Q: Bishop Barker recently visited our parish and now I’m curious about his vestments and other objects associated with being a bishop. Can you explain their significance?
A: That’s a great question, and one that is of special interest to me because I served on the Transition Committee that was charged with procuring those very vestments and objects for Bishop Barker. The ministry of the bishop is to connect all of the parishes in the diocese, to connect all of the dioceses to one another, and to maintain a connection between the church of today and the early church established by the apostles. The bishop’s vestments help symbolize his ministry (both men and women serve the church as bishops, but since your question was about Bishop Barker, I will use male pronouns in my answer).
The pointed hat that the bishop wears is called a mitre. Bishops have been wearing mitres for about 1,000 years, so they are very recognizable symbols of the office of bishop. The mitre is shaped like a flame, reminding us of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the upper room on Pentecost, when the church was born. We believe that bishops represent an unbroken lineage (sometimes called succession) all the way back to the first apostles, so the flame-like hat reminds us of that special spiritual ancestry.
The cape that the bishop sometimes wears is called a cope. Historically, copes are reminiscent of overcoats worn during Roman times. The bishop typically only wears a cope when he is participating in a non-Eucharistic liturgy (a church service without Holy Communion), but it may also be worn in the first part of a Eucharistic service or when performing services that only he can do, such as ordination or confirmation.
The stole is a long piece of fabric that priests (and bishops) wear around their necks and deacons wear across their chests. They are symbols of obedience to Christ.
The alb is the white garment that goes under all the other vestments. If you are a chalice bearer in your parish, you may wear and alb yourself sometimes. Albs are symbols of our baptism and reminders that we are all equal in Christ. Above everything else, the bishop is first and foremost a baptized Christian. The alb is a reminder that our identity is found in baptism, not ordination.
When the bishop visited your church he probably carried a large staff with him, called a crozier. The crozier, which has a curved top, looks like a traditional shepherd’s staff and is symbolic of the bishop’s ministry as pastor (shepherd).
Bishop Barker wears a ring on his right hand with the seal of the Diocese of Nebraska. It is an ancient tradition—probably dating back to the Middle Ages—that a bishop receive a ring at his or her ordination. The ring is a symbol of the bishop’s faithfulness to the Church and to Christ. In rare occasions when the bishop must seal a document in wax, he can use his ring.
The bishop has other special garments symbolic of his ministry (like a chimere, rochet, and tippet), but he doesn’t typically wear them on parish visits (at least not that I’ve seen).
Rev. Liz Easton
A deacon wearing a stole (deacons wear the stole across one shoulder, priests around both)
Bishop Barker’s crozier
Several bishops wearing their copes
Bishop Barker in his mitre
A Bishop’s Ring
About one month from now, I will be moving to Cape Town, South Africa where for the coming year I will be volunteering for the Young Adult Service Corps in a placement as the Communications and Development Assistant at HOPE Africa, the social programming arm of the Anglican Church in South Africa! I’m still learning quite a lot about this job, but so far I’ve discovered that I’ll be spending my days traveling to different locations in South Africa and learning about the programs in these different places. Once I’ve learned about them, I’ll then create blurbs and photos that HOPE Africa can put on their website and Facebook page. I am writing here to ask the support of my fellow Nebraska Episcopalians.
One of the easiest ways to support me on my trip is to add me to your prayers. I’m carrying with me the long list of people and families that have supported me to make sure they’re in my prayers all year round!
Emily Barker (at left) with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other new missionaries at the 2013 class orientation
Another way to support me is to read my blog. As a YASC volunteer, I am required to post to my blog at least two times a month, and I plan to fill my posts with lots of interesting info about Cape Town and the people I meet there. You can find my blog at http://theysolovedtheworld.blogspot.com.
The YASC program is committed to sending as many qualified people as they can overseas to help out in the communities that need them. The cost per ex-pat is $20,000. Luckily, YASC will cover half of that for each of us, but we are expected to raise the other $10,000 on our own. So far, I have about $6,500, which is great. But I’m still a ways off from my goal of $10,000, and I could really use your support. If you’re willing and able to contribute any sort of monetary donation, there are a two ways to go about doing that:
Option #1 is an online donation. A crowd-funding site called Go Fund Me allows makes it easy to send donations straight to me. Online donations also offer fun perks and rewards depending on your giving level. If you’d like to donate online, go to http://www.gofundme.com/32d2c8and click the big DONATE button! This method is the easiest, but unfortunately not tax-deductible.
