ST. PAUL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, ST. JOSEPH, MICHIGAN
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, St. Joseph, Michigan resides in a small community on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The general feeling of the community is that of small town life at its best. Life in St. Joseph and its sister city, Benton Harbor across the St. Joseph river mimic that of much larger communities. There are peaceful areas and poverty, tourism and opportunities for growth and development. The influence of several large corporations can be felt along the lakeshore. Whirlpool’s international headquarters in Benton Harbor provides an influx of active and engaged professionals as well as financial sponsorship and support to aid in the development of a world class community for all to enjoy.
The first Episcopal Church in St. Joseph was St. Peter’s Mission, started in the year 1835 by the Rev. James Selkrig, a missionary from Niles. In 1897, St. Paul’s purchased a small lot at the corner of Main Street and Niles Avenue and in 1900 the first Episcopal Church in St. Joseph was erected. It was a small, frame, brown-shingled church with windows of amber-colored ground glass. In the year 1907 St. Paul’s became a parish.
In 1938 St. Paul’s church was moved from its noisy location at the junction of Main Street and Niles Avenue to its current location, then on the outskirts of town to three lots donated by Mrs. L. M. Shepherd. She later sold several other adjoining lots, so that the church now sits on a full city block with beautiful gardens and green space.
Early in the morning of Epiphany 1948, the church building burned to the ground. Besides the loss of the building there was a terrible loss of books, music, and vestments. Some things were saved: the original chalice and paten, the altar cross, the Eucharistic candlesticks, the font and all but about four pews.
In 1949 and the first three months of 1950, the present St. Paul’s was erected. In the summer of 1959 an addition was built. It contained a library, a nursery, two classrooms for church school, four rooms beneath these, and a good-sized supply closet.
Over the years the parish community has been served by loving and dedicated clergy. As with any institution, changes occur both positive and negative. Mainline denominations have declined ever so gradually and St. Paul's community found themselves struggling to provide for a full time Rector. The solution was to open our hearts and minds to new possibilities. We, along with St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Dowagiac and Trinity Episcopal Church in Niles, have entered into a new covenant relationship to combine our resources and energies for the betterment of all of our communities. The Reverend Diane Pike answered our call to become our shared Rector on December 1, 2018. We continue to seek the will of God as we strive to live our baptismal covenant in this new relationship together in the Southwest Episcopal Covenant of Parishes.