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For nearly two decades after their 1847 arrival, Mormon settlers held practically a theological monopoly in the Utah Territory. If you went to church on Sunday, it was to hear the gospel according to Latter-day Saints' prophet Brigham Young.

That changed in May 1867, when two clergymen, George Foote and T.W. Haskins, held the first Episcopal service inside Independence Hall, an adobe structure near what is now 300 South and Main Street.

On July 4, 1867 — likely delayed while he waited to turn 30, the minimum age for consecration as an Episcopal bishop — the Rev. Daniel S. Tuttle arrived to mark the beginning of the church's pioneering, permanent presence amid the Mormons.

Before that day, non-Mormons, drawn to Salt Lake City by business, mining and the railroad, had few fellowship options. Catholic priests occasionally rode in to hear confessions of the troops at the U.S. Army's Fort Douglas, and a Congregationalist chaplain had begun a fledgling Sunday school in Salt Lake City.

Fast-forward 150 years, and the Rev. Scott Hayashi insists the Episcopal Church and its 5,400 Utah members spread over 22 parishes remain trailblazers.

"The Episcopal Church in Utah, in many ways, is still a pioneer church," says Hayashi, who is in his seventh year as bishop. "Early Mormon settlers relied upon each other to survive and thrive, and, in our early years in Utah, we had to do the very same as we worked to build houses of worship, schools and hospitals."

That "sense of the cooperative" was critical as Episcopalians sought a foothold in Utah shortly after the Civil War. "We still see that today in our congregations," Hayashi adds, "as we work together to feed the hungry, house the homeless, in cooperation with other congregations and religious traditions."

Through Episcopal Community Services, the diocese offers pastoral and spiritual care to hospital patients, nursing home residents and the YWCA's women's shelter. It also sponsors health fairs and community soup kitchens, along with helping to fund after-school and summer programs for at-risk children and medical services for the poor.

Hayashi says he will underscore the importance of such programs during the Diocesan Convention on Friday and Saturday at Salt Lake City's Hotel RL. The gathering will culminate with a banquet honoring the Rev. Michael Curry, head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Friday night. Curry also is to speak at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark at 231 E. 100 South on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which continues its General Conference this weekend, echoed their appreciation for the diocese's ecumenical outreach in congratulating Episcopalians on their Utah sesquicentennial.

"We honor Utah's first Episcopal bishop ... and the many Episcopal pioneers who helped build Salt Lake City and Utah, and who blessed the lives of so many people over the years," the LDS Church statement reads. "We are blessed to have strong, productive relationships with leaders of Utah's many faiths, and we look forward to expanding our already close relationship with Bishop Hayashi, working closely with him and the Episcopal community to serve the people of Utah."

The Rev. Oscar A. Solis, newly installed bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, noted that Roman Catholics, too, enjoy "a wonderful relationship, cooperating on health care, education and charity efforts" with generations of Episcopalians.

"The advocacy for social justice, especially for the poor and homeless, and the defense of the dignity and rights of every person have impacted legislation and certainly touched the consciences of serious citizens," Solis states. "We ask God's special blessing for Bishop Hayashi and the Episcopal community during this historic occasion."

Not all of the Episcopal Church's social imperatives, however, are shared by the state's larger Christian faiths. Utah Episcopalians long have been in the forefront on LGBTQ issues, including support for same-sex marriage and gay clergy.

"When we say, 'Everyone is welcome here,' we mean exactly that: Everyone is welcome — no exceptions," says Russell Pack, a member of the Diocesan Council Executive Committee. "It means that we all are in God's image."

A lifelong Episcopalian, Pack is confident his church will continue to exercise leadership on social-justice issues that belie its relatively small numbers in Utah.

"When we, as a church, see hate crimes, or when we see discrimination, or when we see injustices, we are compelled to work to overcome and correct them. [We have] taken on many justice issues in [our] 150 years here in Utah, and it is certain that there will be others in our next 150 as well."

The Rev. Mary June Nestler, the diocese's "canon of the ordinary" (essentially, executive officer and chief of staff), also predicts Episcopalians will maintain their social-justice relevance in the years ahead — a mission she sees as especially important in conservative Utah.

"The Episcopal Church has cherished its role here, often relishing its 'countercultural' niche," Nestler says. "Yet we are firmly traditional in many ways ... with worship firmly rooted in ancient style and a structure that's ancient, too."

Still, for Nestler, it is her faith's groundbreaking role in ordaining women that will always resound. The Episcopal Church has ordained female deacons since 1971 and women as priests since 1977. Utah Episcopalians made history in 1996 by electing the Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish as their first (and so far only) female bishop.

"I'm in my 38th year [as a priest] and have been a witness and participant over these four decades to extraordinary changes in the Episcopal Church and our wider society," Nestler observes. "I and other women have been pioneers in ways we could not have foreseen."

Today, more than 60 percent of the diocese's clergy are women, she says, "a wonderful testament to the congregations here who raised them up and the progressive-leaning work the diocese has always undertaken."

Hayashi also lauds the energy and experience of the diocese's female clergy. Specifically, he remembers his predecessor, Irish, as a friend and continuing inspiration.

"As was spoken by Bishop Irish, 'Whoever you are, wherever you come from, you are welcome among us,' " he recalls. "We continue to welcome people on their spiritual journey in this life [and] we will meet them not only at the doors of our churches, but in the larger community as well."

Twitter: @remims