The history of parish and its parishioners is one of perseverance.
In the late 1880’s, there was racial conflict in Memphis, Tennessee. As a result of that conflict, a black dentist named Dr Gordon was lynched at Emmanuel Church in Memphis. Several of the parishioners left Memphis and came to Colorado. They were seeking a church in the Episcopal tradition like the Emmanuel Church that they had left behind.
At about the same time, a small group of Anglo-Catholics from England arrived in Colorado. This group was also looking for a church to restore Catholic teaching and worship within the Episcopal tradition, but had not found a mission that fit their religious needs.
Charles Kountz, the owner of the Colorado National Bank, facilitated the combination of these two groups into a united congregation. The resulting church was named after the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer in London. Thus, the church of the Holy Redeemer was born in Denver in 1892.
The parish first worshiped in the basement of St John’s Cathedral, then moved to a diocese-owned church at 10th and Lawrence Streets. In 1893, the group received gifts to purchase lots at 22nd and Humboldt. A rectory was purchased, and a later gift enabled the group to build a small chapel.
Like most Colorado Episcopal churches in the early 1900’s, Holy Redeemer struggled to maintain its mission of restoring the Catholic teachings and Episcopalian rituals. The membership was small, and many of the British members became discouraged and returned to England. In 1921, the church was in danger of closing. The Reverend Harry Rahming, however, persuaded the Bishop to take over the congregation as a diocesan mission. Father Rahming became the first African-American Vicar of Holy Redeemer, and served for 42 years.
In good times or bad, the church has maintained a joyous and supportive environment. Women from the church held dances to raise funds for a new church building, in spite of condemnation from more conservative pulpits in the black community. Several laypeople from other churches attended these dances and contributed to the growth of the Church of the Holy Redeemer.
In 1927, St. Stephens Church, then located at 2552 Williams Street, moved to the Park Hill neighborhood in Denver. Holy Redeemer purchased this church with these funds, and has been located there since that time.
Education of the youth of Holy Redeemer and the surrounding community has always been a priority for the church. In spite of financial hard times, Father Rahming found sources for scholarships so that young students could pursue their professional goals. Many of Denver’s black professionals today trace their education, in part, to the ministry of the Holy Redeemer. The scholarship support for education continues to be a part of Holy Redeemer today.
Holy Redeemer continues to be a racially and culturally diverse congregation. Several members of our church have made strides towards changing history and achieving equality. Many parishioners have been honored for their work in improving the community of Denver and fighting for civil rights.