To the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement
I am inviting you to celebrate the 165th birthday of Julia Chester Emery, one of the most remarkable women in the history of our beloved Episcopal Church! The United Thank Offering Board is asking you to help celebrate Miss Julia’s birthday during the month of September with a special offering in recognition of her mission work in the Church and her 40 years of service.
Julia Chester Emery was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on September 24, 1852. Her parents, Captain Charles Emery and Susan Hilton Kelly Emery, had 11 children, eight of whom survived. As a seafaring man, Captain Emery had traveled the world, but retired from the sea to engage in coal and copper mining and raise a family. Mrs. Emery inspired her children’s interest in mission work. Captain Emery had been raised Unitarian and Mrs. Emery Congregationalist, but they followed their oldest child, Mary, into The Episcopal Church. Over time, four Emery sisters—Mary, Julia, Susan, and Margaret – worked for the Church on behalf of women and children in New York, while Helen kept a home for her sisters and two brothers became Episcopal priests.
For a short time, Julia attended a boarding school in Maine, but she was far more advanced than the curriculum offered, so she returned to Dorchester to graduate from high school. She attended normal school for teacher preparation in Boston for one winter, and at the age of 22, she began working for the Protestant Episcopal Church as editor of The Young Christian Soldier, a youth-oriented publication of the Church. Within two years, she filled the position held by her sister Mary, the first secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary to the Board of Missions, when she left to marry. Mary served as secretary for four years, and Julia for 40 years.
Miss Julia, as she was known, showed her grit as she handwrote hundreds of letters to women’s groups to encourage their involvement in mission work, including adopting and providing support for a missionary family through “box work” headed by her sister, Margaret; she answered questions from women’s organizations and clergy, including missionary clergy and bishops; where there were no women’s organizations, she asked parish priests to appoint a capable woman to guide mission work; she wrote regularly, including articles for The Spirit of Missions, a Church publication; she encouraged missionary education and support of missionaries, especially for women called to mission work; she traveled twice to England and once around the world to visit missionaries at their work in the Far East and the American West; and she provided some of the best curricula for education related to mission work and about the countries in which the Church had mission work. She was a shy, quiet, but very persistent person whose friendly smile greeted visitors to the office and made everyone feel welcome. She never seemed to tire, and she was a good traveler, especially by sea.
Raising money for mission work had always been a part of the work of the Women’s Auxiliary. The Auxiliary raised $371.27 at the Triennial meeting in 1883 in Philadelphia, which was attended by 800 women representing 51 dioceses. Three years later in Chicago, the offering was $82.71. It was there that the idea for United Thank Offering was born. Ida Soule, an officer from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, was one of two women counting the collection, and she was disappointed with the amount collected. Mrs. Soule suggested to Miss Julia that women might give more if they knew how the money would be used. Miss Julia embraced the suggestion, and both championed the idea of a designated purpose for the collection of funds for mission. For the meeting in 1889 in New York, the Board of the Auxiliary set a goal to build a church in Anvik, Alaska, and to outfit and send a missionary teacher for one year to Japan. Initially $406.45 was collected; no one was satisfied, so by lunch it was $707, but this was still not enough. After lunch an anonymous gift of $1,000 came in, and by the time the meeting ended, $2,188.64 had been collected. Building that church in Alaska and sending Lisa Lovell to Japan mark the first United Thank Offering gifts.
United Thank Offering teaches the spiritual discipline of gratitude – thanking God for a blessing by dropping a coin or bill in the Blue Box. No gift is too small, and together, all the gifts from all nine provinces are collected and then granted to churches and dioceses around the world to do ministry the next year. Every church celebrates its Ingathering of Blue Boxes and UTO funds in different ways. My church celebrates with cakes with blue and white frosting, blue frosted cookies, blueberries, and blue Kool-Aid, and we wear blue clothing. We collect boxes and checks in the offering plate and in our big blue wooden UTO box.
This birthday celebration for Julia Emery is about raising more money in order to give more grants. Nothing is more difficult for the UTO Board at grant review time than seeing a wonderful grant for ministry that simply can’t be awarded because we ran out of UTO funds. Similar to the collection in 1889 when the women said it wasn’t enough and went back and asked again, we now ask that you make this special birthday UTO offering to celebrate this incredible woman, Julia Chester Emery, and to ensure that more grants are awarded next year.
Use these resources to help with your celebration this September: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/julia-chester-emery-campaign.
We ask that you give in gratitude for your many blessings. Make it possible to fund even more grants from United Thank Offering grants, this ministry of over 125 years.
Sandra Squires, President
United Thank Offering Board