Option #2 (the tax-deductible one) is to donate through the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska. Simply make a check out to the Diocese of Nebraska, write “HOPE Africa” on the note line, and mail it to the Diocese of Nebraska, 109 N. 18th St., Omaha, NE, 68102. The Diocese will take care of the rest.
Suffice it to say that I will be grateful for any and all support that you can give. Please also know that I’m supremely grateful for the support you’ve given me over the years to help me be ready for this journey at this stage in my life. I look forward to being the best servant I can be, and to representing my fellow Nebraskans in South Africa in the year to come!
NOVO (a Latin word for renew, refresh) is a youth-led faith event. This is a weekend filled with creative worship, games and fun!
NOVO is a spiritual renewal event for some and a spiritual discovery for others. The focus is around the Stations of the Cross and a connection with the Holy Spirit.
High school youth will share their faith through talks, small groups and music. Youth from all over Nebraska are invited to join in this weekend. We encourage you to invite your friends!
Please join us at Camp Timberlake on Friday, September 6th to Sunday, September 8th to experience this renewing journey with Jesus.
Please click on the link below to learn more and to get registered:
Saturday, June 22, dozens of Episcopalians from numerous Nebraska parishes gathered amidst a sea of rainbows in downtown Council Bluffs to march in the Heartland Pride Parade. The spirit was joyful and upbeat as faithful laity and clergy marched to extend the Episcopal Church’s welcome to the GLBT community and their allies. It was apparent from this group that welcome, like God’s grace, is so much more than a word.
Members and clergy from seven local parishes share Christ’s message
of welcome at the Heartland Pride Parade
Kicking off this grand event on Thursday, June 20, Fr. Jason Emerson (Church of the Resurrection, Omaha) and Fr. Randy Goeke (Church of Saint Mary in the Sandhills, Bassett) participated in an interfaith candlelight prayer vigil in Stinson Park. The prayers and Fr. Jason’s sermon there brought to awareness the great resource faith and prayer can and need to be in standing in solidarity with those who are victims of bullying, discrimination and hate.
Both Friday and Saturday (June 21 and 22) members of the newly formed Nebraska Chapter of Integrity, gave out free bottles of water, “anointed” the hot and weary with sun screen, and shared their stories of the Episcopal Church’s welcome of GLBT folks during Heartland Pride’s fair held in Stinson Park. The response of those seekers stopping by Integrity’s booth was overwhelmingly positive. Numerous parish lists and literature about our wonderful old church were given out to the very colorful crowd. Thanks to Bishop Barker and all the clergy and laity who helped make this important witness a reality.
Fr. Randy Goeke
I have just returned from spending a week with our diocesan youth at Camp Comeca in Cozad, Nebraska. We had a particularly rich and joyful time together this year, learning and celebrating around the theme of, “Emmanuel – Christmas in the Summertime.” In addition to digging deeply into the stories of Christ’s birth as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we also speant time singing carols, making Christmas decorations, and for one memorable evening, playing “Reindeer Games” on the front lawn of the camp. (Who knew that water balloons and shaving cream we’re such important pieces of equipment for Rudolf and his friends?)camp0
There are many blessings that flow as part of being at camp together each year. These include being knit together Christ’s body in a special way, growing in faith as a community built over the course of a whole week working and playing together, and dwelling in the wondrous natural beauty of central Nebraska. I am very grateful to the kids, parents and staff who made participating in camp a priority this year. There are few activities that unite us across our large and diverse diocese quite so wonderfully as church camp.
My particular thanks go out to our camp Co-Directors Noelle Ptomy and Kourtney Lewis, whose shared and exceptional leadership made Camp Comeca 2013 one of the best camps ever!
If you missed it this time around, I urge you to participate as either a camper or a counselor in July of 2014 as the Diocese of Nebraska once agains descends on Camp Comeca.
Nebraska Episcopalian – New Format
You will notice several changes in the Nebraska Episcopalian beginning with this latest issue. We’re moving to an exclusively on-line publication, which will mean we can be in touch more often and more immediately with news of diocesan people and events. Our on-line format will also make room for more and better photos to tell the story of our diocese, and for the incorporation of larger special pieces of reporting for you to read at your own pace. Jo Behren’s article published here – “Pray Fervently, Labor Diligently and Give Liberally”: The Story of Episcopal Women’s Ministry in Nineteenth Century Nebraska,” – is an exceptional example of the kind of in-depth writing we hope to now be able to feature more regularly in this publication.
