A small group of Malden residents drawn to the witness and worship of The Episcopal Church gathered for worship in each other's homes. Soon, however, increasing numbers led them to secure a hall – Good Templars' Hall – over a store on Irving Street. Initially a lay-led endeavor, the group was able to engage the Rev. W.H. Monroe of Trinity Church, Melrose, for Evening Prayer on Sunday, September 30, 1861, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels ('Michaelmas').
Within a month
The group associated themselves by written agreement as the Grace Church Episcopal Society. By December, the society moved to a larger hall over the waiting room and ticket offices of the original Boston and Maine Railroad Station on Summer Street (now Pearl Street Station Restaurant). One member commented that it was "a noisy and objectionable place, but the only one to be obtained."
The church lacked resources and at first depended on the voluntary services of area clergy, among them the Rev. Dr. Frederic D. Huntington, later first Bishop of the Diocese of Central New York. For the next several years, without benefit of resident clergy and a formal church building, the society alternately waxed and waned.
April 22, 1867
In a parallel development, a group of 11 newcomers to Malden – unaware of the Grace Church Episcopal Society – organized themselves as "St. Paul's Church and Parish." Shortly thereafter, the Grace Church society was dissolved and its assets transferred to St. Paul's Church.
The Following Year
St. Paul's called its first rector, the Rev. George Putnam Huntington, son of The Rt. Rev. Dr. Frederic. In collaboration with parish lay leaders and other Episcopal parishes in the area, Rev. Huntington was able to raise sufficient funds to construct a church. Subsequently, the lot on Washington Street on which the present Parish House stands was purchased.
July 13, 1871
The corner stone of the original wooden church was first laid.
May 23, 1872
The completed church was consecrated.
October 4, 1884
Rev. Huntington was unflagging in his efforts to build up the parish. His successes, however, came at a cost to his health and he reluctantly resigned.
His successor, the Rev. John Milton Peck, was determined not to meet the same fate as his predecessor. The parish, however, had difficulty adjusting to Rev. Peck's perhaps more balanced approach to his work. His rectorate was a short one, lasting less than two years.
October 15, 1887
St. Paul's third rector, the Rev. George Alexander Strong, was called. During his tenure, the church interior was refurbished and parish debts retired.
April 18, 1891
The Rev. Samuel R. Fuller was instituted as fourth Rector. His outstanding preaching skills drew new parishioners as well as publicity. There was a downside to his well-deserved fame. His divorce – prior to his ordination – came to light. Given the norms of the time, he was forced to resign, an outcome that alienated many in the parish.
The calling of the Rev. William E. Dowty proved to be momentous for the parish. Shortly after his arrival, Mrs. Mary Oakes Atwood died and bequeathed $40,000.00 to "build a church, or portion thereof." Pre-eminent neo-gothic architect Ralph Adams Cram was contracted to build new St. Paul's. Cram called St. Paul's his finest small church.
March 12, 1913
The cornerstone was laid.
November 16, 1913
While Cram's full design could not be carried out – the church was formally consecrated by the Right Reverend William A. Lawrence Bishop of Massachusetts.
Under a succession of extremely competent and creative rectors, the parish grounds, chancel, and nave were furbished with elements that fit Cram's neo-gothic vision.
Building on the initiative of the Rev. Daniel A. Bennett, the Rev. Ernest D. Sillers, St. Paul's tenth rector oversaw enlargement of the Parish House (the former original church) and its redesign to conform to the neo-gothic exterior of the Cram church.
The Rev. Charles C. Boyd, Jr., was called as eleventh rector.
Unfortunately, Rev. Charles C. Boyd, Jr.'s ministry at St. Paul's was cut tragically short. He died after a brief illness, leaving a grief-stricken family and parish. Nonetheless, his legacy of community outreach and Christian formation endures.
The Following Decade
Responding to the challenges and opportunities, St. Paul's next rector, the Rev. G. Charles Rowe, emphasized the parish's commitment to the civil rights movement, religious education, and liturgical reform.
The Rev. Jürgen Liias was welcomed as rector and the parish subsequently experienced a period of strong growth, welcoming many new and younger families. An exponent of the charismatic movement, the Rev. Liias introduced healing ministries and liturgies that appealed to many. Perhaps the program of greatest impact in those years was the Bread of Life meals program (originally "Cooks for Christ"). This program for the homeless and the needy continues today as a separate corporation in Malden. St. Paul's is the principal host in Malden.
After the departure of the Rev. Liias, St. Paul's entered a period of varying degrees of stability under several clergy. Lacking a consensus over its identity – particularly with respect to liturgical styles and social issues – the parish experienced difficulty retaining old members and attracting new ones.
These difficulties reflected the issues transforming the Episcopal Church as a whole. The ordination of women as priests and bishops, support for all choice options in pregnancy, the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in all Church roles, even concerns about divorced clergy-- these were issues that affected St. Paul's, as well as the larger Episcopal Church.
St. Paul’s made history when the first same-sex marriage was performed with the union of the Rev. John R. Clarke and William J. Theisen.
St. Paul’s went through a 5-month period of supply clergy including 3 months with the Rev. Mary Jane “Janie” Donohue as Bridge Priest.