St. Anna’s Church was originally established, under the direction of The Rev. Francis Lister Hawks, Christ Church rector, by the Rev. Mr. Charles W. Whitall as St. Peter’s Seaman’s Bethel and began April 19, 1846. Mr. Whitall was ordained to the priesthood on November 2, 1846 by The Right Rev. Leonidas Polk first Bishop of Louisiana.
From her inception St. Peter’s, later named St. Anna’s, was a high church congregation with social justice as an expression of spirituality. St. Anna’s was the first “free church” in New Orleans (not charging pew fees) with open seating for all, some seats being reserved for seamen.
Because there was no other church in the area for English-speaking people and because the church school was very popular, there was pressure to organize St. Peter’s into a parish. A site was purchased in 1849 and a chapel was completed. This arrangement as a mission church remained until St. Anna’s was granted parish status in 1869.
The shape of Liturgy at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church is often refered to as “High Church or Anglo Catholic.” By this we understand the center of our worship to be Eucharist, we venerate the Saints, and we keep Holy Days of Special Devotion. However, we are always mindful that worship should remain accessible, dignified, and authentic. While the worship at St. Anna’s remains well within the 1978 Book of Common Prayer, we use a Missal or Worship Guide to help visitors worship with us instead of trying to figure out what is going on.
St. Anna's is vested in issues of Justice and seeks to be a beacon of the "Beloved Community." Our central missionary focus is on Saint Anna's Mobile Medical Unit; Anna's Arts for Kids; and The Victims of Violence advocacy work and memorial wall. Our most recent dream is to combine all of the missions in a central location as a free Episcopal Day School for children living largely in the Treme and largely in economic poverty. This quest is the central focus of our current work.
St. Anna's is a growing congregation. In 2005, after Hurricane Katraina, the congregation was lucky to muster 12 parishioners. By 2014 the average Sunday attendance is now 112 boasting a Sunday School with about 20 children. It is indeed a rich and diverse congregation with a median age of about 40 representing most demographics in the city. It is a relatively poor parish with lower income levels giving great support to the community that makes up St. Anna's.
St. Anna's has been featured in NPR's State of the Reunion, The AP, Episcopal News, New Yorker, New York Times, The Documentary Film "Shell Shocked", Public TV's Great Museums of the World: New Orleans, and other articles and blog posts.
For further information about St. Anna's our Inner City School project: contact us at 1313 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans, LA. 70116
Being redefined by Hurricane Katrina St. Anna's has aggressively engaged in community work and service. As crime and poverty are imbedded in our neighborhood and beyond we have begun to address these issues by:
- OpNOLA was established as an ESL Center for adult lerners meeting the needs of the vast wave of immigrants to NOLA. Enjoying great success with over 120 students enrolled the program was "spun off" to the Latino Farmers Co-Op and continues meeting the needs of Latin American arrivals in NOLA.
- St. Anna's Mobile Medical Mission (SAMM) was established in collaboration with 12 churches nationwide as an immediate response to Hurricane Katrina and the lack of medical access. Since 2006 SAMM has served literally thousands of clients. In 2008 Harvard University determined that this singular unit returned $12.5 million in down stream medical savings to the community. In 2014 studies are being conducted to transition this ministry into a community clinic again meeting the needs of under served populations.
- The Victims of Violence Ministry continues to bring attention to urban violence in a variety of ways and is widely recognized as a symbol of hope and justice within the conversations regarding urban violence. Mosted noted is the Victims of Violence Memorial Wall listing over 2,000 local murder victims since 2007. The work continues.
- Anna's Arts for Kids (AAK) was established in 2010 in response to urban violence and as a vehicle to interrupt the forces of poverty in the lives of the cities children. Since 2010 there has been accumulated data suggesting that this program is achieving substantial results in the lives of our 60-70 students. With this information in mind the next major effort is to establish an Episcopal Urban Academy as a full time Day School promoting justice, social and spiritual values, and preparing young minds for success. The challenge is vast but we hope. Got to www.annasarts.org
- Food Pantry is targeted at HIV/AIDS clients who are in transitional housing and support circumstances. At any given time we meet the feeding needs of about 30 clients on a monthly basis to provide food and other sundries as more premanent soultions are put into place for them. The Pantry is largely support by the efforts of local pubs and bars largely in the LGBT community near the church.
- The Dodwell House is so named for beloved Rector Robert Dodwell and his wife Mary K. The property is under development as a safe haven for all people and will become the home for AAK and SAMM as a holistic approach to redeveloping the neighborhood (one of the poorest in the USA) and to provide critical services to that neighborhood. This includes the dream of a Day School. Go to www.dodwellhouse.org