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.



Continuing Pillars



THE RECTORATE of George McClellan Fiske brought about notable achievements in the physical and spiritual development of Saint Stephen’s Church. During his thirty-four-year ministry, Doctor Fiske’s warm pastoral instinct forged an indestructible bond between his own life and the life of his parish. As the wardens and vestry stated in the tribute at the retirement of their beloved rector: “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.” Such glowing praise, laudable in itself, could well point to the development of an unhealthy, over-exuberant Fiske cult, a group which might encourage divided loyalties during the succeeding rectorate. Shortly after his retirement Doctor Fiske moved to 450 Brook Street, only a short distance from the church, and remained a regular communicant of Saint Stephen’s until his death.[1] His decision to live so near to the parish might well have been unwise for the good of the church, the life of which had been so closely bound to his own.

Certainly the committee commissioned to search for a new rector—composed of the wardens, Theodore Foster and H. Anthony Dyer, and of Messrs. Charles D. Dunlop, R. H. Ives Goddard, and William Phillips—realized the urgent responsibility of their task, for initially they considered three strong priests.[2] On January 8, 1919, the vestry voted to cable Bishop Perry, then inspecting the postwar damage in France, to request his opinion of three men: the Very Reverend Frank Vernon, dean of Saint Luke’s Cathedral, Portland, Maine; the Reverend Doctor Simon Blynn Blunt, rector of All Saints’ Church, Dorchester, Massachusetts, and a former curate of Saint Stephen’s; and the Reverend Doctor Frederick Spies Penfold, rector of Saint Luke’s Church, Racine, Wisconsin, as possible candidates for rector of Saint Stephen’s.[3] On February 27, 1919, the vestry voted to call Father Penfold to become their rector at a salary of $4,500 a year.[4] Subsequently he accepted. Significantly, Father Penfold had preached at Saint Stephen’s on January 10, 1915, and his eloquence and brevity had impressed the congregation at that time. His writings had already reached many parts of the American Church before his advent in Providence through his editorials published frequently by The Living Church.[5] A certain gallantry and dash, consonant with his appearance as one of the first army chaplains at the front in World War I, probably appealed to the imaginations of the men who chose to call Father Penfold to be their rector.[6]

During the interim between the Fiske and Penfold rectorates the Reverend William F. B. Jackson, a former curate, returned to assist in the parish work for what became the last period of active service[7] before his death in January, 1920.[8] At the request of Father Penfold the Reverend Carlos Jones consented to stay on as curate, thereby insuring a certain continuity of ministry.[9]

The conclusion of World War I marked a turning point in the life of Saint Stephen’s, as it seems to have done in so many other institutions of our nation. After the war the vague, libertine indifferentism of the jazz-age twenties, embarked upon its uncharted course, soon to be followed by the distinct ecclesiastical negativism rife during the thirties. Such national trends could not fail to affect the life of local parishes, even of large and prosperous ones. Besides this general national apostasy, Saint Stephen’s had to face the fact that its geographical parish would see little further growth. The days of the fashionable East Side building boom had passed by the end of World War I. Any future residential expansion on the East Side would have to develop to the north and east of Wayland Square, more than a mile away from Saint Stephen’s. Even if distance had not presented a problem, the growing area of the East Side was ecclesiastically covered by the removal of the Church of the Redeemer from North Main Street to Hope Street in 1918 and by the merger of the Church of the Savior and Calvary Mission in 1912, which resulted in the founding of Saint Martin’s Church on Orchard Avenue in 1916. If the area immediately around Saint Stephen’s could be called the suburbia of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, certainly the locality about Saint Martin’s parish might well be labeled the suburbia of the nineteen twenties, thirties, and forties.

