Saint Stephen’s Church in Providence: The History of a New England Tractarian Parish

By Norman Joseph Catir, Jr.

Providence, Rhode Island: St. Stephen’s Church, 1964.



The Temple and the World



DURING HIS first eighteen years as rector of Saint Stephen’s, George McClellan Fiske accomplished two important goals. Numerically, he built one of the strongest parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island at the same time as he advanced the doctrinal, spiritual, and ritual life of his people. Many priests zealously pursue one or the other of these courses successfully, but few seem able to accomplish both simultaneously. Throughout the remaining years of Doctor Fiske’s ministry at Saint Stephen’s, the parish continued to grow in numbers as well as to advance spiritually; however, a third important trend became increasingly evident after the turn of the century: Saint Stephen’s began to make its influence felt within the Diocese of Rhode Island more certainly than ever before.

Indeed, one of the primary values of a large, well-established parish exists in its ability to speak to the world, in the world’s own terms, of the power and majesty of God. A secure parish can always send its leaders to work in the diocese and in the community and, in this manner, effect some material good for life beyond the parish boundaries.

In June, 1901, Doctor Fiske was elected president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese, and in 1902 Judge John H. Stiness was elected secretary of the same influential body.[1] Until the end of his ministry, Doctor Fiske remained president of the Standing Committee. In 1903, however, Judge Stiness declined re-election to the post of secretary.[2] During the Diocesan Convention of 1903 a debate over a proposal to delete the word Protestant from the Church’s legal title waxed hot. Leading the side in favor of the change were Doctor Fiske and Father Blunt, Saint Stephen’s curate; foremost among those against the change was Colonel Goddard.[3] This peculiar circumstance in which members of the same parish spearheaded opposing sides of a controversial debate demonstrates the importance and breadth of Saint Stephen’s leadership. At this time the parish could encompass both sides of a sharply disputed issue without fear of internal harm or dissension.

Constructive relations with Brown University also enhanced Saint Stephen’s influence in the community. Because of the Sayles Hall organ installation, which curtailed the use of that building, in April, 1903, the rector offered the university the use of Saint Stephen’s Church for chapel services during the remainder of the spring term.[4] During the early part of the twentieth century, Brown University began to grow up around Saint Stephen’s Church. The old rectory had been replaced by the John Carter Brown Library. Slowly, the previously pastoral meadow just north of the church— Lincoln’s Field—was built up with campus dormitories, laboratories, and swimming pool. Gradually Saint Stephen’s found itself standing at the very heart of the college campus. We must not underestimate the importance of simple geography when we weigh the steady influence of Saint Stephen’s Church on the university. The existence of a worshipping parish in the midst of academic life has drawn many students through an indirect evangelism more powerful than any self-conscious technique.

Doctor Fiske fathered a number of social schemes which, though they were never realized during his lifetime, materialized in various ways after his death. In 1903 he mentioned the possibility of founding a choir school.[5] Many years later, Saint Dunstan’s Choir School, under the generous patronage of Mr. John Nicholas Brown, became closely associated with the parish. During the same year, Doctor Fiske suggested that the parish found a home for the aged.[6] Although Saint Stephen’s parish never carried this idea out, several diocesan institutions for old people exist today and are supported by Saint Stephen’s.

On September 7, 1903, the aged bishop, Thomas March Clark, passed from this world to the next. Although Bishop Clark was not an Anglo-Catholic, his sympathy and forbearance had enabled Saint Stephen’s to develop and enlarge Catholic practice. So beloved was this man, who had authorized both reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and auricular confession in the parish, that Saint Stephen’s offered a Requiem Mass for him and hung the church in black shrouds. On Easter Even, 1905, a bust of Bishop Clark was unveiled; it had been given to the parish by an anonymous donor.[7]

Another kind of departure occurred on December 15,1903, when the Reverend Simon Blynn Blunt, the able curate of Saint Stephen’s and vicar of Holy Nativity, Thornton, left to become rector of the Church of the Redeemer, Chicago.[8] In 1910, he was elected rector of All Saints’ Church, Dorchester, Massachusetts, one of Saint Stephen’s closest Tractarian neighbors. Father Blunt’s double responsibilities were filled by two men after he left Providence. On January 15, 1904, the Reverend Charles E. Oswald from the Diocese of Southern Ohio became curate of Saint Stephen’s, and the Reverend William H. Davis of the Diocese of Maine became vicar of Holy Nativity, Thornton. The work at Thornton continued under the supervision of the rector of Saint Stephen’s until 1909.[9] In February 1904, the Reverend Edward Rogers Sweetland also joined the staff of Saint Stephen’s parish.[10] During this period Saint Stephen’s large corps of clerics and wide responsibilities made the parish resemble a small diocese. Certainly her rector was the equal of most Fathers in God.