Please do send us feedback about this new format, as well as your suggestions for future stories and features in, The Nebraska Episcopalian.
Review of Rich Church, Poor Church — Keys to Effective Financial Ministry, by J. Clif Christopher. (Nashville; Abington, 2012) 108 pgs.
In the introduction to his short book on church financial health, “Rich Church, Poor Church,” author Christopher shares some startling statistics on charitable giving:
- Religion used to receive 60 percent of all charitable gifts in America. Today it receives 32 percent.
- United Methodists and Presbyterians give an average of 1 percent of their income to the church. Episcopalians and Lutherans give 1.1 percent. Baptists give 2 percent. Orthodox and Catholics give less than 1 percent.
- In the past decade the number of financially healthy churches has dropped from 31 percent to 14 percent of all churches, a drop of over 50 percent!
Christopher, a former United Methodist pastor and current CEO of Horizons Stewardship Consulting, then goes on to describe the ideas, characteristics, and behaviors that his research has shown to differentiate between financially healthy and financially unhealthy churches.
In doing so, Christopher makes a compelling case that there are specific, indentifiable characteristics that affect a church’s financial health, and offers hope that any church, paying attention to the right things, can move from one category to the other. In other words, struggling churches are not bound to continue to live in financial uncertainty, but can create a new future by gathering their leadership and applying their resources in ways that follow the successful patterns of others who have made that transition.
Each of the eleven chapters lists and contrasts specific points that churches can attend to. Not very point applies to every church, and not every church will agree with every point the author makes. However, I found myself agreeing with most of what Christopher writes, and I recommend this book enthusiastically to every parish, regardless of their financial position. It is not a stewardship program or campaign, but is rather an invitation for parish leaders to study together some church health and growth information based on the author’s substantial experience working with churches, both financially troubled and sound.
Fr. Mark Selvey
Thirteen deacons gathered at St. Luke’s, Kearney, August 16 and 17 to visit, eat together, worship together, and reflect on our vocations. Throughout our gathering, we celebrated the variety of ways in which the small group that had assembled manifests the ministry of deacons.
Friday night was for visiting with each other, enjoying a catered barbecued beef dinner that Deacon Colleen Lewis had arranged for us, and praying compline together.
Saturday morning began with Deacon Wes Agar’s pancakes and sausages. After breakfast, each of us shared what’s new in our ministries, and several also shared about ongoing ministries and ways of balancing diaconal service with other things going on in our lives.
We congratulated Deacon Cheryl Harris on receiving a Stephen’s Award at the Association for Episcopal Deacons assembly in June, and she shared the story of her travel adventures and what she learned at the AED workshops. As a result of Cheryl’s information from the assembly and some of the issues raised during the sharing about our ministries, there is interest among the deacons in getting the film Traces of the Trade about the legacy of slavery and the relatively unknown complicity of New Englanders and the Episcopal Church in the slave trade.
Using notes and materials from the spring AED Archdeacons conference, I shared some thoughts on the historical waves of the diaconate in the Episcopal Church and reflection on who we are now and what the diaconate might look like in years to come. With ordination dates ranging from 1984 to 2013 for the deacons at this gathering, we were able to see how the development of the order of deacons is reflected here in the Diocese of Nebraska.
Deacon David Holmquist told us about effective ways to advocate in the Nebraska Unicameral. Along with helping us understand more about the legislative process, he described several issues we may want to continue watching because of their ties to social justice issues that concern deacons and provided us with packets of information about the legislature. We agreed that a longer workshop would be very worthwhile for deacons and others who want to join us in advocacy.
After lunch and more time to visit, we gathered for Eucharist with Fr. Jerry Ness celebrating. We used the propers for St. Mary the Virgin. In the homily, I suggested that Mary’s Song of Praise in Luke 1:46-55 in the context of our common notions about Mary’s life and character could help us reflect further on our own vocations as deacons.
As we left, the consensus was that an informal annual gathering of deacons would be beneficial – and fun. Look for another gathering of deacons in 2014.
Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett
July 19 started a wild week at St. Elizabeth’s in Holdrege as Vacation Bible School began. St. Elizabeth’s and Spirit of Grace Lutheran combined to host Kingdom Rock – a bible school that helped all of us know that our strength in God will help us conquer whatever life brings us. The Bible School was open to all and we had 38 participants (including helpers) and many adult volunteers. The participants represented 5 area churches and some who did not have a church affiliation. It was a great week with lots of singing, lots of games and activities, and bible stories. The week ended with a barbeque open to all families and friends. We served over 100 people. The kids ended their week with water balloons and sponge relay games!
St. John’s Episcopal Episcopal Church
One of the new Ministries in the Nebraska Diocese is the repair and renovation of parish rectories in some of the small church communities in our diocese.
The first parish to experience this new ministry is the Broken Bow, Nebraska parish of St. John’s. An assessment was recently determined that the parish rectory was in very poor condition and should be either restored or demolished, whichever seemed most cost effective.
The rectory has not been used for many years as a residence for the parish priest. The rectory at one time was the source of rental income for the parish, but due to disrepair was no longer adequate for rental.
Since the Broken Bow region is strong economically, the decision was made to go ahead with renovation.
In July of this year a small mission team of Nebraska Episcopalians travelled to Broken Bow to initiate the renovation process. Working in conjunction with some contractors, a significant amount of restoration was completed at that time. The entire interior was examined for determination of what should stay and what should be removed.
Carpeting was removed from the upstairs floors. The original hardwood floors will be restored to their original condition. Ceiling tiles were removed and will be replaced. The exterior siding of the house was prepared and given two coats of paint. The bathroom interiors were totally removed and will be replaced. Windows were removed and reglazed.
The mission team was small in number, but was able to accomplish a considerable amount of repair and restoration.
In September, a plumbing and electrical contractor will complete the interior work. The rectory should be available for rental later on this year.
This is a new ministry for the diocese and should provide a basis for working on more diocese projects of this type in the future.
Pray Fervently, Labor Diligently and Give Liberally
The Story of Episcopal Women’s Ministry in Nineteenth Century Nebraska
Jo L Behrens*
“The Christmas Festival for the benefit of the Sabbath School of Trinity Church, . . , was well attended, and in all respects a complete success.” So reported the (Omaha) Nebraska Republicanon December 25, 1863. The festival’s organization and success was a credit primarily due the women of Trinity Church, whose efforts to organize village events, from pie sales and summer picnics to Harvest Festivals and Holiday boutiques, created the nucleus of parish community development. The same story could be told innumerable times and about every denomination and parish across the West during the last half of the nineteenth century, for it was the efforts of frontier women whose community leadership skills created a sense of stability within the often-rowdy frontier towns.
Nebraska Territory had filled rapidly with white settlers after it opened in 1854. As small villages quickly dotted the banks of the Missouri River, town boosters wasted no time in petitioning clergy from churches of every denomination to bring to services to their settlements, thereby assuring investors that their towns would thrive and grow. But the Episcopal Church had been tardy in its appearance – as noted by Bishop Jackson Kemper when he visited Omaha City in mid-1856. Traveling in the territory with Iowa Bishop Henry Lee, and Rev. William N. Irish of St. Joseph, Missouri, Bishop Kemper acknowledged the need for an immediate missionary effort when he arrived in Omaha City. He reported that, “Tents are seen in every direction . . . . Already, in some respects, we are too late in the field. Missionaries should be in the Territory, . . .” Thus, when Missionary Bishop Joseph Crucickshank Talbot arrived in the territory in April 1860, his flock was largely confined to the two existing parishes, one in Nebraska City and one in Omaha; he was assisted by four clergymen. Although Bishop Talbot’s tenure coincided with America’s Civil War years, settlement of the region did not slow. Wagon traffic along the Platte River trails was extensive. Lured by gold and silver strikes in Colorado, Montana, and California, and beckoned by potential commercial success and land, even during the war era, over 100,000 emigrants headed into the West. Many adventurers chose to settle in places along the way West, establishing multiple communities across the territory, each of which represented the opportunity to gather new souls to a mission-minded bishop and his staff. Thus by the time Bishop Talbot left the territory in 1865, there were eight parishes, four of which were self-supporting, and nine clergymen. But among the newly-minted Episcopalians, there was a gender-based division of labor. Most often townsmen constructed the church buildings. However, it was the women who sewed the altar linens, who furnished quarters for the clergyman, and who taught in the grammar or Sabbath School. A woman’s call to serve Christ in His Church fell only within her accepted sphere of influence – family, home, parish, and civic community.