Regardless of the ability of Father Penfold, it would require many years for him to achieve the position of affection and respect in the diocese which his predecessor had enjoyed. In June, 1919, Doctor Fiske, along with H. Anthony Dyer, was re-elected to the Standing Committee of the diocese, a further witness to the diocesan esteem which Father Penfold’s predecessor enjoyed. Dyer was also sent to the General Convention of the national church.[10] From this brief survey of the state of the parish, it is clear that Father Penfold would encounter problems stemming from constructive, destructive, and merely passive realities in the life of Saint Stephen’s.

The energetic new rector set upon his work with imagination and vigor. While his outspoken, positive manner did not win many peripheral adherents to Saint Stephen’s, it did draw serious communicants into a deeper understanding and love of the Church and acted as a magnet to those outside searching for the rich blessings of the Catholic Faith. Perhaps one of the stories which best illustrates Father Penfold’s fearless candor relates the circumstances surrounding a meal which he was taking in a downtown Providence restaurant. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been a popular topic of controversy in Providence, and because of this fact a local wit took it upon himself to stand up and call across the dining room, “Well, Father Penfold, what do you have to say about the Immaculate Conception?” Without hesitation, the keen-minded cleric stood up and delivered an address upon the subject. The self-styled wit was put in his place, and the restaurant patrons were given a taste of Saint Stephen’s excellent homiletical fare. As a preacher of ability, the new rector stood second to none. In an age when long sermons were the vogue Father Penfold used to say, “If you can’t say it in ten minutes, you can’t say it at all.”[11] Although the spontaneous humor and informality of his sermons, delivered without notes, seemed to betray casual preparation, their tight logical structure and homiletical force indicated long hours of mental discipline.

By the end of 1919 Father Penfold realized that full Catholic life could not be experienced at Saint Stephen’s until the Mass was celebrated every Sunday at the principal service of the parish, rather than on the existent three-Sunday-a-month schedule to which Doctor Fiske had brought Saint Stephen’s.[12] Undoubtedly Doctor Fiske’s ultimate design was the same as that of Father Penfold; however, during his rectorate the fullness of time had not yet come.

Father Penfold laid stress upon the devotional life of the parish, particularly upon such groups as the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament which met every Sunday after Evensong and Benediction.[13] On Maundy Thursday, 1920, Saint Stephen’s instituted the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose and the all-day watch;[14] and on Good Friday of 1921 the Mass of the Presanctified was celebrated for the first time in the parish.[15]

Many communicants came to appreciate the joys of the Sacrament of Penance during Father Penfold’s rectorate; and by June, 1920, the number of penitents had grown to a point which necessitated the extension of the confession period on Saturday to three hours.[16] On October 16, 1921, Bishop Perry blessed the second confessional in the church, located at the west end of the north aisle, given in memory of the Reverend Carlos E. Jones who had died shortly after leaving the curacy of Saint Stephen’s Church.[17] On this occasion Bishop Perry preached a strong sermon urging the frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance. The proximity of the confessional to the bust of Bishop Clark caused Bishop Perry to make the amusing aside, “This is one confessional about which we do not need to worry. It has a bishop watching over it.”[18]

Quickened devotion to communions stemmed naturally from lively awareness of the need for penance; and in 1920 there were 6,341 communions made at Mass, 94 sick communions, and 16 private celebrations. Daily attendance at Mass also grew noticeably during this period.[19]

Love of the sacramental and devotional life of the church led naturally to a desire to enhance and enrich the fabric in which the worship took place. Already the Tractarian theology of Doctor Waterman had helped to inspire the construction of the George Street church. Not long afterward the churchly teaching of Doctor Colwell and Doctor Fiske had promoted the rich ornamentation and completion of Waterman’s noble structure. But a Gothic church is never complete, not even a Victorian Gothic church. One of the weakest parts of Saint Stephen’s had always been the Lady chapel. Structurally, Richard Upjohn, the architect, had conceived its location in the second aisle to the south; however, initially this second aisle, divided from the main south aisle by a screen, was used as a church school and guild room. In 1869 this second south aisle was officially designated the Lady chapel, and an altar was set up at its east end. Of necessity the original furnishings and ornaments for this chapel were simple and inelegant. Its floor was of rough gray wood; its altar small and makeshift until the original high altar was installed in 1883. Behind the altar in three recessed arches were written the Decalogue, the Creed, and the Our Father. Small three-seat reversible-back benches, relics of the church school furniture, provided the seating accommodations in the unimproved Lady chapel.[20]

