An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Smith, William

(1754-Apr. 6, 1821). Leading priest and musician. He was born probably at Aberdeen, Scotland, and possibly attended the University of Aberdeen. Smith came to the American colonies in 1785 as a priest in the Scottish Nonjuring Episcopal Church. He served from Jan. until July 1785 as minister at Trinity Church, Oxford, and All Saints, Pequestan, Pennsylvania. From July 1785 until 1787 he was rector of Stepney Parish, Maryland. From 1787 until 1790, he was rector of St. Paul's Church, Narragansett, Rhode Island. From 1790 until 1797, he was rector of Trinity Church, Newport. He was a leader in the organization of the Diocese of Rhode Island in 1790. From 1797 until 1800 Smith was rector of St. Paul's Church, Norwalk, Connecticut. In 1800 he went to New York City, where he opened a grammar school and gained a reputation as a teacher. In Apr. 1802 Smith became the second Principal of the Episcopal Academy at Cheshire, Connecticut. However, he was unsuccessful and forced to resign on June 5, 1806. Later he returned to Connecticut but never again had a permanent ecclesiastical position. He influenced the development of church music in the Episcopal Church when he published The Churchman's Choral Companion to His Prayer Book (1809). In 1814 he published The Reasonableness of Setting Forth the Most Worthy Praise of Almighty God, According to the Usage of the Primitive Church; With Historical Views of the Nature, Origin, and Progress of Metre Psalmody, which criticized the practice of singing metrical psalms and argued for chanting. Possibly Smith's greatest contribution was writing the “Office of Institution of Ministers.” It was adopted by the Diocese of Connecticut and then sent to the 1804 General Convention, which approved it. The 1808 General Convention made slight alternations to it and included it in the BCP where it has remained with modifications until the present. He died in New York City.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.