We strive to understand the deep roots of our faith through our worship and education. We honor the rich heritage of the building and grounds left to our care by the founding families through care and maintenance of our historic property. The greatest honor to our church building is to keep it in continual use as a house of worship into its 3rd century. We also recognize the role that St. Matthew’s has played historically in the Hillsborough community and Orange County by participating in programs for the benefit of St. Mary’s Chapel and in OCIM and Food for All, and Heritage Days.
St. Matthew’s History
The General Assembly of North Carolina originally constituted St. Matthew’s Parish in 1752 as the established church in the County of Orange. The parish was reorganized in 1824, and the present church building was begun in 1825 and completed in 1826.
St. Matthew’s Historic Churchyard
The current grounds of St. Matthew’s are the product of seven successive deeds of land from Thomas Ruffin, Sr and his Cameron family descendants. in 1854 Thomas Ruffin gave the parish the parcel of land on which the church was already built and provided a cemetery for church burials. Bishop Thomas Atkinson wrote to Ruffin in February, 1857, thanking him in particular for his attention to the issue of “solemn and reverent disposal of the bodies of the dead”: “for I see nothing in this state more evincive of neglect than the condition of the cemeteries, unconsecrated, dilapidated, and many times unprotected, so that those living may see the beasts trampling on the graves of the dead.”
(Bishop Thomas Atkinson, Feb. 22, 1857 in Thos. Ruffin Papers, SHC., Courtesy of Rev. Brooks Graebner, St. Matthew’s Church, Hillsborough)
FeST (Festival of the Society Tree)
An annual tradition at St. Matthew’s, known as the “FeST”, is a celebration of the many and diversified creative talents of parishioners. The Festival of the Society Tree is held on the grounds and in the buildings of the parish on the first Saturday in December.
The Parish History and Archives Committee was established in the spring of 2011 to begin working “on the organization, preservation, and interpretation of our rich parish history.” At its June 2011 meeting, the Vestry approved the Committee’s proposal to establish the Parish Archives; to include the official parish records and other supporting historical materials.
Stained Glass Windows
The windows of St. Matthew’s represent one hundred years of stained glass history. They are large and notably very close to the congregation.
Furnishings and Memorials
Much of the art work and many of the furnishings at St. Matthew’s have been given in honor and memory of parishioners over the years. As we enter our third century we are mindful of the continued needs of this sacred space and our desire to provide a place for future generations to worship and celebrate God’s abundant grace.