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Simons Church

St Simon’s Episcopal Church

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Location Class:
Built: 1890 | Abandoned: 2012
Historic Designation: African American Heritage Site
Status: Restored 2022
Photojournalist: Emily Cowan

Table of Contents

Sunday School of St. Simon’s

St Simon's Episcopal ChurchJames H. Guy was the first African American to practice law under the Ohio Supreme Court when he was admitted in 1882. Coming to Topeka in the mid-1800s James started up his own law practice. This same year St. Simon’s Mission was founded, the first services were held in the new law office of James. Guy was a founding member of St. Simons Church, and he was Senior Warden of the vestry board up until his death on Aug. 1, 1931.

Church of St. Simon the Cyrenian

In 1887, the congregation secured land to build their own place of worship. And in 1890, construction was completed, The Waverly Gazette Feb. 14, 1890 reported “On Feb. 2nd, the cornerstone of Topeka’s 48th church was laid. The new church will be known as the Church of St. Simon the Cyrenian. It is an Episcopal church. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Thomas with appropriate services.”  At the time it had no regular priest and was under the wing of Topeka Grace Cathedral.  As of 1894 Rev. G.W. Miner was the minister in charge of the church. Services were held at 4:30 p.m., Sunday School at 9:45 a.m., and Litany on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.

St. Simon Episcopal Church

St Simon's Episcopal ChurchBy 1905, James Guy, Soloman Watkins, and John Wright had left St. John A.M.E. for St. Simon’s as a badge of attributed status they and their families occupied pews close to the altar. Rev. Henry B. Brown started as a deacon then pastor and then advanced to priesthood of the church from 1906 until 1912 when George Gilbert Walker took over as minister in charge. As of January 1906, St. Simon’s had fifty communicants, a predominantly African American congregation. An annual Easter celebration was put on by the church, “The sunlight streaming through colored glass windows adorned the flower-decked chancel and candle-lit sanctuary; and sweet strains of music were mingled with the solemn intonation as the priest and rector, Rev Henry B. Brown celebrated Holy Eucharist in a “Missa Cantata.” Father Brown delivered a symbolical sermon, the subject being, “light the lights.” Mrs. J.K. Wright sang an Easter solo, and Mr. Harry Dillard played a violin solo as the offertory. The spirit of the day, as manifested in all directions, was a testimony to the prosperous condition of St. Simon’s Church, and is, it is hoped, a forecast of greater prosperity.” The church was consecrated by Bishop Millspaugh on Dec. 10, 1909.

Rev. Joseph (Joe) Allen Tinley Thompson grew up in the church first being a choir member & acolyte, then as a lay reader on Sunday mornings when a priest from Grace Cathedral wasn’t available. He was ordained as an Episcopal Deacon in 1956 and assigned as Vicar of St. Simon’s. It was in 1958 when St. Simon’s was merged with Topeka Grace Cathedral and Rev. Joe Thompson became a deacon at the Cathedral. On April 12, 1964, St. Simon’s was sold.

Other Congregations & Restoration

For a number of years, up until the mid-2000s, the building housed the Church of God Holiness congregation. At that point in time, it was (then) the oldest church building in Topeka still in use as a church. But the congregation needed to move west to be more near the demographic of their attendees. Ward-Meade Park had even offered permanent care, maintenance, and use of the building to their congregation if they would move it there. But without the funds, they couldn’t move it. The building was sold and for a short period of time became New Life Baptist Church but by 2009 the congregation had moved out. The last congregation to use the building was Shekinah Glory from 2009 to 2012. Pastor Abbott moved the church to the Abbott Community Center, and the building became abandoned with a future owner selling the beautiful stained glass windows and replacing them with wooden boards.
St Simon's Episcopal Church
Newly restored The Rock Covenant Church ca 2022 Credit to Marilyn Wible

Since then the church neglected church has been reborn again under The Rock Covenant Church. It has been beautifully restored and a connection to the parsonage next door has been constructed. The stained glass windows were replaced and ready to bring in the light of God once again.




 

Bibliography
“1 Feb 1912, Page 7 – The Topeka Daily Capital at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/63693479/?terms=st%2Bsimon%2Bthe%2Bcyrenian%C2%A0.
“14 Feb 1890, 4 – The Waverly Gazette at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/422016155/?terms=st%2Bsimon%2Bthe%2Bcyrenian%C2%A0.
“24 Jan 1906, Page 6 – The Leavenworth Times at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/76942471/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“24 Mar 1955, 4 – Evening Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/367336306/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“25 Nov 1894, Page 8 – The Topeka Daily Capital at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/64751866/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka%2BGW%2BMINER.
“26 Mar 1910, 3 – The Topeka State Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/323133728/?terms=st%2Bsimon%2Bthe%2Bcyrenian.
“4 Nov 1915, Page 6 – The Topeka Daily Capital at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/64576500/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“7 Jan 1906, 18 – The Topeka State Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/323130019/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“African American Topeka.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=8TNoBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=saint%2Bsimon%27s%2Bepiscopal%2Bchurch%2Btopeka%2Bks&source=bl&ots=O6PZRPWV6O&sig=ACfU3U3a0YYrqR0ai0RRQ1jH-POP2rnObg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiK5ODp1PfpAhXxdM0KHUMgB5QQ6AEwEHoECBsQAQ#v=onepage&q=saint%20simon’s%20episcopal%20church%20topeka%20ks&f=false.
“Black Bishop.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=2Ht1WJk5JwAC&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=st%2Bsimons%2Btopeka%2Bks%27&source=bl&ots=LhXPDcTAvF&sig=ACfU3U3Jr_oW7i0DrEmbz4deWCPDTHH43A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiz8-Sgx_fpAhVCLK0KHUvhAlYQ6AEwAnoECCIQAQ#v=onepage&q=st%20simons%20topeka%20ks’&f=false.
“Blacks in Topeka Kansas, 1865–1915.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=oSFBZ8J1MgkC&pg=PA102&lpg=PA102&dq=st%2Bsimons%2Btopeka%2Bks%27&source=bl&ots=kCgwturacR&sig=ACfU3U2VHI2d6P4yZW8HSescZbw8ca3Wgw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiz8-Sgx_fpAhVCLK0KHUvhAlYQ6AEwAXoECCUQAQ#v=onepage&q=st%20simons%20topeka%20ks’&f=false.
Guy Family Page, henryburke1010.tripod.com/lettsettlementreunion/id21.html.
“Photos of James H Guy – Find A Grave Memorial.” Find a Grave, www.findagrave.com/memorial/83691701/james-h-guy/photo.
https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/cjonline/obituary.aspx?n=joseph-allen-tinley-thompson&pid=1727134

Blanche Taylor, Plenteous Harvest: The Episcopal Church in Kansas 1837–1972

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About the author
Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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Mary Wilkins
Mary Wilkins
1 year ago

This church from 2009-2012 was called Shekinah glory and pastor Samuel d Abbott and lady hope Abbott were pastor and First Lady there.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mary Wilkins

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