Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is the third oldest Episcopal church in Baton Rouge and the only Black Episcopal congregation in the city. The church was established primarily to provide an Episcopal church in Baton Rouge where Black Episcopalians could worship.
Dr. H. Horne Huggins, a physician from Nevis in the West Indies was concerned about being excluded from worshipping in the Episcopal church because of his race. He, along with Miss Elsie Lewis, an instructor at Southern University, had conversations concerning this situation with the Rev. George Wills Provost, Curate of Saint James Episcopal Church during the spring and summer of 1941.
In September of 1941, the Rt. Rev. John Long Jackson, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana met with Dr. Huggins and a group at Southern University. During this meeting the Bishop outlined the steps necessary for formal recognition of the group as an organized Mission of the Diocese of Louisiana. Encouraged by the Bishop, the group met on several occasions for further instructions on organization.
On October 8, 1941, the name “Saint Michael’s Church, Baton Rouge” was chosen for the proposed mission for two basic reasons: (1) There was no other parish similarly named in this diocese and (2) Saint Michael’s Day, September 29, could be celebrated while Southern University was in session. St. Michael’s was formally recognized as a Mission on January 17, 1942.
During 1942 with the Rev. George Wills Provost as Priest-in-Charge, the communicants worshipped in various places including the McKinley High School Auditorium and the Presbyterian church at the corner of East Boulevard and Railroad Avenue.
In 1943, the Rev. Joseph S. Ditchburn succeeded Father Provost. During his tenure from 1943-1949, eleven lots were purchased on Terrace and Napoleon Streets. Through the Victory Fund Campaign which was launched in 1945 an Army chapel was purchased from the United States Government at a cost of approximately $14,000 and erected on the property owned by St. Michael’s.
After the death of Bishop John Long Jackson in the fall of 1948, the new bishop, the Rt. Rev. Girault M. Jones continued to manifest interest in St. Michael’s Church and engaged Miss Lennie Frisby to be a lay leader. She arrived on January 20, 1949.
The Rev. J. S. Ditchburn relinquished the care of St. Michael’s on June 30, 1949 and was succeeded by the Rev. Leonard Nelson.
In 1952, Father Nelson attended a national meeting of College Chaplains in Washington, D.C. it was there that he communicated with Dr. John M. Burgess (later Bishop of Massachusetts) concerning a priest for St. Michael’s, a postulant, Mr. Sidney Baynes Parker, was brought to his attention. The Rev. Sidney Baynes Parker was ordained to the priesthood in 1953 and became the first Black and the first full time Priest-in-Charge of St. Michael’s Church. A rectory was built for him and he remained at St. Michael’s until 1957.
In 1958 the services of the Rev. J. H. Cole, another Black priest was obtained. One of his specialties was working with young people. He served full-time until his retirement in 1964.
It had become apparent by this time that St. Michael’s growth was limited because of its location. The majority of its congregation was from the Scotlandville area in North Baton Rouge and it was felt that growth would proceed more rapidly if the church was relocated in the North Baton Rouge area. The diocese purchased a church site on 77th Avenue near Scenic Highway as a future location for St. Michael’s.
The Rev. J. Daryl Canfill became Priest-in-Charge in 1966 and remained until December of 1968. It was under his leadership that the plans were prepared for the new church and the old site was sold.
The Rev. Edward S. Shirley served St. Michael’s on a part-time basis during 1969 until the Rev. Fred L. Norman became Priest-in-Charge from 1970-1973. It was during his tenure that the edifice on 77th Avenue was completed. The dedication of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church occurred on September 29, 1970, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.
The Rev. Edward S. Shirley again served St. Michael’s upon the departure of Father Fred Norman until the Rev. John C. Southern, Jr. became Priest-in-Charge. Father Southern came in 1976 and served most of that year. Father Shirley became Locum tenens in 1977 and served until 1983.
In 1984 through the efforts of Canon Jack Knight, the Rev. Robert J. Dodwell of St. Anna’s, New Orleans and the Rev. James Coleman of St. James, Baton Rouge, an agreement was made to obtain a priest to serve St. Michael’s in conjunction with Saint James Place. The Rev. James Hereford Douglass who was then in Honduras was brought back to the Diocese to fill these positions.
While Priest-in-Charge, Father Douglass envisioned a Day Care Center as a community outreach program for the church. Mr. Henry Thurman, a communicant and architect who designed and built St. Michael’s, designed a new building to meet the needs of the Day Care Center as well as blend with the existing structure. St. Michael’s Day Care Center opened February 9, 1986. Father Douglass retired in February, 1991.
In 1978 a communicant of St. Michael’s, Floyd Leonard Knox, was approved by the Commission on Ministry to study for the diaconate. He was ordained on December 19, 1984. Deacon Knox studied at Nashotah House Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood on June 27, 1987. He served as Assistant Priest with Father Douglass.
The Rev. Gary Lawler arrived December 1, 1991 from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City and served as Priest-in-Charge and he served until his retirement on June 30, 1996. In 1998, a communicant of St. Michael’s, Steward Bernard Cage, Jr., was approved by the Commission on Ministry to study for the priesthood. He was ordained on St. Michael’s Day, September 29, 2000. Deacon Cage was ordained to the priesthood on November 14, 2001.
In the interim, Father Floyd L. Knox served as Priest-in-Charge until he retired in February 2000 when the Rev. Allen George arrived from Michigan and served as Vicar from February 2, 2000 until April, 2002.
In the interim, Father Knox was called in to fulfill the void.
The Rev. Mary Anne Heine arrived in January 2004 from Mississippi and served as Vicar until October of 2005.
St. Michael’s continues to motivate its members to carry out the Great Commission as set forth by our Lord, Jesus Christ. One of the major objectives of the congregation is to achieve parish status. With God’s help and with the devotion and the work of the clergy and laity, this goal should be achieved along with its major goal of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
in Baton Rouge, steps away from Southern University. St. Michael’s is truly a community church where serving the community is one of its major goals. The mission of St. Michael’s is to spread God’s love throughout the community through worship and service.