St. Matthew's and St. Joseph's Episcopal Church

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 26 October 2006.

Phone: 313-871-4750
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The research was conducted by The University of Michigan-Dearborn Pluralism Project.


In 1971 two historic Detroit churches united to form the new St. Matthew's and St. Joseph's Episcopal Church. St. Matthew's had been a historically black parish and St. Joseph's a historically white parish.

History of St. Matthew's

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, the second oldest black religious center in the city of Detroit and the third oldest in the state of Michigan, was established in 1845. Those who founded the church were former members of the city's oldest black congregation, Second Baptist Church, and included its pastor, Reverend William C. Monroe, civic leader William Lambert, and others. The church, along with Second Baptist, played a role in the underground railroad bringing escaped slaves northward to Canada. In addition, early members of the congregation were active in satisfying the educational and spiritual needs of the city's black population. Following the resignation of William Monroe as vicar to accept a missionary position in Liberia, the church went into decline and 1864 to 1880 met only as a Sunday school at Christ Church. When the mission was revived, it first met in a rented hall and then moved to the corner of St Antoine and Elizabeth in downtown Detroit, a site it would occupy for the 90 years.

History of St. Joseph's

In 1883 some Detroiters decided to establish a mission of the Episcopal church along the northern stretches of the Woodward Avenue, the city's major thoroughfare. St. Joseph's, as the mission and eventually the church came to be known, served in two locations. First, a chapel, initially used only as a Sunday school, was built at the corner of Woodward and the now Ford Freeway In 1926, the parish was relocated at the present corner of Holbrook and Woodward. At one time some of the most prominent families of Detroit attended St. Joseph's. One of the early rectors became the first Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Detroit and the first rector of Christ Church, Cranbrook.
During the 1950's as the neighborhood around the Parish changed, under the leadership of Fr. Joseph Dickson, Sister Hilda Manson, and others, St. Joseph's became an integrated congregation. The 1960's found St. Joseph's challenged by the civil rights movement, the peace movement, gay rights, general unrest in the schools, the community, and the Nation. The liberal stands taken by the congregation forced many persons to leave.

Coming Together

At the end of the 1960's, St. Matthew's Church found itself in the midst of an urban "displacement" situation. The new I-75 and some industrial expansion almost completely destroyed the old "Paradise Valley" section of the City. This was the right time to consider a long talked about merger with St. Joseph's Church. Fortunately, the leadership of both parishes were able to convince enough parishioners that the merger was the direction in which to move. The result has been the creation of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic parish, including immigrants from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa.