Becoming a Parish
After the difficulties at St. Michael’s during the 1960s, the arrival of Fr. Driver began to turn things around. New vitality began to change church life. After a discussion with Sally Boyd, the Church Office was moved into the new “Sunday School Building” and the space also began to serve the community by opening up rooms for Mira Costa College, Spanish and Art classes, and AA meetings.
So substantial was this growth that, during the annual meeting on January 29, 1973, St. Michael’s was able to have a mortgage-burning ceremony, a dream most had despaired of ever realizing.
With these debts paid, a committee on “Becoming a Parish” was constituted with Joe Hunter as convenor, Betty Ramsay, Jack Hunter, Robert Walwick, and the Vicar as members. On February 4, Emilie Sinze played the dedicatory recital for the new Casavant Organ, and Dorothy and Irwin Kelly organized a beautiful buffet dinner.
On September 30 at the Michaelmas Picnic, members signed a petition to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Los Angeles asking permission to form a parish. On November 4, the parish was organized, by-laws adopted, and the first vestry and Rector elected. Raymond Ede became the first Senior Warden and Fr. Driver became the first Rector.
This same year in December, the new Diocese of San Diego was formed with St. Michael’s as one of the constituent parishes. Robert Wolterstorff was elected as the first Bishop of San Diego.
A New Era
Florence Magee died February 23, 1974 and her will’s provisions led to additional property for the parish. Plans were soon completed for the creation of parking space. The Old St. Michael’s chapel was also refurbished in memory of Betty Ramsay’s parents, and a bronze plaque memorialized their part in the growth at St. Michael’s, as well as the generosity of Mrs. Magee. The parish also asked Bishop Wolterstorff to formally consecrate the church at Michaelmas.
Nan Leighton described the period this way:
“So many things happened in those eighteen years from the Dedication in 1959 to the Consecration in 1977. To many of us it seemed the years flew by. There were many happy times, the Christmas Pageants (with the angels with crooked halos), the Easter Egg Hunts, the St. Michael’s Picnics, Christmas Caroling with the Junior Choir, preparing all year and then helping with the annual Bazaars, the Baptisms, the Confirmations, and the Weddings. Perhaps, best of all the love and sharing and caring as a family.
The willingness to help when someone needed help. We have all become so aware that a large part of living is dying. It was sometimes a death that made us realize how much the people of St. Michael’s meant to us. How a phone call, a visit or even a touch on the arm can have such special meaning when it comes from someone as special as our family at St. Michael’s.”
In December of 1978, Fr. Driver retired. Late services were celebrated at Christmas and New Year’s and a grand farewell was organized to send the Drivers off into the sunset. A search committee was soon formed to look for a new rector.
Fr. Woodridge recalls that on the Sunday in January 1979 when many of the members of the search committee came to All Saints’ to hear him preach, he was very nervous. He had a long-standing desire to be the Rector of St. Michael’s. At the time, it was known as a strong parish in the ever-growing North San Diego County, and many other priests had their eye on the position.
Looking back in 2014, he wrote:
“In 1978, the parish of St. Michael’s by-the-Sea in Carlsbad was planning to call a new Rector. I was very excited because I had admired this strong parish for many years. Clara and I both remember the night that the Search Committee invited us for dinner and for an interview. It was very impressive. There were lace table cloths, china dishes and crystal glasses, and a wonderful meal.
I don’t remember all of the questions that I was asked, but I must have answered them to the search committees satisfaction. Within a week of the interview, Ray Ede called me and offered me the position. I was overwhelmed with joy, and a little scared. I knew it was a great responsibility to be the spiritual leader of this wonderful congregation.”
Text Sources, Photos, and References:
• Windows on the Past: An Illustrated History of Carlsbad, California (2002) by Susan Schnebelen Gutierrez
• The Carlsbad Historical Society
• St. Michael’s History Booklet: From 1894 to 1983
• St. Michael’s Archive