The post-Civil War era brought a period of tremendous growth to Nebraska. Construction of the transcontinental railroad west from Omaha brought thousands of adventurous young men – both American and immigrant – to serve as the necessary surveyors, bridge builders, graders, track layers, lumber cutters, and rolling stock builders. By the railway’s completion in 1869, the state’s pre-war population had been quadrupled. At Annual Council that year, Bishop Robert Harper Clarkson reported sixteen parishes (most with buildings), twenty missions, and twenty-one clergymen to serve nearly 900 communicants in the eastern part of the state. In addition to their pastoral care, the clergy kept all communicant and vital statistics for their flocks; they also kept all financial records related to their missionary efforts. Likewise the clergy were fund raisers for their new congregational buildings, and they organized schools for their often-illiterate, immigrant, potential parishioners. Additionally, the majority of clergymen in the West served multiple missions in several towns, travel among which was often arduous and dangerous. More clergy were needed, but noted the Bishop at the height of the financial recession in 1876, the towns had few resources to pay clergymen, adding “I cannot ask them to come and be starved.” However the burgeoning demand for clergy services also expanded the opportunities for women to serve. Women’s ministries were needed nationwide in urban neighborhoods for sewing classes, soup kitchens, hospitals, and orphanages. After the Civil War, Episcopal women worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau across the South. And on the frontier, their charitable skills were in great demand on Indian reservations. Forced onto, and confined within lands set aside for them, most of America’s natives lived in abject poverty, because although treaty provisions said otherwise, the needs of Native Americans were never accommodated by Congressional budgets. Because Episcopal women often had both the economic means and the time to undertake such volunteer work, some historians credit their efforts in the post-Civil War era with initiation of the later social-gospel movement.
In addition to civic community work, the increasing need for “ministers of care” led to two closely-related religious professions for women: associations of deaconesses and the establishment of sisterhoods. The latter were seen first in England in the 1840s – an outgrowth of the Oxford Movement. Anglican sisterhoods were religious communities in the monastic tradition, often with rules for obedience as well as the wearing of special clothing. In America, sisterhoods seemed suspiciously “Romish,” and where they existed, their mission was related to social service.. Deaconesses generally did not live in a religious community, but in that of a secular city neighborhood or rural Indian reservation, where their roles were decidedly different from that of deacons. While both ministries emphasized service, the male deacon was ordained to assist the priest in every kind of service – from the Mass to baptism; he was also expected to preach when asked to so. The female deaconess was set apart for service in the vein of the “cult of true womenhood.” She was expected to be submissive and obedient to a priest or bishop, just as she would be to her husband.
The model for elevating women to that clerical office originated in the early church; multiple references to females as deacon exist before the sixth century A.D. By that time in the East, women were being ordained as deacon. Although many such women were celibate or widows over the age of forty, some of them had families and husbands with whom the ordinands interacted. Their roles included providing a variety of ministries to women. In the East, where societal gender separation was the norm, the rite of baptism provided a cultural imperative for the use of female clergy in performance of the ritual. When administered to an adult, baptism required the total immersion of a naked body, followed by anointing with oil by the officiant. In the fifth century when the practice of ordaining women as deacons spread into Western Europe, administrative concern about elevating women to clergy status put the subject onto the agenda of multiple church councils, each of which produced a canon to subordinate the status of previously ordained women. At the Council of Orange in 441, for instance, Canon 26 said ofordained female deacons, “let them submit their heads to the benediction . . . that is granted to the laity.” Doing so would demonstrably demote them; women were not to be elevated above the status of loyal lay Christian men. Interestingly, Pope Benedict VIII in the early eleventh century seemed to acknowledge and accept women who had already been ordained in northwest Portugal saying, “we concede and confirm to you and to your successors in perpetuity every episcopal ordination . . . of deacons or deaconesses. . . .” But his position was an anomaly. The demand for ordained female deacons waned as infant baptism became the norm. Additionally, Western culture did not emphasize gender separation as did that of the East where pastoral visitations of ill and secluded women by male clergy were regarded as improper. Thus the same cultural separation of males from females that restricted women’s presence in the Sanctuary also permitted ordination of women as deacons to serve female pastoral needs.
