Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is a merged congregation of the two historic African American Episcopal congregations, St. Philip & St. Thomas Episcopal congregations. The congregation voted to rename the church on February 5, 2012 because of the feeling that the two names were pulling the merged congregation apart instead of holding it together. After five years since the merger, the new name – Holy Trinity Episcopal Church – is to bring about a sense of oneness and new life and foster inclusive, collaborative, and mutual relationships.
Prior to the merger, each of the congregations maintained an outstanding historic uniqueness in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (more than 100 years) in serving the African American communities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. They share many similarities in history and parallel development of their ministries. Each congregation began as a subset of another Episcopal church to serve “colored” Anglicans. Saint Philip began as a part of Saint Mark’s, calling themselves Saint Mark’s Guild (1888) before officially separating and becoming Saint Philip Mission (1895). At about the same time (1899) Saint Thomas became a mission of Gethsemane Church. Both were able to secure meeting space, began their ministries and expanded their congregations.
In the early years (beginning sometime after 1905 and continuing until about 1934) the congregations shared a priest. The Reverend Alfred Lealtad conducted services at Saint Philip on Sunday morning and at Saint Thomas on Sunday afternoon. It is said that he rode the streetcar between Saint Paul and Minneapolis each Sunday. Following his departure, The Reverend Edward James served both Saint Philip and Saint Thomas as priest for only a few years.
Both parishes secured long serving priests about the same time. These priests brought needed stability. The Reverend Canon Louis Johnson served St. Thomas from 1947 to 1975 and The Reverend Denzil Carty served Saint Philip from 1950 to 1975. Both were devoted to their parishes and under their leadership membership grew. During their tenure each parish left mission status, each parish built a new church, and raised up Reverend Earl A. Neil, and the Reverend James Breedon to the priesthood. Both parishes were active in the local civil rights movements to secure rights and improve job opportunities for African Americans in the Twin Cities.
In recent years each parish has continued under the leadership of a succession of parish priests, interims, supply priests and dedicated lay leaders and members. Amid the rapidly changing demographics and missional challenges of the twenty-first century, and because of their common histories, in 2006, the churches began a merger discernment process. On January 27, 2008, a merger decision was reached, church buildings sold, and Articles of Incorporation filed with the name St. Philip & St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The Reverend James N. Wilson, II became the Priest-in-Charge. Below is the chronology of the merger process.
The merger process began in 2005 when Bishop James L. Jalinek, the VIII Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in Minnesota, appointed the Rev. Rex Mckee, Deacon, to carry out a spiritual discernment with St. Philip and St. Thomas Episcopal Churches. The four discernment sessions, held at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Roseville, MN, were about God’s mission in the twenty-first century, which requires mutual missional relationship. In 2007, the Rev. James N. Wilson, II was called to continue the conversation. In 2007, a lot of work was done with the new missional vision of St. Philip & St. Thomas. An Alliance Steering Committee, comprised of legal, finance, program & worship, membership and marketing teams, developed the Strategic Plan for Building a Sustainable Future for the church. The Strategic Plan was presented and approved by Bishop James L. Jelinek on November 1, 2007. The Alliance Steering Committee was then replaced by an Implementation Committee, which comprised the legal, finance, program & worship, membership and marketing teams, and was charged with the responsibility of implementing the developed Strategic Plan of the church.
In 2008, on January 27, a proposed resolution to merge the two congregations was passed by each congregation at their respective annual meetings. On May 5 and 22, 2008, the respective consents to merge both congregations were given by Bishop Jelinek and the Diocesan Standing Committee based on Canon 104.6 for merger, consolidation, and dissolution. The church buildings were subsequently sold and de-consecration services held. In August, 2008, the St. Philip & St. Thomas congregation moved to Epiphany Episcopal Church, Van Buren, Saint Paul, as a temporary worship space at the kind hospitality of Epiphany Church and in September the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws were filed with both Ramsey County and Hennepin County.
In 2009, the process of finding a new church home began with James Garrett and his 4rumula architectural firm with three options: build a new church, buy and renovate an existing church property, or buy and convert a commercial property to a church home. The focus is to be in a central location between Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The church home process continues.
In 2010, the audit of the 2008/2009 accounts of former St. Philip’s and St. Thomas churches was completed as an indispensable component of the merger process with profound gratitude to Charlie Hample of the Gethsemane Episcopal Church. On April 6, a meeting with Bishop Brian N. Prior, the IX Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, was held regarding the merger process. On May 1, 2010, the legal dissolution of the former St. Philip’s Church and St. Thomas Church, together with their respective former vestries, took place at the vestries meeting held at the Center for Families, 3333 North Fourth Street, Minneapolis. The meeting was attended by Bishop Prior, Renee Carlson, Jim Pavlik, and the Rev. Debbie Brown.