The Vietnam War strained the social fabric of the nation as the "baby boomers" began to express their rebellion in words, dress, and demonstration. The Episcopal Church with its tradition and conservatism reaped more reaction than many other churches, but there were problems in all of the man line churches.
During this time, The Reverend Peyton R. Williams served as rector of St. Matthew's Church in 1967. The Vestry was very concerned about falling attendance and general discontent. In November 1968, the Vestry met with five young members of the church to attempt communication. The youth expressed concern regarding the sincerity of the older members and said they wished for a more flexible church with less formality.
After the meeting, the Vestry decided to allocate one seat in their group to a youth who would help them plan for the future. At the next meeting, Richard Skaggs was seated on the Vestry to represent the views of the younger members.
Another tension of the period was an experiment with the liturgy. Many of the older members were opposed to the trial-use of a new prayer book. Opposition became so strong the use of the new liturgy was discontinued. However, the bishop eventually demanded use of the liturgy by all churches in the diocese.
On May 10, 1970, William P. Crosbie was named to succeed John Zorian as organist and choirmaster. The boy choir was a very important aspect of the music program. But early in his tenure, Mr. Crosbie suggested an adult-mixed choir might be more appropriate since it was difficult to maintain an all boys choir.
St. Matthew's was sensitive to social issues so it was no surprise that the Upper Ohio Valley Senior Services turned to the church for space and financial help in its early years. In January 1971, the Vestry provided $2,800 in emergency funds in support of the Wheeling program and included Senior Services in the outreach budget for 1972 as well. Manuel Viola, director of Wheeling Family Services, told the Vestry in 1972 that 12,000 seniors used St. Matthew's facilities over the course of a year. The civic service expectation of St. Matthew's Church was well documented in a report of Rev. Peyton Williams in May 1971, on his responsibilities in the community. He was a member of the board of the United Way, the Red Cross, the Senior Citizens, Family Services and Country Day School, a trustee of Sandscrest, vice president of the Council of Churches, treasurer of Bel-O-Mar, and an advocate for Lincoln School.
Later that spring, Rev. Mr. Williams resigned. He reminded the Vestry that two things were most unsettling to the St. Matthew's congregation during his ministry; 1) the breakdown of traditional religious values in the community, and 2) the erosion of the economic base of the Wheeling area.
Canon William M. Todd accepted the call to become rector of St. Matthew's in August 1972. He and his family moved into the new rectory at Belle Fern Place. After buying the new parsonage, the trustees were still in a position to purchase the Bachman property next door to the church in October for $125,000.
During this period of declining membership, there was continuing conversation with both St. Luke's and St. Paul's regarding joint ministries.
More and more community organizations were calling on St. Matthew's for financial support. Every year, officials of Laughlin Memorial Chapel asked for and received $1,500 in support of a youth summer camp. Other organizations such as King's Daughters, the Seeing Hand Association, the House of the Carpenter, and Meals on Wheels received substantial support from the St. Matthew's endowment income. After contributing to other soup kitchens in the community, St. Matthew's opened one of its own which served an ever-growing number of people. Other groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, American Association of Retired Persons, and the Boy Scouts were granted permission to use the facilities. Wheeling Health Right and the Wheeling Symphony also were provided office space for a time.
A review of the Vestry minutes reveals that music had been a priority in every era. In 1975, the Vestry contracted M. P. Moeller and Co. of Hagerstown, Md., to rebuild and make significant additions to the Ernest M. Skinner instrument installed in 1924. The additions and refurbishment of the organ cost six times its original price. One of the additions was a new State Trumpet stop.
St. Matthew's Church always supported the work of the diocese. For many years, the annual apportionment for St. Matthew's may well have been the largest in the state. In the 1980s, that annual commitment to the bishop reached nearly $60,000. St. Matthew's also contributed generously to the bishop's special projects.
Rev. Mr. Todd concluded his ministry in Wheeling in April 1982. Bishop Atkinson suggested to the Vestry that the retired Right Reverend Richard Wood be called to serve the church on an interim basis. Bishop Wood, a native of South Africa, arrived in Wheeling in March 1983. The Reverend Margaret Caldwell Phillimore, the first woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of W. Virginia, was named as pastoral associate. She had been a life-long member of St. Matthew's, and had served the parish in many ways.