Like so many historically Black congregations, St. Titus’ got its start when a member of a historically white congregation determined to bring the Episcopal tradition to the Black descendants of slaves who lived nearby. In the early 1880’s a Ms. A. L. Ledger, an African American member of St. Philip’s in Durham, taught the catechism to children and adults in the Hayti section of Durham.
In 1885 that Sunday School appeared in the Journal of Convention of the Diocese of North Carolina for the first time. Referred to in the journal as “the Colored Mission in Durham,” it was listed as an outreach ministry of St. Philip’s. During the period from 1885 to 1909 the small Sunday School congregation was pretty much on its own. It was not listed in the Journal after that first entry. However, the new Episcopalians continued to gather for worship. They did not have a priest but lay people kept the church going. They did not own a building so the congregation met in homes, lodge halls, churches, and other Black-owned businesses.
All that changed in 1909 when the Rev. Henry Beard Delany was named Archdeacon for Colored Work. Delany did two memorable things for the mission congregation. He sent the congregation a priest in charge, and he gave us our name, St. Titus’.
Later a parochial school was established as part of the mission, and in 1922 St. Titus’ moved into its first building. Also in 1922, St. Titus’ was accepted into union with Convention as an organized mission.
That first building was destroyed by fire in 1927. The commitment of those early members to keeping St. Titus’ alive continued into the next generation. Fundraising began immediately so that a new building could be purchased. The congregation moved into the new building in 1929. Even with all their fundraising they still had to take on what was for them a large mortgage. And then the Depression hit, further testing those faithful parishioners. The congregation struggled to meet the mortgage each month. A history of the congregation mentions “the Diocese aided at intervals.” That history also mentions “a memorable occasion from one of those dark hours was when select members paid a huge pressing note from their personal funds.”
In 1933 St. Titus’ endeared itself to the community with the erection of a parish house that provided recreation for the young people of the city. During this period St. Titus’ activities for children and youth helped the congregation to grow, attracting newcomers to the Episcopal tradition.
That same history I referenced states, “Every priest from 1930 to 1972 stressed, ‘You must become a parish.’” St. Titus’ did achieve parish status in 1972, the same year they moved into the current building, after the second building was destroyed by fire. It should be noted that the current building is built of cinder block. St. Titus’ had learned its lesson about wooden church buildings.
St. Titus’ was active in the Civil Rights struggle in the 60’s and 70’s. in response to what it called the “Urban Crisis,” the diocese designated St. Titus’ as an Urban Ministry Center and asked its priest in charge, the Rev. Nathaniel Porter, to serve as Director of the Urban Crisis program. The idea behind the center was to use St. Titus’ as a model and a training center from which other programs might grow.
The 1980’s marked the beginning of St. Titus’ participation in outreach programs of the Diocese and the Durham community. Refugee and AIDS ministries were among those outreach programs.
By the 1990’s the size of the congregation had begun to decline. This came about for a number of reasons, including the construction of Highway 147 which divided the community geographically. The congregation returned to mission status in 2012. But that’s not the end of the story.
In recent years good things have been happening at St. Titus’. I came to St. Titus’ as vicar in 2015 and have been blessed to see God at work in this community. Attendance is increasing, both in numbers and in diversity. We hold a service in Commemoration of Blessed Pauli Murray each year. This year the director of the Pauli Murray initiative in Durham announced that she loved to come to that service because when she looked at the congregation, she saw a Pauli Murray crowd. By that she meant diverse in every way imaginable – skin color, nationality, physical ability, income, sexual identity, and on and on. I could have told her that we look like that every single Sunday. People who know what it feels like to be made unwelcome take welcoming others seriously. We are proud of our outreach to our community, particularly the work we do with our neighbors at North Carolina Central and C. C. Spaulding Elementary School. Our budget has increased, allowing my hours to go from half-time vicar when I came in 2015 to full-time priest. At the 2019 Annual Diocesan Convention we were pleased to return to parish status.
St. Titus’ has benefitted from the sense of stability that comes from having a permanent priest. But the bulk of the credit for the congregation’s health today is the core of people who remember how hard their spiritual ancestors worked to keep the doors of St. Titus’ open. Those folks are committed to doing what it takes for St. Titus’ to continue to do God’s work, in the Hayti section of Durham and beyond. We are about the business of Jesus here. We invite you to join us on the way.
The Rev. Stephanie Yancy, Rector
|The Reverend R. J. Johnson||1908-1921|
|The Reverend S. A. Small||1921|
|The Reverend E. L. Henderson||1920-1933|
|The Reverend O. D. Stanley||1932-1945|
|The Reverend F. Hunter||1947-1959|
|The Reverend Joseph O’Brien||1958-1961|
|The Reverend Patrick Sullivan||1958-1962|
|The Reverend D. B. Nickerson||1960-1965|
|The Reverend E. N. Porter||1965-1972|
|The Reverend Dr. Stuart H. Hoke||2009-2010|
|The Reverend Polly Hilsabeck||2010-2011|
|The Very Reverend Michael Battle||2012-2014|
|The Rev. Dr. Harmon L. Smith||1972-1973, 1979-1980, 1987-1989, 2001-2002|
|The Rev. Dr. Craig Phillips||1990-1991|
|The Reverend Martin Caldwell||1999-2000|
|The Reverend Edward S. Brightman||1973 – 1979|
|The Reverend Calvin R. Griffin||1980 –1987|
|The Reverend Monroe Freeman, Jr.||1992 – 1998|
|The Reverend William E. Maddox, III||2002-2008|
|The Reverend Stephanie Yancy||Vicar 2015 to 2019; Rector from 2019 to the present|
|The Reverend Kevin Matthews, Associate Rector|
|The Reverend Bobby Armstrong|
|The Reverend Fred Barwick|
|The Reverend Nan Cushing|
|The Reverend Gary Brower|
|The Reverend Mary Mroczka|
|The Reverend Joyce Washington|
|The Reverend Mary-Marguerite Kohn|
|The Reverend Sarah Woodard|