Did you know?
While learning about Julia Chester Emery over the summer, the staff learned some interesting things that we didn’t know about our predecessor and we wanted to share them with you.
Most people know that every weekday Morning Prayer and the Eucharist are held in the chapel at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. (You can send in prayer requests here.) But did you know that the tradition of noontime worship began in the old Church Center building in Julia Chester Emery’s office? When Julia started working for the Board of Missions, she would stop work each day at noon to pray. Many people, and often time visitors, would gather around in her office to pray together. This tradition became so popular that it became a part of the schedule of the staff of the Presiding Bishop.
Many people begin the story of the ordination of women by talking about when women were seated as deputies at General Convention. But we think that, to really tell the full story, we have to go back to when Julia Chester Emery fought for the canonical status of the deaconess program. At her time, women were serving in the Church (as long as they didn’t marry) as missionaries and deaconesses and were often supported by funds from UTO. Deaconess training schools, such as St. Margaret’s House at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, were often created and funded by UTO. It was Julia Chester Emery who led the charge that deaconesses be treated with the same canonical standing as deacons. She also worked to create and raised funds to support a pension for all of the UTO missionaries and deaconesses. If you’re interested, we’ve started researching and compiling a list of the missionaries who served through UTO, which you can find here: https://uto2014.wordpress.com/history-of-uto/a-brief-history-of-the-uto/uto-missionaries/.
Julia Chester Emery resigned from her post because she saw the need for younger women to lead. She believed in mentoring, supporting, and making room for the next generation to add their voice, creativity, and energy to the ministry that she loved so much. Julia believed that the way to encourage young people to participate was to give them the chance to lead, and the only way to do that was to get out of the way. She resigned by letter, without letting anyone know of her plans, so that no one would make a big deal of her retirement. Julia was an example of gratitude, grace, and humility all the days of her life.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a few more things about Julia Chester Emery! To learn more we recommend Julia Chester Emery: Being the Story of Her Life and Work by Margaret A. Tomes.