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St. Paul's Episcopal Church, La Porte
St. Paul’s is the third oldest Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Northern Indiana, incorporated on St. James Day, July 25, 1839, shortly after St. Paul’s in Mishawaka, 1837, and Trinity in Michigan City, 1838. However, the history of Episcopalians in La Porte can be traced back at least as far as 1835, when visiting clergy conducted services in town. In August 1837, the Missionary Bishop of Indiana, the Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, made his first visit to La Porte and recorded in his diary the baptism of “Dr. Rose’s sick child at home on August 15, 1837, prior to the evening service in the Court House.” The first recorded baptism was that of two-year-old Thomas Lafayette Johnson on November 24, 1838. The Rev. Daniel V. M. Johnson of Michigan City also conducted services before the parish was organized.
St. Paul's first rector was the Rev. Solon Manney, who served the parish for ten years, during which time he began a parochial school where “common and high English, Latin, and Greek were taught.” He also served as head of La Porte University, from which the Mayo brothers graduated before moving to Rochester, Minnesota, and founding the Mayo Clinic. After leaving La Porte, Manney founded what is now Seabury Western Seminary.
Early in the 1840s the southeast corner of Indiana and Maple Avenue was purchased for a church site. However, the property was later exchanged for the present location and “fifty dollars, half in cash and the balance in hewed timbers suitable for the church frame.” The first church building was constructed in 1846 and consecrated by Bishop Kemper on March 2, 1848. Before this time, a member of the congregation said her father “had hauled the benches to and from the places of worship.”
The present Indiana limestone building, an example of English Gothic architecture designed by Fort Wayne architects John F. Wing and Marshall S, Mahurin, was built in 1897 and consecrated in 1898. A local newspaper editor called it “the most imposing church building in La Porte if not in northern Indiana.” The church contained an 1872 organ built by Steer & Turner, which was restored in 1979. More recently, in 2009, an anonymous gift of $60,000 by a parishioner made it possible to renovate the exterior of the building.
In 1954 a $1,000 gift started a fund for a new Parish House, which was completed in 1957. In 1959 a new heating system was installed. The present building was built for $92,000 with only $20,000 remaining to be paid five years later.The two priests who served St. Paul’s the longest are the Rev. George Childs from 1927-49 and the Rev. B. Linford Eyrick from 1956-92.
In 1963 the church sanctuary and nave were remodeled, including new altar, new pews, and new floor. On Tuesday, January 15, 1963, the new altar was consecrated and blessed by Bishop Mallett. The top of the altar is a piece of golden marble mined in the Holy Land; the fifteen foot crucifix is made of white oak and carved limba wood; the tabernacle is bronze and oak, flanked by eight bronze candlesticks. The original sanctuary light has since been replaced. New faceted glass windows were dedicated on May 3, 1963, three of which were given in memory of the Rev. George J. Childs, former rector. The windows depict the four evangelists, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sacraments, and the corporal works of mercy.From St. Paul's website: http://stpaulslaporte.org/history/
The ministry of the Rev. B. Linford Eyrick spanned from 1956 to 1992 and was the most consequential. He came to La Porte after serving as rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Hoosick Falls, New York. He had attended the Hoosac School and Hobart College, and received his seminary training at General Theological Seminary with his degree in 1948. Once in La Porte, he baptized much of the Baby Boom generation of the parish, served several diocesan offices, and was a respected leader in the community. When he arrived, his wife Winnie suggested that the parish open a pre-school, which ran successfully for the next 66 years before eventually closing in 2019. Eyrick died in 1995, three years after his retirement.
In later years the church was served by the Rev. Richard Alford, who left the Episcopal Church for the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as the Rev. Glenn Kanestrom, the Rev. Jamie Jones, the Rev. Anthony Clavier, the Rev. Thomas Kincaid, the Rev. Paul Nesta, and most recently, the Rev. Cn. Michelle Walker, who divides her time as priest-in-charge with being a diocesan missioner for Bishop Douglas Sparks.
Daniel Van Mater Johnson, 1838-1839
Solon Wines Manney, 1839-1849
Hiram M. Roberts, 1851
Franklin Reeve Haff, 1852
Walter Emlen Franklin, 1854-1856
Almon Gregory, 1856-1861
Addis Emmett Bishop, 1862-1864
James Hervey Lee, 1864-1867
Frank Mark Gregg, 1867-1869
George John Magill, 1869-1875
Walter Scott, 1872-1873
Charles Thompson Coerr, 1875
James Taylor Chambers, 1875-1877
Andrew Mackie, 1877-1878
James Langhorne Boxer, 1879-1881
Rush Spencer Eastman, 1883-1886
Walter Scott, 1886-1894
Asa Appleton Abbott, 1894-1895
Thomas Bennington Barlow, 1895-1899
Edward Lemuel Roland Jr., 1899-1902
Addison Alvord Ewing, 1902-1904
Joseph Cooper Hall, 1904-1905
Arthur Edgar Gorter, 1906-1908
Lawrence Southworth Kent, 1908-1910
Daniel Le Baron Goodwin, 1911-1917
Francis John Edmund Barwell-Walker, 1918-1927
George Jay Childs, 1927-1948
Eric F. Pearson, 1949-1951
Robert Frank Royster, 1952-1956
Benjamin Linford Eyrick, 1956-1992
Richard Alford, 1992-1995
Glenn W. Kanestrom, 1997-2002
James Place "Jamie" Jones, 2002-2008
Anthony F. M. Clavier, 2008-2011
S. Thomas Kincaid, 2012-2015
Paul A. Nesta, 2015-2018
John Houghton, 2019-2020 (interim)
Michelle I. Walker, 2020-
Parish Register 1838-1865
Parish Register, 1838-1910
Parish Register, 1911-1939
Parish Register C, Baptisms Confirmations, and Burials, 1940-1979
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Douglas Everett Sparks, Eighth Bishop
Bishop Douglas Everett Sparks, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, is the current incumbent. Born on 8 January 1956, he studied Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary College, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Master's degree from De Andreis Institute of Theology in 1984. Ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 1984, he served parishes in Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. In 1989 he was received as a priest into the Episcopal Church, serving as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, from 1990 to 1995. He also married Dana Wirth and had three children: Christina, Graham, and Gavin.
Sparks later served at St. Matthias Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, then went to New Zealand to become Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. On returning to the United States, he became rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From here he was elected bishop on 6 February 2016. He was consecrated at Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, on 25 June 2016 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Sparks has adopted a five-point plan of mission that will guide his episcopate:
1. Tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. Teach, Baptize, and Nurture new believers.
3. Tend to human need with loving service.
4. Transform unjust structures of society.
5. Treasure God's Creation and renew the Earth.
Bishop Sparks has reversed previous diocesan policy and approved same-sex marriages being performed in the diocese with the consent of individual parishes. He was personally present for the wedding of South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chasten Glezman on 16 June 2018 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. He has also formed a strong pastoral partnership with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis, marching for social justice issues, against gun violence, and in favor of greater acceptance of all marginalized groups in the Church. He is an "activist bishop" and comfortable in that role, but he is always careful to ground that advocacy in his faith.
On a national level, the Episcopal Church began an initiative under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to become a "Beloved Community" to promote racial reconciliation. Part of that process involved studying and apologizing for sins committed against minority groups throughout its history. During his sabbatical in 2022, Bishop Sparks walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death, traveling on foot from Plymouth, Indiana, to Kansas. He left an account of his pilgrimage. It symbolized the work of the Diocese of Northern Indiana to account for acts of racism in its past.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne