Rev. Wes Shields,
History of the Church of the Transfiguration, Bat
It was in 1897 that the Sisters of the Transfiguration first arrived here. In 1906, they opened a school for local children which was discontinued when a public school in Bat Cave was opened. The Sisters offered their chapel-school for use as a mission church. Land was purchased where Hickory Creek joins the Broad River and the building was moved to that location. From 1906 until 1911, the Rev. Reginald Wilcox from St. James in Hendersonville was the faithful missioner who served this area. Other clergy whose names appear in early records which date from 1915, include The Right Reverend Paul Clement Matthews, Bishop, and the Rev. Messrs. F. D. Lobdell, E. E. Knight, James B. Still and H. Cary-Elwes.
A nearby cottage was leased for a Mission House and soon it was occupied by two Mission workers who organized and superintended the Sunday School and cared for the sick and needy in the Gorge.
In 1915, the Western Missionary District of Asheville became the Diocese of Western North Carolina. The Sisters soon gave their church building to the newly formed Diocese of Western North Carolina. The church building was spared the flood of 1916, but the Mission House was swept away. The Rev. Ira Swanman and his mother lived in the Mission House at that time and he was the first resident Missioner.
In 1922, Bishop Matthews and his wife, Elsie Procter Matthews sponsored our first community nursing program. The women involved worked with the sick and endeared themselves to the people of the area. A bronze bas relief plaque inside the Church, dedicated to Bishop Matthews and his wife, was sculpted by the renowned artist Joy Buba, who also did the bust of Pope John Paul II in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.
The Rev. Herbert Cary-Elwes was appointed as the first Priest-in -Charge in 1923. Regular services were held every Sunday, except when a bad road or weather prevented them. Repairs were made to the building and new pews were installed.
Rev. F. A. Saylor, who had been Rector of St. Andrews Church in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico for twenty-eight years, was called to this church and began his duties on August 1, 1939. He aroused the interest of the congregation and led them in a program to remodel the church building. In 1941, the repairs and remodeling were finished and the congregation had grown.
In May of 1945 the Church was consumed by fire. The fire originated in a nearby dwelling and spread quickly. Bishop and Mrs. Matthews deeded a tract of land for a church site and rectory, and was instrumental in financing its construction. Dr. James Washburn made a model for the new church.
In 1946 the Easter Sunrise Service and Holy Communion were held at the new site. Sister Beatrice Martha, C. T., turned the first spade of earth in the ground breaking ceremony. The first service was held in the church on August 6, 1947. Father Saylor and volunteers from the congregation and community had worked long hours to complete the building.
Saved from the burning church and in place in the new building was the carved walnut alter, brought by Bishop Matthews from St. Johns Church in Omaha. Also saved from the old church were the wrought iron lights, altar brasses and the communion rail. The carved rood beam, "The Master Is Come And Calleth For Thee" is the work of Artmis Skevakis. It is a replica of one which Sister Clara Elizabeth carved and gave in memory of Mother Eva Mary to the old Church of the Transfiguration.
Consecration of the Church was held September 28, 1947, Bishop Matthews and Bishop Colmore (retired) of Puerto Rico officiating. Most of the clergy in the Western North Carolina Diocese were in procession.
The church pews built by Carl Freeman, and his son Harvey, the cross made and placed on top of the rood beam by Lonnie Hill, the work of the late Fate Heydock, Dick Riddick, Don Freeman, and many others, symbolize the dedication and effort of the Church of the Transfiguration.
Father Saylor retired in 1948 and Miss Aileen Cronshey, Deaconess, came as a Mission worker to the District. The Rev. Rhett Winters, Jr. served from 1949-1951; the Rev. James Hindle, 1953-1956; the Rev. William Potts, 1959-1960; the Rev. David Kirkpatrick, 1960-1963; the Rev. Fred Herlong, under whom the Mission became a parish, 1964-1967; the Rev. Charles V. Covell, under whom a new Parish Hall wing was added, 1967-1974; the Rev. John Palmer, 1974-1978; the Rev. Gerald Shaw, 1979-1983; the Rev. James Hindle served the church again from 1984 until his retirement at the end of 1992. The Rev. Melvin Bridge followed Fr. Hindle and preceded the Rev. Mickey Mugan. Fr. Mickey Mugan has been pastor of the church since 1997.