In 1904 we notice that Doctor Fiske began constantly to refer to his assistants as “Father.”[11] Previously he had called the Reverend Simon Blynn Blunt “Father” on several occasions, but without regularity. The other curates, with the single exception of Walter Gardner Webster, had always been referred to as “Mister” in The S. Stephen. When addressing Doctor Fiske, most parishioners employed his honorary academic title; however, some people did call him “Father.”[12]

On Tuesday April 12, 1904, George McClellan Fiske was once again honored by men in the Church at large. After one ballot, the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, made his election to the episcopate unanimous. Doctor Fiske visited the Diocese of Springfield and weighed his decision carefully. By this time he was fifty-four years old. Opportunities to leave Saint Stephen’s would certainly decrease in the future. Nevertheless, Doctor Fiske determined once again to stay in Rhode Island and declined the Springfield election on May 11, 1904.[13]

The 1904 General Convention, held in Boston, brought many distinguished churchmen to preach at Saint Stephen’s during the autumn of that year. Among them were the bishops of New Hampshire, New Jersey, Milwaukee, and Boise, the archdeacon of Springfield, the rector of Grace Church, Newark, and the rector of Christ Church, Springfield, Illinois.[14] These important men could not have failed to leave some impression on Saint Stephen’s, perhaps an influence toward missionary support; for each of these churchmen, except the two from New Jersey, came from small, missionary-type dioceses.

During 1904 and 1905 Saint Stephen’s experienced another series of parochial deprivations. Mrs. Ames, the wife of General Ames and an indefatigable parish and diocesan worker, died and left $1,000 in a memorial fund toward the upkeep of the new Webster Memorial Guild House. Doctor Fiske soon spearheaded a $4,000 drive for funds which were added to Mrs. Ames’s gift and used in her memory for Guild House maintenance.[15]

On Easter Monday, 1905, the Reverend W. F. B. Jackson announced his resignation from Saint Stephen’s and his retirement from the active ministry. Mr. Jackson had worked as curate without salary for eighteen years, since April 11, 1887; the parish was deeply grateful for his long, faithful, and scholarly service.[16]

Potentially, the most far-reaching deprivation which the parish faced during this period came on June 1, 1905, when the Sisters of the Holy Nativity moved from Providence to their new Mother House in Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin, the See city of their founder, Bishop Grafton. Both Bishop Clark and his successor, Bishop McVickar, had approved of the work of the Sisterhood at Saint Stephen’s, the Messiah, Saint Paul’s, Saint Mary’s, East Providence, and Holy Nativity, Thornton. So diocesan pressure in Rhode Island did not drive them away. Rather, a positive call from Fond-du-Lac drew the Sisters westward.[17] At first, financial problems made the possibility of maintaining two of the Sisters in Providence uncertain. However, by October, 1905, the lay associates of the Sisterhood were able to insure the support of the work of two Sisters and to provide lodging for them at 63 John Street. Sister Harriet and Sister Constance came back to the parish on November 1, 1905.[18] In July, 1907, numbers 117 and 119 George Street, across from the parish church, were purchased for a convent.[19] The Sisters continued to live at 117 George Street until December, 1946, when all the property in the block across George Street from the church was cleared to make way for the new Wriston Quadrangle of Brown University. At that time the Sisters went to a house on Cabot Street and have subsequently moved to 134 Power Street. In the parochial report of 1906, Saint Stephen’s for the first time showed the largest number of communicants in the diocese, and also led Rhode Island in number of baptisms and confirmations.[20] A legacy from the will of Miss Ada G. Metcalf provided the first electric lights for the church and a new heating system in 1907. These improvements must have enhanced immeasurably the external looks and feeling of prosperity in Rhode Island’s largest Episcopal parish. The old heating system of the church had employed four hot air furnaces, a most ungainly arrangement,[21] while gas had provided illumination for the building.

