In 1894, deeply concerned about the lack of pastoral care at various St. Louis City institutions, Charles Holmes, a lay person at Christ Church Cathedral, organized volunteers from the cathedral to minister at City Hospital, the City Jail, the City Workhouse, and the Asylum. Thus was born the House Missions, which was known under various names until it became Episcopal City Mission in the 1950’s. With the establishment of juvenile facilities in the city, the ministry grew to include pastoral care for children.
Eventually, other Protestant denominations joined in this important ministry to those confined in the public institutions of St. Louis. However, in 1953 In an ecumenical agreement, many Protestant denominations formed the Metropolitan Federation of Churches. It was then the decision was made to divide the ministry to these institutions among various denominations. The Episcopal Diocese chose to work with troubled youth and asked to continue the ministry to children in detention under the name of Episcopal City Mission (ECM). Our ministry to youth was firmly established in the Juvenile Detention Centers and recognized by the Family Court System. ECM became the agency authorized by the Court System to provide for the ongoing spiritual needs of detained children in St. Louis City and County.
Today ECM remains strong in our commitment to providing chaplaincy to youth in the juvenile justice system. Our chaplains offer support, hope and healing at the St. Louis City and County Detention Centers, as well as Missouri Hills, a Division of Youth Services facility in North St. Louis County. Since 2017, our chaplains also call on the “adult certified youth” in the St. Louis City and County Justice Centers. Through the programs they offer and their caring, listening presence, ECM chaplains are in a very real sense the compassionate face of a loving God in the lives of the children.
In 2019, ECM collaborated with the St. Louis County Family Court to provide “community-based chaplaincy” services to “court-involved” youth. These are children who are being supervised by the court, but live in the community with a parent or guardian or in a residential treatment home. The first program offered was a grief and loss support group called “Hope and Healing.”