St. Philip's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Detroit
is the 1st Black Lutheran Church in The State of Michigan.
We the people of St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church are the Living Body of Christ where people REACH OUT IN LOVE to each other and to the community with the Gospel and with an emphasis on equipping each person, especially our youth, for the continuing ministry of the Church.
St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is living, thriving and joyfully serving as a Beacon of God’s grace in the community.
Our current Pastor Rev. Bertram B. Lewis Sr., guides this congregation for the purpose of winning and converting souls to a life with God and with each other, in addition to reaching out with the Gospel in the spirit of Christ to all souls.
St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – LCMS dates back to the early 1930’s. Some of the first organizers consisted of Mr. William Weekes, Mr. Joe Hanson, and the McBryde family. Eight members who sowed the seeds of St. Philip’s, by a very few but dedicated, diligent workers for Christ. This small group was so dedicated that church services at the time were being held at the home of Mr. William Weekes, Mrs. Mattie Woodward and her family who were Lutherans from Alabama. They then contacted Reverend H. J. Storm of Windsor, Ontario, Canada through the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He would be instrumental in the founding of the mission’s congregation. It would become the First Negro Lutheran Congregation in Detroit, a city in 1934 of 1,568,000 people, 120,000 of them Negro.
Pastor Storm rented a small one room apartment across the street from the Negro Democratic Club on East Warren and St. Antoine Streets. He commuted every Sunday through the, then, four-year-old Windsor Tunnel to preach to the tiny congregation at ten in the morning, He would quickly return to his own congregation to preach at eleven.
On July 1, 1936, the congregation installed its first resident pastor, the Reverend Raymond R. Pollatz. A likable young man; but somewhat of a novice in the mission field. Some of St. Philip’s members determined to just wait and pray for his capabilities to show through. Almost immediately he came upon the novel idea – since he and Mr. Robert Ingram, the first president of the congregation, owned the only two cars in the church, why not use them to bring people to church?
Thus began St. Philip’s Evangelic “Taxi-Service” with Mr. Ingram going one way and Pastor Pollatz the other with a growing Sunday School and parents staying for church service. In 1937 the congregation moved to Sherrard Junior High School on East Euclid at Cameron in the North-End section of Detroit.
2014 - 2019
Today St. Philip’s joins together in thanking God for bringing Pastor Marvin A. Griffin Sr. who answered our call on November 14, 2014, after Pastor David Burgess, who led the congregation the past 20 years retired May 1, 2014. (We were blessed to have Rev. Paul Pollatz lead us until Pastor Griffin was installed on November 2, 2014.) the church continues to operate in love and as a beacon of God’s grace in the community.
An article appearing in the Michigan Chronicle on the celebration of St. Philip’s tenth anniversary allowed the church to gain more exposure and notice from the community, now posing a welcomed issue. The ability of the church to accommodate all the new souls eager to worship Christ, but St. Philip’s is built on faith which allowed the church to move forward. The nucleus of the membership organized Berea Lutheran Church under the leadership of Reverend Brent, another mission, St. Titus, on Chene and Pierce, was also begun. Joining these was St. Matthias, pastured by Reverend Thompson, one of the first black Lutheran pastors in Michigan. Now, St. Philip’s had three sister congregations truly a blessing. During this time Reverend John Calhoun was called as a Vicar to St. Philip’s. he later ministered to a congregation in Detroit.
In the fall of 1944, St. Philip’s Day school started in the church with twelve students, the pastor and one teacher, Miss Erica Runge.
The Parent-Teacher League organized a lunchroom program, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mrs. Mamie Henderson was the lunchroom supervisor. With growth, the school moved to a larger site on Chene Street. For the next six years, an interparish school was maintained with St. Titus, Mr. Zelt was the principal.
In August of 2019 Pastor Marvin A. Griffin Sr. retired from ministry and passed the baton to Rev. Bertram B. Lewis, Sr. Pastor Lewis accepted the call of our church and was installed as the associate Pastor of St. Philip’s in September of 2019.
Our congregation is a part of the LCMS Urban Black Ministry devoted to African Americans and other ethnic cultures.
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