Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church celebrated its 135th anniversary on Sunday, October 22, 2017. Fr. Chas Marks, the priest in charge opened the Evensong service explaining that it was a time for the congregation and visitors to reflect on this Church’s illustrious and historical past, the present, and a faithful vision for its future. Fr. Edward L. Warner, 3rd Rector of Saint Augustine’s was the guest speaker.
Saint Augustine’s is the 5th oldest African American church in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of 31 Episcopal Churches over the age of 100 years in the organization.
The program included Saint Augustine’s liturgical dancers and beautiful singing by the Choristers from the William Baker Festival Singers.
Noted guests included Fr. Patrick Perkins of St. Mary’s, and a number of its parishioners. Also attending was Pastor Charles J. Briscoe, Pastor Emeritus of Paseo Baptist Church, a colleague of Father Warner, in both the pulpit as a minister, and as Kansas City School Board members. Pastor Briscoe was President and Father Edward. Warner was an elected representative in the turbulent 1970s.
Fr. Edward L. Warner, preached eloquently and passionately about the role the Church played in the surrounding neighborhood and community. One of the major themes in Fr. Warner’s message was for the Black church to remember and practice its historical role in serving its community as both a beacon of hope and as a refuge for persons adversely affected by the conditions of the day.
Saint Augustine’s began as a Mission church and is named after Augustine of Hippo (354-430) a North African who was one of the greatest thinkers and theologians the Church has known.
The first cornerstone of the Saint Augustine’s was laid on August 27, 1882, by Bishop Charles Franklin Robertson and the one-story brick building was completed in 1883. Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church was first admitted as an organized Mission in union with The Diocese of Missouri in 1882 with Fr. Charles E. Cummings as the Founder and priest in charge. Fr. Cummings was a former educator, graduating from Yale University then later becoming a priest. The first confirmation took place at Saint Augustine’s on the first Sunday after Easter, April 30, 1882. Ten people were confirmed. The first baptism was that of Mary Virginia Johnson on March 4, 1883.
There were 13 missionary priests, and two lay readers who served St. Augustine’s during the sixty-seven years the church was located on 1025 Roost Boulevard. The Church helped its growing community by spreading the word of God through the Gospels, and by assisting the poor in the surrounding area. With a growing congregation and the space limitations of its first home, Father’s M. Spacthes, Bernard Whitlock and Robert Martin (who would become Saint Augustine’s first Rector) ably assisted by the members of the vestry contributed to the vision and reality of Saint Augustine’s relocation from 1025 Roost Boulevard to 2732 Benton Boulevard in the neighborhood known as Santa Fe Place, in 1950.
In that year Saint Augustine’s communicants gathered at Saint Mary’s church and voted to become a self-sustaining Parish. At the 1950 Diocesan Convention held at Saint Paul’s church in Kansas City, Missouri, Saint Augustine’s Mission was then formally admitted into The Diocese of West Missouri. Saint Augustine’s purchased prime real estate by acquiring the J.H. Foresman residence, an impressive mansion built in the Santa Fe area in 1910. On June 18, 1950, a Dedication was held at Saint Augustine’s new church. Bishop Edward R. Wells officiated.
After a proposal in 1960 by the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, Fr. Birney Smith started an annual fish fry that was conducted and quickly gained citywide popularity. This annual event usually held in August was a tremendously successful fundraiser. Saint Augustine’s Brotherhood organization, the vestry, and the Women of the Church worked this fundraiser into something uniquely special. It was an event that Kansas City had not seen before. The Church’s collective vision and goal through Fr. Smith, its vestry, and the members was to build a new church on its adjacent land. This fish fry required a very large skillet specially constructed for the purpose. This skillet was advertised and touted to be the world’s largest at the time — measuring six feet in diameter. The event drew support from all parts of the city. Over 800 pounds of fish were prepared and served to more than 1,600 people annually. Beautiful lawn tables were spread over the grounds that would eventually be the home of the new church. It was a social event everyone looked forward to and wanted to attend. The church goal was to raise $75,000. Four years later On September 22, 1960, the Rt. Reverend Edward R. Well’s the II, officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony for Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church’s new home. Kenneth O. Von Aachen was selected as the architect, and Wesley Elders Construction Company were appointed as the general contractor.
It is believed the architect and the general contractor, with the vestry’s advice, wanted the new church to resemble round churches that were built in Sweden, Denmark, and England in the 11th and 12th centuries.
The first cornerstone was laid on November 24, 1960, on Thanksgiving Day. On November 23, 1961, the altar was blessed, and the church was formally dedicated on March 11, 1962.
Fr. Robert A. Martin was St. Augustine’s first parish rector. Ten loyal and faithful rectors would follow from the 1960s to the present. These priests all served with love, dedication faith in God, and spreading the words of Christ through the Gospels. Special emphasis has always been on providing spiritual health, and comfort by word and deed to the members and the surrounding communities.
Saint Augustine’s has served the Santa Fe Community and the surrounding area for sixty-eight years. It is committed to its surrounding community and has served it well through its Food Pantry, vacation bible school classes, educational and cultural activities for the youth, bible study, regular and special church services and celebrations. The Church has always been a beacon for Pastoral care, counseling and assisting the poor.
The Parish House that served not only as its second church home and later its administrative office was listed on the Kansas City Register of Historic Places on May 30, 1986. It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Santa Fe Place Historic District of Kansas City, Missouri.
Saint Augustine’s Church is now led by Father Chas Marks, formerly of Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church. Under his strong leadership and vision, Saint Augustine’s, its vestry, and faithful members stand firm and committed to sharing the Gospel to the Santa Fe community and the City of Kansas City, as it has for the last 135 years.