The problem of how best to expand women’s roles in the Church, yet remain within the parameters of societal norms, was compounded by the division of communicants and clergy into two political camps, that of low churchmen and high churchmen. Low churchmen favored an evangelical approach to theological questions – i.e. salvation by faith. They preferred fewer trappings of liturgy (such as altar candles), and services such as Morning Prayer that could be led by a Lay Reader. Those of the high church persuasion, the more favored approach of Nebraska clergy, adhered strongly to the church’s institutional traditions – traditional liturgies like the Eucharist, Sacraments as “the outward and spiritual sign” of God’s grace, and the three traditional levels of ordained ministry in Holy Orders. While administrative dominance by those holding the latter view would seem to undermine the growth of women’s ministries, that tendency was mitigated by America’s rapid population expansion and increasing societal needs which instead boosted clerical opportunities for women. As a result, after the Civil War,multiple informal organizations of deaconesses were established. To define parameters for those organizations’ existence, by 1874 a committee of supportive clergy had begun working to create a canon that would set aside women “of devout character and approved fitness” for sisterhoods and deaconess associations. Introduced first at the 1874 General Convention, it was not approved. But at every subsequent General Convention until 1883, a canon on women’s ministries was proposed and discussed, although no consensus on the canon’s definitive wording was reached. Even te canon’s proponents allowed its complete omission from the 1886 convention. One of the stumbling blocks to the canon’s passage was wording that included the concept of salary for a woman. Related issues included amounts to be paid, where the deaconess should live, and how a pension fund for her old age care could be established. A canon delineating rules for deaconesses finally passed both houses at the 1889 General Convention. It had three amendments: 1)the deaconess must be unmarried; 2)the deaconess must be deemed fit for the role by two priests and twelve lay people; and 3)the deaconess was under full control of her bishop, who could remove or suspend her (following a hearing) if he deemed it prudent to do so.
As Roman Catholicism spread rapidly across the country in mid-century, Episcopal clergymen grew increasing competitive in their quest for new communicants in the West. High churchmen drew a fine line between maintenance of Anglican traditions and what they perceived as the excessive ritualism favored by the “Romists.” Thus the question of ritual had been front and center at the October 1871 General Convention in Baltimore. At the September 1872, Nebraska Annual Council, Bishop Clarkson told his clergy that the General Convention had “deprecated all . . . Romish peurilities [sic] ‘with no uncertain sound’.” In other words, traditional high church practices were highly acceptable; Roman Catholic additions to tradition, which Bishop Clarkson called “shams and baubles,” were not. The 1871 General Convention had also formally organized the Women’s Auxiliary to the Board of Missions. Women’s groups were formally recognized as the fund raising arm of the Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society, but the auxiliary was also charged with encouraging female vocations in the Church. At the 1872 Annual Council, Bishop Clarkson applauded the General Convention’s actions noting that there existed ample need for women to “devote themselves to the Church’s work of ministering to the sick, guiding the young, instructing the ignorant, [and] cheering the desolate. . . .” But he added, “My own judgement and preference in this line of church work, would . . . be for an Order of Deaconesses, set apart by our own authority, . . . belonging to the Diocese and responsible to its laws and rules, than to an order of sisters belonging to some outside sisterhood, under control of some foreign authority and pledged to some (to us) unknown vow, and perhaps attached to some unusual ritual.”
The most logical reason for Bishop Clarkson to see the need for a deaconess was the work being undertaken by the diocese in the Ladies Hospital, originally conceived as an ecumenical venture by the women of Omaha in January 1869. In June of that year, the association had received a twenty-one year lease from the City of Omaha for “all that portion of the tract or parcel of land lying west of block three hundred and forty-four,” a very small block of land in the original plat of Omaha at approximately Twenty-third and Webster streets along the city’s western edge. And although a building with six rooms was constructed on the site, the women’s Good Samaritan Hospital was not well-known enough to even appear in the annual city directories. In October 1870, the Ladies Hospital Association asked the Diocese of Nebraska to take control of the hospital; the diocese under Bishop Clarkson accepted the resolution drafted by the women of the Good Samaritan Hospital, who simultaneously elected Bishop Clarkson as a Trustee of the facility. It appears that, from its inception, the hospital had been in direct competition with what the women referred to as “a large and well organized Hospital . . . established by the Romanists.” The Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy in charge of the hospital (eventually called St. Joseph’s) were undoubtedly the “sisterhood” to which Bishop Clarkson referred in his September 1872 suggestion to initiate an Order of Deaconesses.
