Church founded by Michigan's first female black landowner celebrates 150th anniversary

Episcopal Church on Grosse Ile celebrates 150 years today

GROSSE ILE TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A local church founded by Michigan’s first female black landowner is celebrating 150 years. 

St. James Episcopal Church on Grosse Ile was founded by Lisette Denison Forth. 

It’s a celebration filled with music and praise. Sunday was a big moment for members of St. James Episcopal Church. They are remembering their church history, by taking a step back in time, 150 years to be exact. 

“Oh, when you think about someone 150 years ago, who had vision and a dream, to see that come true, not only for herself, but for all, to worship God, it’s extremely significant,” said Blanche Hutchinson with St. James Episcopal Church. 

That vision came from Lisette Denison Forth. She’s a former slave who escaped to Canada, sued for her freedom, came back to United States and started St. James, “She had investments, she owned property, she owned a cow, which was rare in those days and in her will, she left $1,500 which was a vast amount in 1866, to build this chapel,” said Reverend Phillip Dinwiddie. 

Forth left behind $1,500 when she died in her will, she said she wanted that money to be used to build the church. 

“What we do, is not about her, it’s because of Christ, but it was because of faith in Christ, that she made that gift. This should be a place, people of every kind, every background can worship side by side and it’s in the forefront of everything that we do today,” said Dinwiddie. 

150 years later, the church is doing just that. 

The church supports 22 local, national and international benevolences, including the Grosse Ile Food Pantry, the Spirit of Hope Soup Kitchen in Detroit and El Hogar De Amor Y Esperanza in Honduras. 

For more information on the church, visit its website here.

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