During April, 1919, interest in the refurbishing and re-decoration of the Lady chapel took concrete form in a $2,000 gift, earmarked for the decoration of the church and chapel, given by the daughters-in-law of William W. White in his memory.[21] Father Penfold decided that a drive for funds to improve the chapel would be inexpedient. Instead, he made the chapel needs known, and one by one they were filled. The old high altar, backed by the triple lancet reredos, stood awkwardly a bit off center on the easterly wall of the chapel. In 1919 and 1920 the vestry voted to erect a screen at either side of the Lady altar, to bring the altar a few feet out from the east wall, and to center it.[22] This change provided a passage to the working sacristy and tower doors, behind the Lady altar, and at the same time concealed both doors. By May of 1920 Percy Albee had set to work painting a Madonna and Child flanked by two angels in the panels behind the Lady altar which had formerly contained the Decalogue, the Creed, and the Our Father.[23] By April of 1922 all the work on the chapel reredos had been completed, including the side walls and the Lady statue niche. This work was given by H. Anthony Dyer and George Dyer in memory of Nancy Anthony Dyer, their mother. The work was planned by Howard Hoppin, an architect and a member of the parish.[24]

In June, 1922, the chapel aisle was tiled and the wood flooring under the seats refinished.[25] Two years earlier, shortly after Ascension Day, 1920, Mrs. Wallace R. Chandler, Mrs. Charles D. Owen, Jr., and Mrs. William P. Comstock, had given a tile floor for the aisles of the main church in memory of their father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Aldrich Cooke.[26] With the completion of the chapel tiling the entire church could boast a new floor.

One further improvement remained to be made; the old trolley-style reversible-back benches lingered on in the refurbished chapel, their harsh discomfort a perpetual penance to the daily Mass and daily Office worshippers. In May, 1924, the Women’s League, a group founded by Father Penfold on December 18, 1919,[27] to maintain the housekeeping responsibilities in the guild house, determined to encourage each member of the parish to buy a five-dollar cathedral chair for the chapel.[28] By December, 1924, the more than 130 chairs needed to fill the chapel had been purchased and put in place.[29]

A final gilding of the lily, literal as well as figurative, was accomplished when Mr. H. Anthony Dyer, the junior warden, brought back two bouquets of golden lilies from France to be used on the Lady chapel altar at Benediction.[30]

Today as one examines the Lady chapel from a critical point of view, one cannot help but regret that the work was not done as a piece, under the supervision of a single architect, competent in medieval Gothic revival. Lack of funds prevented such an approach. Nevertheless, an enormous amount of devotion was committed to the chapel renovation. It was truly the work of the entire parish, and from this aspect we can admire the accomplishment.

At the same time that many parishioners were contributing toward the renovation of the Lady chapel several other parishioners were donating large sums to the permanent endowment of Saint Stephen’s. On January 22, 1920, R. H. Ives Goddard and his sister the Marquise d’Andigné each contributed $5,000 in memory of their parents, Colonel and Mrs. R. H. Ives Goddard, to be used for the general purpose of maintaining worship in the church.[31] During the next month Alice Burton Talbot gave $3,000 for the maintenance of the guild house, to be added to a like fund in memory of her father, George B. Burton.[32] Such frequent additions to the endowment fund of the parish, even during periods when building and fabric renewal were in progress, have enabled Saint Stephen’s to achieve the strong financial footing which it enjoys today.

