History

A Legacy of Freedom
The story of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s begins with the merger of two historic Detroit congregations in 1971. Merger talks had been under consideration for several years, but the time was right for serious discussions in 1970. With the encouragement and support of the Diocese of Michigan, the two congregations began to explore the meaning and the value of such a merger. St. Matthew’s Church found itself in a neighborhood that was fast disappearing due to industrial expansion and urban renewal. St. Joseph’s Church found itself facing a rapidly declining congregation, by championing some very important but unpopular social causes. The Parish keenly felt the social turmoil of the 1960” and 70’s. This time period also had its effect on St. Matthew’s Church, which realized that it too must respond to what was happening in the streets of the city. The two congregations were now called upon to embark upon a new faith-journey. This new journey could draw upon the rich resources and heritage of both churches. St. Matthew’s Church was founded in 1845 by organizers of Detroit Underground Railroad. The founding fathers and mothers were concerned about the development of Black people in a Nation that was plagued by a most destructive white racism, a racism that questioned the very humanity of Black people. The early parishioners worked to create a school for Black children and were very concerned about Black economic development. In the early 1920’s the parish was concerned about the working conditions and the employment opportunities of Black workers at the Ford Motor Co. It is also to be noted that the Detroit Chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. was founded at old St. Matthew’s Church. St. Matthew’s is the second African American Episcopal church in the Episcopal Church. St. Joseph’s Church was established to serve the people who were moving into the north Woodward area, which in 1883, was south of the Grand Boulevard. The leadership of the Detroit community of that day found itself “in and out” of St. Joseph’s. The Parish relocated further north to its present location and built our present facility. In the late 1940’s when the neighborhood around the Parish changed, the Parish underwent change. There were those who welcomed Black members into the fellowship, but there were those who chose to move away. In the 1960s, St. Joseph’s was active freedom rides and protests against the Vietnam War. When young people went on strike from the public schools, St. Joseph’s opened her doors and established a freedom school. 1971 marked a new lease on life for both St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s. The new Parish committed itself to serve the immediate neighborhood, the city and The Episcopal Church at all levels. Today the clergy and lay members of this Parish serve on national and diocesan Episcopal Church boards and on many boards throughout the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan. As a parish fellowship, we are concerned about quality education, the involvement of Black artists in music and the fine arts, social justice-locally and internationally, the care of the poor and the forgotten members of the community. We are concerned about those things that will improve the quality of life for all people. We seek to live out our baptismal vows by praying and working for freedom, justice and peace and by seeking and serving Christ in all persons. We are committed, with God’s help, to respect the dignity of every human being. Week by week, the people of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s gather to hear the Word of God, to offer prayer and praises, and to break bread and share the cup. We do this in thanksgiving for what God has done, is doing and promises to do in the future.

Additional information can be found at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan: Click Here

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History

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