In 1907 Saint Stephen’s reported the increased number of 1,077 confirmed and 997 communicants. Unfortunately, enrollment in the church school had declined to 155 pupils and twenty teachers.[22] Never again did the church school reach the 300-member mark which it had attained at the turn of the century. In 1909 the vestry voted its rector the generous salary of $4,000 per annum and its curates salaries of $1,000 per annum.[23]

Members of Saint Stephen’s continued to hold positions of influence in the diocese. Mr. Joseph T. A. Eddy was elected treasurer of the Diocese of Rhode Island in 1907.[24] He occupied this position for many years. Consistently throughout her history, Saint Stephen’s parish has numbered among her members men of conspicuous financial, legal, and business ability. It stands to her credit that the parish has not hesitated to share with the diocese the abilities of men like Mr. Eddy and Judge J. H. Stiness, who was elected chancellor by the Cathedral Corporation in 1910.[25]

In April and May of 1910 the parish marked the death of two important people with Requiem Masses. On April 25, 1910, Saint Mark’s Day, Mary Greenough Fiske, wife of the rector, died.[26] On May 20, 1910, Saint Stephen’s offered a Solemn Requiem for Edward VII, king of England, well known for his support of the Anglo-Catholic cause. Doctor Fiske notified Queen Alexandra of the Mass offered for her husband. Soon her private secretary sent him a reply which he had framed and displayed.[27]

The king’s death was an event mourned by churchmen all over the world; however, it could not have carried the sense of personal loss to the parish which Mrs. Fiske’s death inevitably brought. On the Feast of the Purification, 1911, the parishioners gave the Marriage of Cana window in the narthex of the church, executed by C. E. Kempe of London, in memory of Mrs. Fiske and in thanksgiving for her devoted service to Saint Stephen’s.[28] The subject of the window, the marriage at Cana of Galilea, was entirely appropriate; for Mrs. Fiske had been not only a good wife to her priest husband, but also a devoted churchwoman.

On June 28, 1910, the Right Reverend William Neilson McVickar died in Beverly, Massachusetts.[29] After mourning the sudden passing of their late bishop, the Diocese of Rhode Island proceeded to elect a new bishop at a Special Convention held in Saint John’s, Providence, on September 21, 1910. From the first ballot, when Doctor Fiske received nineteen of the thirty-one clerical votes necessary for election, until the ballot on which he received twenty-six clerical votes, Saint Stephen’s sixty-year-old rector led in the clerical order. Unfortunately, however, he was never able to gain more than one-fourth of the votes in the lay order on any one of the seven ballots cast. At the start of the election, other contenders, such as the Reverend Alexander Mann, the Reverend Leighton Parks of Boston, Dean Hodges of Cambridge, and Bishop Brent were not able to muster a following equal to that of Saint Stephen’s beloved rector. Several important members of the clergy, led by the Reverend Doctor Leicester Bradner of Saint John’s and the Reverend Arthur Washburn, and a large group of Low Church laity guided by Rathbone Gardner, the senior warden of Grace Church, Providence, were determined to keep a High Churchman from the Rhode Island episcopate. On the second ballot, the name of Reverend James DeWolf Perry, Jr., of Saint Paul’s Church, New Haven, appeared, supported by three clerical and six lay votes. As the thirty-eight-year-old Perry was considered a Low Church Liberal, Doctor Bradner, Mr. Washburn, and Mr. Gardner urged his election. The youthful Perry continued to gain ground on Doctor Fiske, whose main support came from the young clergy. Finally, after the seventh ballot when Mr. Perry received the number of votes necessary for election in each order, Doctor Fiske moved that his election be made unanimous.[30]

Shortly after the Special Convention, two women who were walking up the Angell Street hill met the portly, open-faced Doctor Fiske descending the incline. They engaged him in conversation about the recent election, and, as if to ameliorate his sense of defeat, one of the women said, “Doctor Fiske, you must realize that the Holy Spirit was leading.” “Holy Spirit nothing,” he unhesitatingly replied. “It was Rathbone Gardner and his oratory.”[31]

Soon after the young bishop took office, Doctor Fiske’s warmhearted wit and charm won him over. It has been said that Saint Stephen’s faithful old rector exerted a most crucial influence on the youthful Bishop Perry’s churchmanship, which eventually changed to a moderate High Church position.[32]

