During 1867 nearly one half of the congregation of St. James’ First African Church, Baltimore “…withdrew and initiated St. Philip’s Mission, which later became the Protestant Episcopal Mission of St. Mary the Virgin.” St. Mary the Virgin was established in 1873 through advocacy of former members of St. Philip’s, and with the support of Mt. Calvary Church, became the second congregation of black Episcopalians in the city of Baltimore.
The first service of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin was held in the chapel of the mission house of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor on Sunday, March 23, 1873, conducted by Father Calbraith B. Perry. Upon moving to the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and St. Mary’s Street an opening service was held on May 18, 1873, in which Father Joseph Richey, rector of Mount Calvary Church, preached the sermon.
He said, “We have given you an altar no whit inferior to that in the parish church; your services shall be a counterpart of those in Mount Calvary, …You will no longer be treated as outcasts to whom it should be considered a sufficient favor if the smallest trifle is given, but as children of One Father, brought by the Blood of One Redeemer, and sanctified by One Holy Ghost.”
St. Mary’s survived a fire in 1947 that completely destroyed the buildings and pieces of great value, including panels for the altar from Jerusalem, stools carved by artists from the Gold Coast of Africa, a gift from Queen Victoria of Great Britain and the sculpture, Adoration of the Magi by artist Edmonia Lewis. After rebuilding, the church had to relocate in 1959, due to highway expansion.
With Justice Thurgood Marshall as part of the church’s history, this is a faith community that continues to forge a path for future generations. Today, amidst all of this, St. Mary’s continues its mission to worship God, thus providing a beacon of hope in West Baltimore.
Learn more: http://www.stmaryswalbrook.org
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
3121 Walbrook Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21216