History with humor at St. Mary’s

Published 12:01 am Saturday, February 18, 2012

The history of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church will be given tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. It will be given by Marrianne Merrill Weber and a reception will follow.| Andrew Garner/Star-News


Marianne Merrill Weber likes to joke that she was baptized at the “St. Reddy Kilowatt” church.

The baptism was in the early days of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which her family helped found. One organizing church member, Richard Cobbs, also an Episcopalian, offered the upstairs of his office building, the Andalusia Electric Co., for church services.

“That was the logo on his sign, so they joked about attending ‘St. Reddy Kilowatt,’” Weber said.

That’s just one of the amusing anecdotes Weber has worked into the history of St. Mary’s, which she has compiled with the help of her mother, Mary Jim Merrill Pianowski, and brother, Walter Merrill.

Collectively, they’ve drawn upon Mrs. Pianowski’s memories; her boxes of newspaper clippings, letters and church bulletins saved from those days; and correspondence about establishing the church that Walter found in the Episcopal archives in Birmingham. Though Mrs. Pianowski is the sole surviving founding church member, when Mrs. Weber began her research about 15 years ago, she was able to contact the families of other founding members for photographs and more stories.

This Sun., Feb. 19, the history they’ve compiled will be presented at St. Mary’s. The program is set for 2:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception.

“It really was a community effort,” Weber said of the first church. “The organ and light fixtures were donated by members of the community who weren’t Episcopalian, and many supported rummage sales on the courthouse square.”

She said her mother has several funny stories about “church women” going to buy communion wine in a time when it was uncommon for women to purchase alcohol.

“One of the things I found was a letter they wrote to the Chamber of Commerce asking permission to solicit funds for two weeks,” Weber said. “Can you even imagine what was said about those women ‘soliciting?’”

Old photographs and clippings are included in the PowerPoint that accompanies the mother/daughter presentation. Weber said she will arrange for copies to be purchased locally at some point.

Weber, who currently lives in Prattville, also is the author of “Truman Capote’s Southern Years: Stories from a Monroeville Cousin.”