About St. Philip’s: A Brief History

The origins of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church are somewhat in doubt. A resolution passed at a diocesan convention in the mid 1880’s gives support to an effort to “evangelize the colored population in the Indianapolis area.” Prior to 1886, a group of black Episcopalians was said to have made known their desire to form a congregation under the name “St. Philip’s.” This congregation may have met at Christ Church Cathedral or St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (which at the time was still a downtown parish).

What is known for certain is that on April 15, 1901, a group of twenty-five Episcopalians petitioned the diocese to form a mission, “under the charge of the Bishop of Indiana and the Pastor of St. Paul’s.” The cornerstone for the original building at 702 N. West Street was laid in 1905, making St. Philip’s “officially” more than 105 years old in 2010.

The parish moved to its current location at 720 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street in April 1986, after a deliberate decision was made by the congregation to remain and serve the people in downtown Indianapolis.

The parish’s history in active service is extensive. In the late 1970’s, the church began to offer its basement as a shelter for homeless people in a program that eventually became the Dayspring Center. Working with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), St. Philip’s was a co-sponsor of Goodwin Plaza, a HUD-financed housing project for senior citizens, located on property adjacent to St. Philip’s. Later, St. Philip’s would co-sponsor Conner House, a HUD residence for HIV/AIDS victims, and Hickory Grove, a HUD property that became a residence for seniors and persons with disabilities.

In addition to the parish’s ongoing Food Ministry program, St. Philip’s also reaches out to its neighbors with a weekly sewing class, and by hosting regular Community Meals. In response to the violence in the city, St. Philip’s has an annual Peace Walk,usually held on the Sunday nearest All Souls’ Day (November 2), in which participants walk in “protest” of the violence and pray for those killed in Indianapolis.

Every day at St. Philip’s is a celebration of Our Lord, and every Sunday a celebration of His resurrection, but we also join in celebrations with our community. Chief among these is our annual Fourth Fest. Held on Independence Day, we have food and fun and music at the church all afternoon. Then, after dark, our parking lot is one of the best places around to view the downtown fireworks display!