St. John’s Episcopal, 20 E. Cherry Street in Albion, IL celebrated the 175th anniversary of its building June 23-24. The small congregation worships in the same nave that Rev. Philander Chase, first Bishop of Illinois, consecrated on June, 1843 after an arduous journey to the “outpost” parish.
The church is the oldest surviving Episcopal Church in Illinois and has been in regular use since Christmas Day, 1842.
On Saturday, June 23, at 2 p.m., a celebratory free public concert featured vocalists, a mandolinist, the 1881 pump organ, congregational hymns, historical tidbits, and refreshments. St. Johns’ bell, used weekly since 1844, rang to begin the program.
On Sunday, June 24, at the 9 a.m. service Bishop Daniel Martins presided having timed his annual visit to coincide with the 175th
Anniversary Eucharist. Father Bill Howard, Vicar, is the fortieth priest to serve St. John’s.
Episcopal services were first read in or near Albion in Edwards County by the first settlers, many of whom were from England. A missionary, the Reverend Amos Baldwin, organized a church in the 1820s but left after six weeks. That church faded.
A second missionary priest, Father Benjamin Hutchins, accepted the frontier call and arrived in Indiana and then Albion around 1838. He and his family returned home to Philadelphia, PA, for three years before returning to Albion in 1841 where they settled. The church was organized afresh in September, 1842 and construction promptly began following a formal cornerstone dedication ceremony.
Constructed of locally-produced bricks and through the talents of area craftsmen, the church retains much of its 1842 character. In 1889-90, Father Hutchins, then Rector Emeritus, and Rev. John Chestnutt supervised a significant remodeling project. A corner entrance with new bell tower was added, a low ceiling was removed to reveal the timber-beamed ceiling, and a wall removed to turn the original vestry room into an enlarged chancel.
The church’s walnut doors, first used in December, 1842, were reset in the new entrance. The double doors have been in continuous use for 175 years.
In the decades since, generations of St. John’s congregates have been stewards of the historic building and have maintained a steady Episcopal presence in Edwards County. St. John’s was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 2014.
For further information, contact Father Bill Howard at 618-315-1671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.