Celebrating 208 years in 2017, St. Philip’s Church was founded in 1809 and is the second oldest Episcopal Church in the United States to be organized and led by African Americans. A hallmark throughout its history has been its continuous role in the struggle for justice and well-being. From inception, St. Philip’s, through its strong clergy and lay members, have played a critically important role as abolitionists, anti-lynching and anti-Jim Crow demonstrators and activists, facilitators of mental health care services to black and poor people (when there was none available), and as community housing developers. The Legacy extends through the current time with the church’s work around issues of justice for the formerly incarcerated, among other areas. It should also be noted that St. Philip’s Church served as the spiritual home for the former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall during the time that he worked on and won several landmark cases as head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Designated a landmark building in 1993, the church’s current structure was designed and built by the African American architecture firm of Tandy & Foster in 1911. Vertner Tandy, the first African American licensed architect in New York state, was also a member of St. Philip’s Church. Over the years the beautiful architecture and wonderful acoustics of the church have made it an ideal home for great theatre productions, musical performances, and art exhibits. Through these various mediums St. Philip’s has sought to minister holistically to mind, body, and spirit of both individuals and the wider community.