In an era when High Churchmen were held suspect by non-churchmen and churchmen alike in Rhode Island, Doctor Fiske’s sizable support in the episcopal election of 1910 is notable. Even more remarkable is the fact that the Baptist university which lay within his parish bounds respected and honored him by appointing him to its Board of Visitors in the Department of Biblical Literature and History in 1911.[33]

The ceremonial life of Saint Stephen’s continued to develop until the end of Doctor Fiske’s rectorate. On Christmas, 1910, for the first time in the history of the parish, a creche was set up at the head of the south aisle.[34] This custom, common today, was unique when initiated at Saint Stephen’s. On the Feast of Corpus Christi, 1913, a service of Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament was performed.[35] Undoubtedly this service was the ancestor of the service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, a devotion which has brought richness and depth to parochial eucharistic worship for many years.

To separate the wealth and glory of Saint Stephen’s worship from the discipline of her Catholic life would be entirely unreal. Indeed, a Catholic churchman cannot merit the name until stern discipline makes up the foundation upon which the structure of his devotion and practice is reared. Saint Stephen’s parish has numbered many such soldiers in her flock. Among them was Mrs. Jane Crawford Davis of Central Falls, Rhode Island, who died on April 19, 1911. Mrs. Davis was a frequent communicant for over twenty-two years. In a day when inadequate public transportation made the six or seven miles from Central Falls to Providence an arduous journey, this devout woman always received her communion, having fasted from midnight until two o’clock Sunday afternoon. It is not surprising that such firm devotion bred a priestly vocation in her son, Fred W. Davis, who became the rector of Saint Martin’s Church, Brooklyn.[36] A second soldier of the faith was Mrs. Sophia Elizabeth (Lewis) Clissold, who transferred to Saint Stephen’s from another local parish on March 4, 1903, because she could not make a weekly communion at her former parish. Every Sunday, and frequently on weekdays, she walked to Saint Stephen’s from her home in the Elmwood section of Providence, two or three miles each way. Her husband was violently opposed to the Church; therefore, she frequently had to face physical punishment when she returned home from Mass.[37]

Early in January, 1911, the interest of Saint Stephen’s parish in other parts of the Holy Catholic Church took visible shape in the form of an Anglican-Orthodox service held at the parish church. Present were the Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire, who presided, Doctor Van Allen of the Church of the Advent, Boston, the Reverend Thomas Papagearge, Greek priest of Providence, the Reverend Jacob Grigorieff, Russian priest of Boston, and a number of priests from the dioceses of Maine, Rhode Island, Albany, and New Hampshire.[38] In 1912 the parish participated in further Anglican-Orthodox meetings.[39] And in 1916 Saint Augustine’s Guild of the parish invited the Reverend Cyril Tootinji, the Antiochian Orthodox priest of the Syrian Mission in Pawtucket, to be guest speaker. At this meeting the members of Saint Augustine’s listened to Father Tootinji, who spoke no English, via the good offices of Mr. T. A. Zora, a translator.[40] Possibly many people today fail to realize the remarkable nature of the interest in Orthodoxy which our ostensibly entrenched East Side parish showed so many years ago. The period before World War I was a time of marked insularity and limited appreciation for foreign cultures among the American people. Our lack of understanding of Old World customs and concepts extended to an almost complete ignorance of Eastern Orthodoxy. But once again we see how the true Catholicity of Saint Stephen’s teachings enabled the parish to act ahead of her time by encouraging close relations with Orthodoxy.

From 1911 until 1917 the parish experienced minor financial difficulties for the first time since Doctor Colwell’s rectorate. The average annual income for the years 1912 through 1916 was $13,529.37, exclusive of diocesan and missionary items. The average annual expenditure was $13,860.75, making an average annual deficit of $331.38. As the parish owed a $1,500 note, the vestry recommended that a $2,500 Easter offering be requested in 1917. Such an offering would pay off the note and leave $1,000 working capital.[41] The appeal was so successful that the Easter offering in 1917 amounted to $293.33 more than the $2,500 requested.[42]

Two important golden anniversaries were celebrated as World War I began to hang over Europe and then ominously to threaten the United States. On February 27, 1912, Saint Stephen’s celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of its parish church with a Sung Eucharist. Bishop Perry was celebrant of this Mass; and the Reverend Lucius Waterman, son of the Reverend Henry Waterman and favorite anniversary preacher among the parishioners, delivered the sermon.[43] On November 22, 1916, Saint Cecilia’s Day, the parish celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the men and boys’ choir. Many old choir members returned for the service at which Doctor Lucius Waterman spoke once again. After the service, a large banquet was held at the Turk’s Head Club.[44] Due observance of important historical events must have increased parochial esprit de corps as well as historical knowledge and intelligence. Doctor Fiske possessed a keen sense of history which he was often able to communicate to his people. Such anniversaries, combined with frequent historical commentaries in The S. Stephen, constantly kept the parish aware of its noble tradition.

