Downtown “Two Saints” celebrates 25 years as merged, integrated church
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Rochesterians will soon celebrate the 25th anniversary of an experiment in integration that gave birth to The Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene.
In 1987, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, an historically white church founded by Col. Nathaniel Rochester in 1824, merged with the Episcopal Church of St. Simon of Cyrene, a church founded in 1912 as a home for the city’s African-American Episcopalians. Their congregations combined and have since served downtown Rochester as one diverse and harmonious church.
St. Luke & Simon Cyrene, commonly called Two Saints, will hold four events in January and February to mark the merger’s anniversary:
- On Sunday, Jan. 13 at 10. a.m., a celebratory church service will be held at St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene. The sermon will be delivered by the Rt. Rev. William G. Burrill, Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Rochester. The parishes merged under the leadership of Burrill, who served as bishop until 1999. The church is located at 17 Fitzhugh St. S., Rochester, and free parking is in the lots south and west of the church.
- A gala event will be held at the Radisson, 120 E. Main St., Rochester, on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. The cost is $35 per person. Tickets can be purchased online at http://siyahamba.eventbrite.com. Pay parking is available at the Radisson.
- On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, Eighth Episcopal Bishop of Rochester, will celebrate and preach at St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene at the 10 a.m. service. Singh, who currently serves as the diocese’s bishop, will remain after the service for conversation and fellowship.
- The Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle, president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, will preach at the church’s 10 a.m. service on Sunday, Feb. 24.
The Very Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, rector at St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, said these events celebrate a grand but risky experiment that has borne much fruit in the last 25 years.
“Black and white have not only lived together but thrived together,” Hopkins said. “Although the merger was not the first choice of many 25 years ago, primarily because it was believed that important differences and unique identities would be damaged beyond recognition, quite the opposite has proven true.
“The diversity here hums and is a light in this city, which has a bright, liberal image - but which is still deeply segregated, especially on the level of the church,” the priest explained.
The theme of the month-long celebration is Siyahamba – a Zulu word that translates as 'we are marching.' It is also a phrase in hymn 'We are Marching in the Light of God.' The theme emphasizes that the celebrations at St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene are not about the past. Rather, the events celebrate God’s grace and faithfulness in bringing people together now and in the future.
Part of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, the Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene’s mission is to be a healing place for souls, a school for justice and a welcome table for all. For more information about the church, visit http://www.twosaints.org/.