The most logical reason for the Ladies Hospital Association to seek leadership from the diocese was the person of Meloria McPherson Clarkson, wife of the Bishop. During the Clarksons’ tenure at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Chicago, the women of the parish – known affectionately as “Women of Israel” for their benevolent activities in the city – had established a soup kitchen, a hospital, raised funds for orphans, and organized the Chicago Northwestern Sanitary Fair to raise money to support sick and wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War. Mrs. Clarkson brought her leadership skills to Omaha where she quickly established her reputation for leadership in women’s volunteer work in Trinity Parish and in the City of Omaha. Over the next two years, donations for the hospital were collected from the Trinity congregation, subscribing members (a “friends” organization) paid monthly dues of one dollar, and fees were collected from those patients who could pay; the funds were used to acquire additional beds and linens, and to make building repairs. In October 1873, the Bishop established a committee (of three men) to determine the best course of action by the diocese toward the hospital. The committee recommended “a Deaconess . . . skilled to some extent in medicine, and possessing experience as a nurse, who should reside in the Hospital, and take full charge of its internal management, under the Bishop.” The individual called to fill that role was Sister Mary Hayden.
Sister Mary had no official training for her role, although by the early 1870s, there were multiple schools and programs offering training courses to enhance women’s parish church and missionary work. Mary Ellen Hayden was already a longtime resident of the city when in June 1873, her name first appears as a baptismal witness in the records of Trinity Parish; thereafter she was a frequent witness for baptisms. On Thursday evening, April 23, 1873, St. Mark’s Day, Mary Ellen Hayden was admitted into the Diocese of Nebraska as Deaconess according to a ceremony used in the Diocese of Long Island – “simple, solemn, and beautifully appropriate.” The sermon was preached by Missionary Bishop William Hobart Hare of the Missionary District of the Niobrara. Bishop Clarkson commented that Sister Mary had been “consecrated to a sacred work among the poor, has been laboriously employed under the direction of the Chapter in the Cathedral city,” and that “many instances are personally known to us where permanent blessing has followed her foot-steps.” At the quarterly meeting held on Tuesday, April 28, Sister Mary presented her first report as Deaconess. It is perhaps significant to note however, that in the formal record of the Chapter meeting on April 28, there is no mention of either the admission of Sister Mary as Deaconess, or of her first report in that position. The latter information was only recorded in The Omaha Daily Herald.
Over the next decade, while the work of the deaconess was extensive, the records of her work were not. In 1875 Bishop Clarkson called her “self-denying” and “a most effective help to the clergy.” In April 1877, Sister Mary reported making 192 pastoral visits during the preceding quarter, and over 900 in the year ending April 25. In 1876, Deaconess Sister Dora Holbrook, a nurse by training, was added to the diocesan clergy roster, taking over management of the hospital, still at the Webster Street location. However, the building burned in 1877, temporarily terminating diocesan efforts to minister to Omaha’s less fortunate population, altough Sister Dora continued to live in Omaha serving elsewhere as a nurse. Meanwhile, Sister Mary Hayden continued to serve the Trinity parish community, although no specific data about her activities exits. Late in 1881, a diocesan hospital facility reopened as the Child’s Hospital in a rented house (the residence of Sister Mary Hayden) on lots to the south of the Cathedral along Dodge Street. Sister Sarah Mattice, trained at the Bishop (Alonzo) Potter Memorial House in Philadelphia, arrived in Omaha to serve as its administrator. The latter school had been founded in 1867 by William Welsh, Philadelphia philanthropist and leader in the Episcopal Church’s missionary work with Native Americans. By 1883, a new hospital building was under construction on the lots with funding from a Chicago parishioner friend of Bishop Clarkson. Sister Sarah continued to manage the facility, while Sister Mary continued to serve in the parish community. The hospital was dedicated on December 13, 1883, as a free institution with a clinic for outpatient care. Parents unable to care for their children due to illness would be able to bring them to the Child’s Hospital for care until the parents were well enough to care for them at home. However, “no contagious or infectious diseases [were to be] be treated at the hospital.” Since many parents initially could not bear to leave their children when they were sick, the hospital also admitted adults. Eventually called Clarkson Hospital, the Dodge Street building was demolished in 1932.
