact of Typhoon Karen in 1962.

Also in the 1960s, St. Andrew By the Philippine Sea in Agat was built. The facility initially served as a day-care center, but eventually formed into a parish. The third Episcopal Church, St. Michael and All Angels in Dededo, is the most recent addition. Founded in the early 1990s, the church first held worship services in the carport of a private residence. Today, St. Michael’s is housed in its own building.

Currently, Fr. Manny Querido and Fr. Tony Gomowald divide their time leading Sunday worship services among the three churches. All three churches fall under the Episcopal Church in Micronesia (ECIM), which is overseen by Bishop George Packard, based in New York. Locally, the bishop’s deputy, Harold F. Parker, serves as administrator of the ECIM.

Services, programs and events

The ECIM celebrates a host of special events throughout the year, including the feasts of its patron saints. The feast of St. Michael is observed in January, St. John in June, and the feast of St. Andrew is celebrated in November. Apart from Sunday services, the ECIM holds a special family potluck dinner at St. John the Divine Church on the first Sunday of every month. The gatherings are open to the general public.

Additionally, the ECIM organizes the Education for Ministry program, which is based out of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. It is a four-year, theological studies program available to laypeople. Classes are held at St. John’s Church, and participants are certified after completing the program.

By Vanessa Estella, MA

For further reading

Episcopal Church of America “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.” (accessed August 9, 2010).

Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies “The Episcopal Church: Micronesia.” (accessed August 9, 2010).

Rev. Grosvenor M. Needham. “A Look Back: The Beginnings of St. John’s Church and School.” March 1999. St. John’s School-Guam USA “A Brief History of St. John’s School.” (accessed August 9, 2010).

Webber, Christopher L. Welcome to the Episcopal Church: An Introduction to Its History, Faith, and Worship. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1999.