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Episcopalians celebrate 175 years in city

Members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s brass section played softly in the lawn area of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Two blocks away, a throng of about 50 parishioners walked with dignity down West Berry Street in a procession that converged at the place of worship, where other members of the faith waited to celebrate.

Saturday marked the 175th anniversary of the first Episcopal service in Fort Wayne.

At that time, the city was an isolated, frontier town with dirt roads.

“It’s wonderful to come together to show our unity,” said Nancy Hansen, co-chairwoman of Trinity’s community relations committee and wife of the Rev. Thomas Hansen. “I think the anniversary is something all the churches can celebrate.”

Grace Episcopal Church, 10010 Aurora Place, and St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 7308 St. Joe Road, sprung from Trinity Episcopal, 611 W. Berry St.

All participated in Saturday’s event that included an ice cream social, a reading of a proclamation from Mayor Tom Henry and a visit from the Rev. Edward S. Little, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana in South Bend.

The Episcopal Church was one of the last mainstream denominations to be established in Fort Wayne. According to Trinity Episcopal records, Jackson Kemper, a missionary bishop, visited what would be called the City of Churches on horseback in 1837. Two years later, members held their first service.

Still, the Rev. Benjamin Hutchins, who was sent to form a congregation, wasn’t well received. Hutchins was viewed as eccentric and failed to draw followers. Church records show that several years passed before Episcopal members would arrive and help establish a parish, which today is Trinity Episcopal Church.

In a show of support for the community at large, offerings collected during the event were donated to the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive that also took place Saturday.

The Rev. Hansen said he’s proud of his faith’s history and unity in Fort Wayne.

“It’s good that all of the churches are here because it isn’t just about us,” he said. “We wanted to include everyone.”

Little commended the churches for that.

“That is one reason for their (longevity), and that’s the welcoming attitude they’ve shown,” he said. “It is displayed so thoroughly.”