Never did the parish paper lack the humor which always helps to make more human the sometimes dusty facts of bygone eras. A particularly good example of George McClellan Fiske’s appreciation of wit was displayed in the July, 1912, issue, in which he quoted several incorrect answers given by English students to examination questions.

The modern name for Gaul is vinegar.———The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on the seas, therefore it is sometimes called the Battle of Waterloo.———The “Complete Angler” is another name for Euclid, because he wrote all about angles.[45]

During 1913 and 1914 the parish lost several of its most important members. William Harkness Arnold, the accomplished organist of Saint Stephen’s; Judge John H. Stiness, parish, diocesan, and national Church leader; and General William Ames, senior warden and son of a founder, all died between July 21,1913, and March 8, 1914.[46] Although Edwin E. Wilde, a fine musician from New Bedford, became organist and choirmaster as of October 12, 1913,[47] such leaders as Mr. Arnold, Judge Stiness, and General Ames could never be entirely replaced. New men with their own particular talents and zeal would carry on the work in a different way; but the lives of the great laymen of Doctor Fiske’s day, so rich in ecclesiastical learning and personal devotion, were a rare treasure, difficult to come by in an age of growing secularism.

Still, Saint Stephen’s people maintained positions of leadership in the diocese. In June 1914, Mrs. Howard Hoppin was elected president of the Diocesan Women’s Auxiliary, a position held several years earlier by Mrs. Ames.[48] In her election one more parish tradition was perpetuated.

The shocking barbarism of what was, in 1914, Europe’s Great War touched the hearts of Saint Stephen’s parish. Frequent references to the war in The S. Stephen attest to the fact that both priests and congregation lived with the suffering of a continent in their hearts and prayers.[49] The vivid reality of human pain and sorrow coupled with the plea of the Presiding Bishop, Henry Sylvester Tuttle, for a $400,000 missionary budget increased the already keen missionary spirit common among Saint Stephen’s people.[50] Although burdened with the previously-mentioned internal financial pressures, the parish rallied to support the missionary cause.

An important legal step was taken in April, 1915, when the vestry of the parish instituted quarterly vestry meetings to be held on Easter Monday, and on the first Mondays of July, October, and January.[51] Previously, the only stated meeting of the vestry had been on Easter Monday. From 1915 until the present day, the vestry has maintained the yearly four-meeting requirement.

On Easter Even, 1916, another serious bereavement came to the parish with the death of Colonel Robert H. I. Goddard, vestryman from 1863 until his death, and deputy senior warden and junior warden during part of this period.[52] His wife, Rebekah Burnet Groesbeck Goddard, who had given the parish many exquisite gifts, such as the font and the high altar lights, had died several years earlier on July 2, 1914.[53] The deaths of Colonel and Mrs. Goddard marked practically the end of the group which had reared the George Street edifice. Another death came unexpectedly on February 2, 1917—to Frank Howard Martin, architect of the guild house and senior warden for the three years following the demise of General Ames.[54]

It would seem that the entire parish had died by 1917 if one accepted this account without a knowledge of the parochial statistics. In spite of the high death record, the parish had continued to grow. Indeed, by 1917 Saint Stephen’s claimed 1,500 baptized and 1,400 confirmed members.[55] This was undoubtedly a loose count by present parochial standards; the Easter Communions, for instance, seldom exceeded 500. Today Easter Communions are twice that number. Nevertheless, this count indicates that the parish continued to flourish throughout Doctor Fiske’s entire rectorate.

