Tabernacle and pews trade places 148 miles apart

Miscellany/Doug Deas: Volunteers from St. William Church in Ward load pews from Sts. Frederick & Stephen Mission on Edisto Island Nov. 2.

EDISTO ISLAND/WARD—A tabernacle and 20 wooden pews have new homes in churches in different parts of the state, thanks to months of friendly bartering, long road trips and hard work. 

The pews were used for many years in the old church at Sts. Frederick and Stephen Mission on Edisto Island, while the tabernacle was tucked away in storage at St. William Church in Ward, a small parish on the outskirts of the Columbia Deanery. 

Now they have switched places. The pews are being stored in a tractor trailer in Ward until parishioners can install them in a few weeks, and the tabernacle now stands proudly on the altar of the new church at Sts. Frederick and Stephen, formally dedicated on Nov. 23. 

These items ended up switching places and making a 148-mile journey between Ward and Edisto Island when Wallace Rodgers, a lifelong parishioner at St. William, spotted the pews almost 10 years ago when he and his family made their annual visit to Edisto. 

“I had been eyeballing those pews down there for a long time,” Rodgers said. “The ones we had at our church were made of pine and were kind of unsteady. They also would split in the middle and people actually got pinched when they sat in them.” 

Miscellany/Doug Deas: The barter exchange between the two churches included a tabernacle from St. William.

Rodgers saw that the Edisto parish was in the middle of a building campaign, so he struck up a conversation with  the parish administrator and Deacon Charles LaRosa to find out if the pews would be available once a new church was built. They took down his name. Years passed and Rodgers kept checking on the pews each year when he visited. Finally, in summer 2018, he received a call saying that St. William could have the pews for free if parishioners could arrange to get them. 

“We’re a small parish with limited funds, but we were willing to pay for them,” Rodgers said. “We were told that the pews were originally donated free to Sts. Frederick and Stephen, so they were donating them to us.” 

As it turned out, St. William had something to give in return. 

Father Johnbosco Duraisamy, the former administrator at Sts. Frederick and Stephen, visited St. William one day last year and noticed the tabernacle while Rodgers was giving him a tour. 

“Somewhere along the line, one of the priests who served here got that tabernacle, but it was so large that it was too overwhelming for our small church,” Rodgers said. “Father Johnbosco said it might be good in the new church on Edisto, and later Deacon LaRosa and Father Robert Sayer, the pastor, agreed.” 

Deacon LaRosa loaded the tabernacle onto his pickup truck and took it back to Edisto. Meanwhile, Rodgers, his son, and several other men from St. William made the trip to the coast on Nov. 2 to collect the pews. They loaded them onto a tractor-trailer they borrowed from another parishioner and drove them back to Saluda County. Rodgers said he and other volunteers from the parish plan to clean and refinish them before installing them in the church. 

“The whole thing was just a wonderful exchange,” Deacon LaRosa said. “The Holy Spirit was really working overtime to make this happen.”