St. Philip's

St. Philips - Wrangell

PO Box 409
Wrangell, Alaska 99929
Corner of Episcopal Ave. & Church St.
Phone: (907) 874-3047
11:00am Service September - May
9:30am Summer Service
An old website with some more info

  • Sanctuary
  • Window1
  • Window2
  • Wrangellharbor

A History of St. Philip's Episcopal Church

The Earliest Years St. Philip's had its beginning in 1903 when the Rev. Harry Prosper Corser brought Native members of his Presbyterian congregation to property donated by the Kiksetti clan. They build the white frame building that stands today and called it The People's Church. The heritage that St. Philip's has today was born and nurtured by the early builders.

In 1905, The Rt. Rev. Peter Trimble Rowe, Bishop of Alaska, received Mr. Corser and many of his congregants into the Episcopal Church. Corser was later ordained into the priesthood and conti During his ministry in Wrangell, Fr.Corser served not only the Church, but the community as well. He organized Alaska's first Boy Scout troop. He worked with a community effort to build a gymnasium where two generations of Wrangell youth played basketball. He started the St. Philip's Academy where Native youth could be educated past the eighth grade.In these early days, services were held in both English and Tlingit.

During Fr. Corser's ministry, two devoted deaconesses, Miss Ella Wood and Miss Edith Peck, helped with visitatioin of the sick and worked with the church school. There were also many local women without whose devotion, prayers and hard work, St. Philip's mission would not have advanced.

In recognition of a great need, Bishop Rowe and the National Council of the Episcopal Church joined in 1926 with Fr. Corser and the Wrangell community to enable the building of the town's first hospital, named Bishop Rowe Hospital.

A Series of Clergy

With Fr. Corser's retirement, St. Philip's was served by a young lay reader, Mr. Arnold Krone. Mr. Krone studied for Holy Orders and was ordained a deacon at St. Philip's in July, 1938, and a priest a year later. Fr. Krone organized the Episcopal children attending the nearby Wrangell Institute, a Native boarding school, into a group called The Congregation of Christ the King. He also obtained a house near the church that he called St. Philip's House. Krone served in Wrangell for seven years, leaving for the interior Alaskan village of Nenana in 1942.

In 1942, St. Philip's came under the leadership of Rev. William Forbes.He served on the board of Bishop Rowe Hospital and as a public school teacher during a teacher shortage. From his earnings as a teacher he left a lasting memorial, a monetary gift from which some of the lumber for the parish hall was purchased in the late 1940s.

The Rev.Thomas Paul Massin came to St. Philip's in January, 1946. His health had been impaired during his many years of missionary work in the Orient. He was forced to retire in March, 1946.

During the period between 1946 and 1948, St. Philip's was without resident clergy. It was once again the devoted women of the congregation who kept the Mission alive.

In July, 1948, St. Philip's again had a resident priest. With the arrival of the Rev. Hugh Hall, St. Philip's needed a rectory. Now there was the Hall family to house. In 1949, the church purchased an adequate house from the M.O. Johnson family.

In the fall of 1949, volunteer labor started work on the parish hall. Generous gifts from the National Church and the Diocese of Alaska allowed completion of the facility. It was blessed by Bishop Gordon during the fiftieth anniversary celebration of St. Philip's in 1955.

During Fr. Hall's tenure, there was increased growth in the church school and in lay participation. In 1950, upon establishment of St. Andrew's Mission in nearby Petersburg, Fr. Hall's duties were increased. In response to his periodic absences, a Parish Council was elected by the congregation and lay persons took up the duties of leading weekly worship.

After the departure of the Halls in 1958, the Rev. John Lodge served at St. Philip's from 1959-1961. Fr. Lodge was devoted to the belief that all Christians are ministers, and actively supported lay ministry.

In 1961, the Rev. Wilfred Files came to St. Philip's. During his tenure, the church school rooms in the basement were constructed.

A Time of Caum

In 1965, the Rev. Edward Caum was called to service at St. Philip's. Two years later, the present rectory at 314 Reid Street was built with money from the National Church and from the sale of the old rectory. In his early years, Fr. Caum conducted a Bible study class geared for local Japanese women, wives of lumber company staff, helping not only their understanding of Christianity but their command of the English language.

In 1969, Fr. Caum started teaching in the local schools while retaining his pastoral duties with St. Philip's. This allowed the church to remain active during a period of declining support from the National Church.

During Fr. Caum's ministry, St. Philip's was strengthened by the services of two women. Diane Tickell served as an itinerant deacon to St. Philip's from 1974 through 1975. One of her many accomplishments included reorganization of the vestry, in addition to her pastoral work with parishioners in both Wrangell and Petersbrug. Alice Hunt Rooney arrived in 1975 to spend two years as a community worker volunteer in Wrangell and Petersburg. One of her accomplishments was starting the city's recreation programs.

The Past 20 Years Brought New Faces

Fr. Caum left Wrangell in 1978 for a year's teaching sabbatical. During his absence, the clergy couple, the Revs. Liza Spangler and Stephen Kelsey arrived to serve the Episcopal congregations in Wrangell and Petersburg. Fr. Kelsey was ordained priest several months after their July 1979 arrival. They emphasized a growth in lay leadership and supported training in this area. They also expanded the liturgical practices of worship at St. Philip's. St. Philip's honored its seventy- fifth anniversary in 1980 with a grand community celebration.

In 1982, Fr. Kelsey left for New York and Mtr. Spangler left for law school, returning in 1985 to work as an attorney and also to serve as associate pastor of St. Philip's.

The Rev. Janice Hotze accepted a call to St. Philip's in 1983, remaining until 1988. During her tenure, St. Philip's coped with rebuilding the parish hall after a 1985 fire, and the church was designated a historic site.

From 1988 through 1990, Fr. Caum and Mtr. Spangler served as co-vicars, each working other jobs in the community. Fr. Caum retired from teaching in 1990, moving back to his native Pennsylvania. Mtr. Spangler assumed the position of vicar, subsequently closing her law practice. During her tenure, St. Philip's became a self- supporting parish. Before her departure in May, 1995, she oversaw an ambitious project to raise funds and install stained glass windows in the church.

Four dedicated lay readers led weekly worship until the arrival of the Rev. Veronica Knapick in January, 1997. During her tenure, the altar guild was revitalized and a formal church office constructed.

Fr. Mike Curran served the parish following Rev. Knapick up until mid-2004.

The Revs. Paula Sampson and Ian McKenzie served until 2009.

St. Philip's was then served by Supply clergy Rev. Julie Abbot-Jones until 2010.

St. Philip's is currently served by Rev. Wilson Valentine.