The leaders of the nineteenth century had built well and cared thoroughly for Saint Stephen’s. Outstanding successors continued to lead the parish and the diocese in many areas. Colonel Goddard left a son, R. H. Ives Goddard, who was as completely devoted to Saint Stephen’s welfare as his father had been. General Elisha Dyer gave the parish his gifted and sensitive son, Colonel H. Anthony Dyer, who became junior warden on Easter Monday, 1917, and was elected to the diocesan Standing Committee in June of the same year. Theodore W. Foster took the responsible position of senior warden after the death of Mr. Martin.[56] In like manner, this pattern repeated itself in most areas of parish life. Perhaps one of the most exacting tests of Saint Stephen’s stewardship came in this matter of succession. Did the Saint Stephen’s of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century nurture new leaders? Without hesitation, the answer is “yes.” She more than reproduced herself in parish and diocesan leaders and in vocations to the sacred ministry. She refused to bury her talent, but chose rather to invest and multiply it.

As the European War rapidly became World War I, the parish was more closely drawn into the pain and suffering of that conflagration. Many young men who had served at the altar or sung in the choir of Saint Stephen’s marched off to serve their country in 1917.[57] In June of the same year, the parish sponsored a patriotic meeting in the guild house in order to promote the Liberty Loan.[58] And so, in their own small way, those left at home attempted to support the heroism and sacrifice of the men at the front.

An incident of minor heroism occurred within the four walls of Saint Stephen’s on April 1, 1917. Master Marcus Beresford was highly commended by the vestry for his presence of mind when he expeditiously extinguished a fire in a thurifer’s cotta during the late Mass.[59] And so the parish life, made up of things both great and small, continued, war or no war.

By July, 1917, the need for a new organ once again arose. The Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was selected to build the instrument which was to include an echo organ, in memory of William Conrad Rhodes, former musical director of Saint Stephen’s, as well as the choir, great, and swell organs present in the old instrument. Income from a $10,000 fund left by the late Mrs. R. H. I. Goddard enabled the vestry to finance the organ purchase until a subscription could be raised.[60] On the Fourth Sunday in Advent, 1917, the new organ was played for the first time.[61] A large part of the $12,616.07 cost was taken care of by the sale of some property in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, which had been given to Saint Stephen’s in 1902 by the Misses Mary and Laura Carpenter to be used as a rest home for the poor of the parish. Because this project had not succeeded, Miss Mary Carpenter gave permission for the vestry to apply the money from the sale of the property toward the organ.[62]

One of the pleasant and firmly established traditions of Saint Stephen’s parish, the tradition of The Minden, seems to have flourished as early as 1917. At that time, George B. Burton, then dean of Saint Stephen’s vestrymen, was residing at the fine East Side apartment-hotel of that name.[63] Since his day such a large number of parishioners have made their home at The Minden that many people call it Saint Stephen’s annex.

Several notable celebrations captured the interest of the parish during 1918. The recovery of Jerusalem by Christians on December 30, 1917, was marked by the service of Solemn Evensong and Te Deum on the First Sunday after Christmas.[64] On March 9, 1918, the Right Honorable and Most Reverend Cosmo Gordon Lang, D.D., then Archbishop of York and later Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Saint Stephen’s Church to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and preach. Bishop Perry and fifty clergymen of the diocese were present.[65] The visit of the Archbishop, who was a strong Anglo-Catholic, served not only to elevate, but also to define Saint Stephen’s position as one of the leading parishes in the American Church.

On September 30, 1918, the Reverend George McClellan Fiske presented a letter of resignation to the vestry of Saint Stephen’s Church, to take effect October 21,1918, offering his age, sixty-eight years, and his recent poor health, as explanations for the desire to be relieved of his long-cherished duties.[66] The vestry had no choice but to accept the resignation of this great priest, and responded with a moving personal tribute to Doctor Fiske.

The splendid position Saint Stephen’s holds, not only in this State, but in the Church at large, is due to the marked ability and tireless energy which he has devoted to this Parish during his thirty-four years as its head, and further that the Kingdom of God has been brought nearer this whole community by the Catholic teachings and the exemplary life of Doctor Fiske. No matter who shall follow as rector of Saint Stephen’s Church, the name of George McClellan Fiske, will always be associated with the most blessed years in the history of the parish and no one can ever fill his place in the hearts of our people.

