Episcopal Church of Saint Phillip the Evangelist– the first historically Black Episcopal Church in the Los Angeles Diocese.
Episcopal Church of Saint Phillip the Evangelist ìAin’t having it!î
By Tonya E. Durrell
Sentinel Religion Writer
The Episcopal Church has faced a steady decline of Black membership over the past few decades, and nowhere is that disparity more apparent than here in Los Angeles. †To make matters worse, they struggle with a severe under-representation of Black clergy.
This outlook has not deterred the people of the Episcopal Church of Saint Phillip the Evangelist– the first historically Black Episcopal Church in the Los Angeles Diocese.
While Priest-In-Charge, the Rev. Dr. Glenn M. Libby, is all too aware of the dismal numbers representing the decline of Blacks attending Episcopal churches, he declares firmly, ìWe ainít having it!î
Libby, serving in an interim capacity, has a clear idea for turning things around. ìOver the past decade, we have become a church of diversity and social justice with a focus on getting back to proclaiming the Gospel.î
Like many churches, Libby has seen an aging congregation manifest with less participation from the younger generation. †His plan to address this issue is already making a difference. †’îWe are reversing that trend and bringing forth more heartfelt, lively worship that is spiritually powerful.î
Saint Phillips has accomplished the livelier services by utilizing young musicians, infusing electric guitars and even gospel choirs to appeal to the youth and others seeking a more upbeat church experience. This new approach will be balanced with the more traditional service for those who may prefer it.
The Episcopal Church finds its history in Anglican tradition and is considered Protestant, yet Catholic. A significant difference between the Episcopal Church and its Catholic counterpart is lifestyle. †In the Episcopal Church, priests may be male or female, gay or straight, and are allowed to marry and have children.
Established after the American Revolution, and after its break from the Church of England, the Episcopal Church began courting African-Americans, forming Black congregations and ordaining Black priests to head them. Many African-Americans came to view the Episcopal Church as an all-inclusive institution that had opened its arms to Black people.
Perhaps, because of this, the Episcopal Church was considered the first and preferred church for Blacks. †Ironically, the all-inclusive philosophy that had attracted Black followers in the beginning would come into question later when some in the African-American community started characterizing the Episcopal Church as exclusive, with a sort of elitism set aside for upwardly mobile and educated Blacks.
As far as the Episcopal Church being viewed as somewhat ìupper-class,î Libby explains ìThat may have come out of a tradition of the early days. †We are in a different place now, with diversity in all respectsórace, class, color and language.î
Libby encourages people to come experience the new and exciting Episcopal Church first-handóìGod’s doing a new thing. It is a journey and will take time.î †He also acknowledges that the community has changed with an increasing Spanish language influence. †ìWe are one congregation speaking two languages.î
Saint Phillips Church is located at 2800 Stanford Avenue–Los Angeles, 90011. Sunday services are: 9 AM Spanish language; and 10:30 AM for English.