The story of St. James’ First African Protestant Church in Maryland is one of many leading up to the state of Maryland emancipating enslaved people of African descent in 1864. On June 23, 1824, in the “Upper Room,” a space on the corner of Marion and Park streets in Baltimore, an African Protestant Episcopal Church would take root. The church was established for enslaved and freedmen and not associated with white people whereby there would be special seating or special services held for them.
This marks the beginnings of St. James’ First African Protestant Episcopal Church, “the Mother Church” as it was called by the African American community, the only African Protestant Episcopal church organized on Southern soil previous to the Civil War. Its founder, the Reverend William Levington (1793-1836) was the first man ordained in the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas located in Philadelphia since the Rev. Absalom Jones. Fr. Levington was referred to as a “Negro Priest in the land of bondage.”
St. James’ became the third African Episcopal Church in the United States, after St. Thomas’ and St. Philip’s in New York. These three churches marked the beginning of a new enterprise of universality. Being free did not equate equality, even though the concept of the catholicity was the major reason why bond and freemen joined the Episcopal Church. They understood that a church is for all people, not one limited to any period, race or culture. They had their own place and they were determined to make it work.
Learn more: www.stjamesonthesquare.org
St. James’ Church, Lafayette Square
829 North Arlington Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21217