The vestry then voted to add $1,400 a year to Doctor Fiske’s $600 yearly pension as long as he should live.[67] On November 19, 1918, Doctor Fiske was made rector emeritus of the parish.[68]

In 1912, Doctor Lucius Waterman had asserted:

I make bold to say that this Church has stood, more than any other Church in our Communion in Rhode Island, for change. It has been intended to be change for the better.[69]

In the same sermon Doctor Waterman went on to say that it was through the efforts of his father, Doctor Henry Waterman, and of Doctor Fiske, that Saint Stephen’s had become the great force toward change for the better.

But it would be a very shame to my father’s son, if I did not here say that in the last twenty-seven years and a quarter . . . my father has a successor here who has approved himself in every great loyalty—in loyalty to the Kingdom, in loyalty to the service of individual souls, in loyalty to the Divine King—a man after my father’s own heart. And further I am bound to bear my testimony, and I do testify with thankful joy, that God has given to the present Rector of Saint Stephen’s Parish not only more than half of the years of this wonderful half century, not only a Rectorship already exceeding in length all the time of my father’s two settlements over Saint Stephen’s Parish, taken together, but also a greater vigor, a greater energy and a vastly greater fruitage, than were given to my father, on whose foundations, laid not without tears, Doctor Fiske has been enabled to build a Temple beyond my father’s boldest, brightest dream.[70]

Without severe injustice to the other rectors of the parish, we might say that Saint Stephen’s had only two important rectorates previous to 1919, that of Doctor Waterman and that of Doctor Fiske. Certainly many of her other priests were extremely competent; however, the great stones in the spiritual structure of Saint Stephen’s were hewn and hoisted into place by Waterman and Fiske. And, fortunately, though these men shared little resemblance temperamentally, the ideals and goals of each were nearly identical. Well might we say, “Doctor Waterman planted, Doctor Fiske watered, but God gave the growth.”

On April 17, 1923, George McClellan Fiske passed to what we are certain must be a rich reward. At his Requiem on April 20, 1923, one of the congregation remarked, “It seems to me as if it were my own father who has gone.”[71] Certainly his ministry, theological and pastoral, won him the unchallenged right to be called “Father” by all his people.

Strong in character, sound in scholarship, devoted to the Catholic religion in all its fullness and well able to teach the same to his people: withal having that rare gift, a kind heart.[72]

[1] The S. Stephen, Vol. 25 No. 7, June 1910, p. 4 and Vol. 17 No. 7, June 1902, p. 3.

[2] Ibid., Vol. 18 No. 7, June 1903, p. 3.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vestry Minutes, April 26, 1903, Record Book 3, p. 47.

[5] The S. Stephen, Vol. 18 No. 9, August 1903, pp. 3-4.

[6] Ibid., Vol. 18 No. 10, September 1903, p. 3.

[7] Ibid., Vol. 18 No. 11, October 1903, pp. 2-3, Vol. 20 No. 1, December 1904, p. 4 and Vol. 20 No. 6, May 1905, p. 4.

[8] Ibid., Vol. 19 No. 1, December 1903, p. 3.

[9] Ibid., Vol. 19 No. 2, January 1904, p. 3 and Vol. 24 No. 4, March 1909, p. 3.

[10] Ibid., Vol. 19 No. 3, February 1904, p. 1.

[11] Ibid., p. 3.

[12] Louise E. Chandler, personal interview, October 4, 1961.

[13] The S. Stephen, Vol. 19 No. 6, May 1904, p. 3 and Vol. 19 No. 7, June 1904, p. 3.

[14] Ibid., Vol. 19 No. 12, November 1904, p. 4.

[15] Ibid., Vol. 20 No. 1, December 1904, p. 3.

[16] Ibid., Vol. 20 No. 6, May 1905, p. 4.

[17] Ibid., Vol. 20 No. 9, August 1905, pp. 2-4.

[18] Ibid., Vol. 20 No. II, October 1905, p. 3.

[19] Ibid., Vol. 22 No. 8, July 1907, p. 4.

[20] Ibid., Vol. 21 No. n, October 1906, p. 4.

[21] Vestry Minutes, April 16, 1906, Record Book 3, p. 63.

[22] The S. Stephen, Vol. 22 No. 7, June 1907, p. 4.

[23] Vestry Minutes, April 12, 1909, Record Book 3, p. 80.

[24] The S. Stephen, Vol. 22 No. 8, July 1907, p. 4.

[25] Ibid., Vol. 25 No. 7, June 1910, p. 4.

[26] Ibid., Vol. 25 No. 6, May 1910, p. 3.

