St. Clement of Rome Episcopal Church was founded as a mission of Trinity Parish, Seattle by the Rev. George Herbert Watson in December 1890. On September 18, 1891, Bishop John Adams Paddock gave consent to 80 lay petitioners to organize as a parish. The articles of association, patronal name, wardens, vestry and first rector were instituted by assent on December 7, 1891 on the Feast of St. Ambrose. In that same year, St. Clement’s Guild was organized.
The congregation has celebrated its sacramental and corporate life at a variety of locations: in private homes of laity, 1890; at Calvary Presbyterian Church on 24th Ave. S. & Lane St., 1891; in the “old schoolhouse,” Market St. & Park Ave., 1894-1900; on 24th Ave S. and Fir St., 1901-1947; and at 32nd Ave. S & Atlantic St. from 1947 to the present.
In December 1893, St. Clement’s Parish reverted to mission status. St. Clement’s resumed parish status on May 18, 1896, with the Rev. George Buzzelle becoming rector on September 13, 1896. On Passion Sunday, 1899, Fr. Buzzelle presented for confirmation the first African American family of St. Clement’s Church: Mrs. Theresa Dixon, her daughter, Christine and son, Chester.
In 1926, the parish sponsored St. Phillip’s Mission which later became a diocesan mission and in the 1950s was named Church of the Advent. When this church was closed in 1958, many African American families from the congregation began attending St. Clement’s and in 2011, “A Solemn Sung Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Thanksgiving for Seventy-Five Years of Intentional Ministry among and by African Americans in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia,” was held at St. Clement’s.
During the 1960s and 1970s, St. Clement’s parish was impacted by social upheaval which changed racial relations, neighborhoods and the human structure of society in general.
In 1968, in an attempt to meet some of the demands of the changing society, St. Clement’s women were invited to be among the first in the Diocese of Olympia to serve as members of the parish vestry. In April 1968, “Operation Front Door” was started out of the parish rectory. Parish adults supervised dances for young people after they attended worship services. In 1969, St. Clement’s “Anchor Drop-in Center” for the youth of the neighborhood began operation.
However, in spite of its active service of the community, societal and demographic changes prevailed and St. Clement’s Parish could no longer support a full time rector and from April 30, 1978 to December 30, 1985, St. Clement’s ordained ministry consisted of a part time priest-in-charge. But the situation slowly improved and on January 1, 1985, St. Clement’s, with the assumption of the sponsorship of the Maritime Ministry in the Port of Seattle, resumed its full parish status. In 1991, St. Clement’s celebrated its centennial anniversary with a “Solemn Evensong.”
Over the years, St. Clement’s, a congregation where the liturgy is celebrated in fullness, has been the site of many special services and celebrations. It also provides some of the finest musical experiences available in the diocese.
Peter Hallock became the organist at St. Clement of Rome at the invitation of the Rev. Ralph Carskadden, priest-in-charge, in 1992, following his retirement as organist/choirmaster of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, a position in which he served for forty years. Dr. Hallock is a Canon of Honor in the Diocese of Olympia, and as a composer, is a recipient of numerous honorary degrees for his contribution to Anglican and Lutheran music nationwide.
St. Clement’s also offers Compline (night prayer) with the Renaissance Singers and The Sound of the Northwest is a group of singers, who along with the Renaissance Singers, are artists in residence at St. Clement’s. A group of talented performers, they are dedicated to increasing the universal awareness and appreciation of the rich African American musical heritage.
In addition, St. Clement’s has started the Mount Baker Children’s Choir, open to the community for children ages 8 to 16.
St. Clement’s, with its full liturgy and integrated congregation, continues to grow in mission outreach and is a strong supporter of diocesan and national church programs.
The congregation of St. Clement of Rome invites “our neighbors to worship with us… to study and learn with us…to find strength in our fellowship…and to join us as we seek to serve the world for which our savior died.” All are welcome.