St. Thomas and St. Philip’s to Merge:

Two will become “one missional church”

By Joe Bjordal  Feb 2008

St. Philip’s Church, St. Paul, and St. Thomas Church, Minneapolis, have announced that they will merge, according to a statement issued by the Rev. James N. Wilson, priest-in-charge at both congregations. Members of both churches voted on the merger resolution on January 27. The merger has been approved by Bishop James Jelinek.

The decision came about after three years of conversation between the congregations and one year after they entered into a shared ministry agreement with Wilson as the priest-in-charge. Wilson says the new missional church will have as its vision statement: “To spread the word of God to all God’s people through faith formation, outreach and programs for children and young people.”

Both congregations have been serving the African American communities of the Twin Cities for over a century. St. Philip’s was started in 1894 as a mission of St. Mark’s Church, now St. Mark’s Cathedral, in 1888. It officially separated from St. Mark’s in 1894 to become St. Philip’s Mission. St. Thomas Church was started in 1903 as one of the 26 congregations launched by Gethsemane Church, Minneapolis.

“Throughout their many years of existence, St. Philip’s and St. Thomas grew to multicultural congregations serving the entire metropolitan area, while retaining the special African American warmth, spirit, and music,” said Wilson.

Membership in both congregations has declined in recent years. “The idea of the merger is to create something new out of the unique African American histories of both congregations that would reflect the current missional realities of multiculturalism, inclusiveness, collaboration, youth ministry, and liturgical vitality,” said Wilson. The search for a new building has begun. Wilson has asked for the prayers of the people of the Diocese of Minnesota as the two congregations move forward with their plans.

“Saying yes to something and doing it are two different things,” he said. “Please pray for us.” Wilson says the congregations have made a bold decision “to not remain in our traditional corner and die but to chart a new course of missional change and life.”


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