[27] Ibid., Vol. 25 No. 7, June 1910, p. 5 and Vol. 25 No. 10, September 1910, p. 4.

[28] Wall plaque, narthex of Saint Stephen’s Church.

[29] The S. Stephen, Vol. 25 No. 8, July 1910, p. 4.

[30] Dudley Tyng, Rhode Island Episcopalians (Providence, R.I.: Little Rhody Press, 1954), p. 50.

[31] The Reverend John R. Gardner, personal interview, December u, 1961.

[32] D. Tyng, Rhode Island Episcopalians, op. cit., p. 50.

[33] The S. Stephen, Vol. 26 No. 4, March 1911, p. 4.

[34] Ibid., Vol. 26 No. 2, January 1911, p. 4.

[35] Ibid., Vol. 28 No. 6, May 1913, p. 2.

[36] Ibid., Vol. 26 No. 6, May 1911, p. 3.

[37] The Reverend James M. Duncan, personal interview, April 4, 1962.

[38] The S. Stephen, Vol. 26 No. 3, February 1911, p. 3.

[39] Ibid., Vol. 27 No. 12, November 1912, p. 4.

[40] Ibid., Vol. 31 No. 2, January 1916, p. 3 and Vol. 31 No. 3, February 1916, p. 3.

[41] Vestry Minutes, March 27, 1917, Record Book 3, pp. 137-138.

[42] Corporation Minutes, April 9, 1917, Record Book 3, p. 139.

[43] The S. Stephen, Vol. 27 No. 3, February 1912, p. 3 and Vol. 27 No. 4, March 1912, p. 4.

[44] Ibid., Vol. 32 No. 1, December 1916, pp. 1-2.

[45] Ibid., Vol. 27 No. 8, July 1912, p. 4.

[46] Ibid., Vol. 28 No. 9, August 1913, pp. 2-3, Vol. 28 No. 11, October 1913, p. 2, and Vol. 29 No. 5, April 1914, p. 3.

[47] Ibid., Vol. 28 No. 11, October 1913, p. 4.

[48] Ibid., Vol. 29, No. 7, June 1914, p. 3.

[49] Ibid., Vol. 29 No. 10, September 1914, p. 3.

[50] Ibid., Vol. 30 No. 5, April 1915, p. 3.

[51] Vestry Minutes, April 4, 1915, Record Book 3, p. 120.

[52] The S. Stephen, Vol. 31 No. 6, May 1916, p. 3.

[53] Ibid., Vol. 29 No. 9, August 1914, p. 2.

[54] Ibid., Vol. 32 No. 4, March 1917, p. 4.

[55] Ibid., Vol. 32 No. 8, July 1917, p. 3.

[56] Ibid., Vol. 32 No. 6, May 1917, p. 3 and Vol. 32 No. 7, June 1917, p. 4.

[57] Ibid., Vol. 32 No. 6, May 1917, p. 4.

[58] Ibid., Vol. 32 No. 7, June 1917, p. 4.

[59] Vestry Minutes, April 1, 1917, Record Book 3, p. 139.

[60] The S. Stephen, Vol. 32 No. 8, July 1917, p. 1.

[61] Ibid., Vol. 33 No. 2, January 1918, p. 1.

[62] Vestry Minutes, April 1, 1918, Record Book 3, p. 150 and May 26, 1918, Record Book 3, pp. 151-152.

[63] The S. Stephen, Vol. 33 No. 1, December 1917, p. 1.

[64] Ibid., Vol. 33 No. 3, January 1918, p. 4.

[65] Ibid., Vol. 33 No. 5, April 1918, p. 1.

[66] George McC. Fiske, to the Vestry, September 16, 1918, in Vestry Minutes, September 30, 1918, Record Book 3, pp. 152-153.

[67] Vestry Minutes, September 30, 1918, Record Book 3, pp. 152-153.

[68] Ibid., November 19, 1918, Record Book 3, p. 156.

[69] Lucius Waterman, The Reformation Principles of Saint Stephen, sermon, preached February 12,1912, at Saint Stephen’s Church, Providence, Rhode Island (n.p., privately printed, n.d.), p. 9.

[70] Ibid., pp. 19-20.

[71] D. Tyng, Rhode Island Episcopalians, op. cit., p. 73.

[72] The S. Stephen, Vol. 38 No. 4, May 1923, p. 2.