Welsh Forum to mark founding, closing of St. Philip’s Church
Welsh Forum to mark founding, closing of St. Philip’s ChurchApril 19, 2007Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
For 60 years, St. Philip’s Church, an African American mission of the Episcopal Church, stood at 209 Almond St., an important site at the edge of the African American and Jewish neighborhoods that comprised Syracuse’s 15th Ward.
The church closed its doors in 1957, and the Rev. Walter Welsh, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, located at 819 Madison St., welcomed members of the St. Philip’s congregation with open arms. Grace Church, founded in 1871, has traveled a path of commitment to community and social justice since its inception. Welcoming the members of St. Philip’s further broadened the church’s diverse congregation and commitment to inclusion. “This extraordinary act of inclusion during some of the most difficult days of America’s racial segregation initiated a commitment to inclusion and diversity at Grace Episcopal Church, a tradition that continues today,” says the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, rector of Grace Church and Episcopal chaplain at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel.
To mark the 110th anniversary of St. Philip’s founding and 50th anniversary of its closing, Grace Church has planned a yearlong series of events to commemorate the life of St. Philip’s; to celebrate the creation of the interracial Grace congregation; and to facilitate a community-wide and interfaith dialogue on race and reconciliation. That dialogue, the Walter Welsh Forum on Racial Reconciliation, will be held on Saturday, April 28, from 2-4 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel. The event is free and open to the public; free parking will be available in the Quad 1 lot behind Hendricks Chapel.
The forum is sponsored by Grace Church; the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York; Hendricks Chapel; the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts; SU’s Division of Student Affairs; the Central New York Community Foundation; the Gifford Foundation and the Cultural Resources Council of Central New York/New York State Council on the Arts.
Forum participants will include:
- Charles V. Willie, Ph.D. ’57, the Charles William Elliot Professor of Education Emeritus at Harvard University — Willie, one of the nation’s leading black sociologists, was a professor and chair of SU’s Department of Sociology and former SU vice president of student affairs at a time when it was rare for an African American to hold such a position;
- Byron Rushing, a Massachusetts state representative since 1982 — Rushing’s priorities are human and civil rights and liberties; human economic and housing development; environmental justice and health care for all;
- Lyn Headley-Deavours, justice missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, N.J., and former director of the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Newark;
- Bea Gonzalez, interim dean of Universitys College, SU’s continuing education division, and president of the Syracuse Common Council — A graduate of the Syracuse city schools and SU’s Maxwell School, Gonzalez is a strong voice for issues of disparity and inequity, particularly as they affect Syracuse’s Hispanic community;
- the Rev. Michael Battle, vice president and associate dean of academic studies and associate professor of theology at Virginia Theological Seminary — Battle lived in residence with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is the author of two books on the archbishop, as well as others on reconciliation in a violent world, spirituality of racial reconciliation and African American spirituality; and
- the Rev. Canon William Barnwell, canon missioner at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where he establishes and coordinates metropolitan ministries and projects aimed at addressing the issues of poverty, health care and social and economic justice — Barnwell has also established programs in New Orleans and Boston, and programs for middle-school students and for low-income individuals in crisis.
Kendall Phillips, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies in VPA and a member of Grace Church, is one of the event organizers. For the past six years, his students have been engaged in a “public memory project,” in which they have focused on how our memories of the past impact our current political and cultural lives. “The legacy of St. Philip’s fits in well with the larger memory of the displacement of the 15th Ward and the changes in the city caused by the construction of Interstate 81,” Phillips says. “These memories are clearly wrapped up in our present attitudes toward race relations in the city.”
Phillips is also involved as a member of Grace Church. “We continue to live in a world where race is used to divide people,” he says. “One of the wonderful legacies from the merger of St. Philip’s and Grace is that we have this amazing multicultural and multi-racial community, which can serve as an object lesson for today’s society.
On Sunday, April 29, Battle will give “A Talk on Racial Reconciliation” from 9-10:15 a.m. at Grace Church, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of CNY. Battle will also preach at the church’s 8 and 10:30 a.m. services.
The forum and talk are part of a yearlong schedule of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of St. Philip’s. Canon Ed Rodman of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., spoke in Syracuse in January. Other scheduled events include a Youth Anti-Racism Day in September and a St. Philip’s Homecoming Celebration Oct. 27-28.