While it would appear that the diocese had thoroughly accepted the idea of women’s ministries, in reality their roles in the Church were still extremely fragile and subject to change. On March 10, 1884, Bishop Robert Harper Clarkson died most unexpectedly. The selection of a new bishop was exceedingly difficult for Nebraska clergy. They could not reach a consensus on their choice of a candidate, and the multiple voting sessions were tediously protracted. Late in the year, Rev. George Worthington of St John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit accepted his second call to lead the diocese. But Bishop Worthington was a high churchman with a narrower view of women’s roles. After his early 1885 consecration, there were no deaconesses in the Diocese of Nebraska; the hospital was managed by Meloria Clarkson with a “Matron in charge” to oversee daily operations. Notably, Bishop Worthington made no mention of the passage of the 1889 General Convention’s canon on women’s ministries at his next Annual Council. He was however, outspoken about how laity should support parish and diocesan community. To better utilize the “talents of every person in” his flock, he encouraged men to participate in parish activities, organizing the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. For spreading the Church into remote places, he sought the service of licensed Lay Readers. And for women’s participation, he touted the Women’s Auxiliary. While women’s efforts in missionary fundraising were welcomed and encouraged, their calls to ministry were not.
Almost as interesting as the diocesan support of work by a deaconess was the biography of Sister Mary Hayden. Born Mary Ellen Yates in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in 1834, Sister Mary was the oldest of eight children in the family that included Henry Whitfield Yates, Omaha banker, member of Trinity parish, and diocesan treasurer. In 1855, Mary Ellen had married Bernard Lafayette Alvey Hayden, also of St. Mary’s County. The couple had four children, the youngest of whom was born in 1864, shortly before Bernard Hayden’s death. The cause of his death remains unclear, although he was not a Union soldier. In 1865, Mary and her young family joined the siblings and parents of Henry Whitfield Yates in emigrating to Omaha from Washington, D.C. where the elder Yates and the family’s younger children had resided since 1860. When Mary Hayden’s boys (there were two) reached their teen years, Uncle Henry W. Yates helped them secure jobs with the First National Bank where Henry was then head teller. The boys each worked his way up the banking ladder; the oldest, Kent K. Hayden ultimately moved to Lincoln to head the Nebraska State Bank. Stuart B. Hayden became bookkeeper and acting manager of the White Lead Works. Jennie L, Mary’s youngest child, resided with her mother. After termination of the deaconess plan in 1885, both Mary Ellen Hayden and daughter Jennie left Omaha, disappearing from city records after 1887. What happened to either of remains unclear, although neither died nor is buried in Omaha. As for Sister Sarah J. Mattice, after her role as hospital deaconess ended, she remained in Omaha for several years, functioning professionally as a druggist.
Although the deaconess experiment lasted little more than a decade in Nebraska, schools and training programs continued to produce women trained in pastoral fields well into the twentieth century. By then, it had become apparent that hospital and other institutional administrators also needed financial and administrative training, courses not provided in the deaconess programs. At that point, the women trained as deaconesses moved into missionary roles. Nonetheless, the service of deaconesses in the Diocese of Nebraska served to introduce locally the concept of a woman’s different call to ministry, as well as to further promote women as professionals in their careers of choice.
*Jo L. Behrens is the volunteer archivist for the Diocese of Nebraska. A member of Trinity Cathedral, she grew up at St. Stephen’s in Grand Island; she and her husband Bob have two wonderful, grown sons, and two spectacular grandsons. In 2008, she began organizing all the assorted papers, correspondence, registers, and photographs that had been stored for many years in multiple places and in a wide variety of ways. Additionally, she has collected other pertinent materials for the archive – such as books, articles, and digitized journals – when they are located. She has taught in the History Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha since 1992, where she also coordinates the department’s Dual Enrollment Program that allows qualified high school teachers in the Omaha metro to offer UNO credit for one of five approved history courses. Her articles about local, frontier, and Native American history have appeared in Nebraska History, South Dakota History,Chronicles of Oklahoma, and Essays and Monographs in Colorado History. Contact her at email@example.com