Another change in the physical arrangements of Saint Stephen’s came about in September, 1919, when the corporation voted to sell the rectory at 166 George Street for not less than $26,000.[33] This house was built especially for Doctor Fiske and his large family. Father Penfold found the house inconvenient and prohibitively expensive to heat. His dissatisfaction coincided with parochial economic disenchantment caused by the high upkeep of the large rectory and led to a vestry decision to dispose of the property. In October, 1919, the rector announced the purchase of 228 Angell Street from Mrs. Charles H. Chapman for $12,000.[34] The new rectory, though several blocks more distant from the church than the old, was still within walking distance; and it was a considerably smaller building. The vestry voted to make a $1,500 addition to the new rectory and to apply the $6,500 remaining from the sale of the old rectory to cover the cost of organ equipment.[35] These figures indicate that the corporation received only $20,000 from the sale of 166 George Street rather than $26,000, the price set in September, 1919.

In the autumn of 1920 the exterior walls of the church were repointed and the slate roof made tight at a cost of $5,000, most of which could not be paid.[36] Characteristic of the liberality which is often found during this period, a generous friend of the parish gave $5,000 to cover the entire exterior work.[37]

The introduction of the duplex envelope system to Saint Stephen’s in January, 1920, ushered in the first of a series of financial innovations which have brought the parish into the contemporary era in its monetary structure.[38] The following month the rector’s salary was raised to $6,000 per annum, a generous stipend for the post-World War I era.[39] In May, 1920, the members of the parish applied their efforts to the Nation Wide Campaign of the Episcopal Church, and in this manner extended once again the missionary concern of Saint Stephen’s.[40]

Not only through gifts, but also by work, the parish continued its effort to extend the church’s influence. In June, 1920, Mrs. Howard Hoppin, a loyal parishioner, was the first woman to be nominated and elected by the Convention of the Diocese of Rhode Island as a delegate to the Provincial Synod.[41]

During Doctor Fiske’s time Saint Stephen’s had enjoyed a long succession of distinguished, able curates, whose abilities complimented the notable leadership of their rector. This same tradition was continued in November, 1920, when the Reverend Frederick L. Maryon, the former archdeacon of Milwaukee and long-time friend of Father Penfold, took up the duties of curate.[42] He succeeded the Reverend John C. Petrie, who was curate from February until July, 1920.[43]

The resignation of the organist, Edwin Ernest Wilde, in January, 1921, brought another fresh, creative talent to Saint Stephen’s in the person of F. Walter Williams, then an undergraduate at Harvard University.[44] For a year after Mr. Wilde’s departure, Mr. Williams had acted as substitute organist. His request for a salary of $40 a week had led the vestry to hire William Evans, the organist of Saint Luke’s Church, Jamestown, New York, at a salary of $30 a week, with the use of one room in the guild house. However, Mr. Evans never arrived. Although the vestry did not meet Mr. Williams’s salary demand, he finally accepted the position as organist. With a budget of $3,600 for 1922, this talented young organist embarked upon his era of unsurpassed musical excellence at Saint Stephen’s.[45]

Constant change and frequent readjustment characterized the life of Saint Stephen’s parish during the 1920s. Today it is hard to imagine that before 1920 women never attended the parish corporation meetings; but by April, 1920, this once-sacred citadel of the male had been stormed and captured by the female members of Saint Stephen’s.[46] The close parallel between parish corporate procedure and the national women’s suffrage movement is striking; for the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, became law in August, 1920.

An examination in the January, 1921, S. Stephen of the practices accompanying pew rental indicates that this arrangement was beginning to come under the criticism of both parishioners and visitors.[47] During the nineteenth century pew rental had been the standard method by which a parish maintained an assured income. Increasingly in the twentieth century, however, partly as a result of the teaching of the Catholic revival, voluntary offerings were stressed. During February of 1921 H. Anthony Dyer arranged a parish canvass to pay off a debt, the bulk of which had been incurred in the purchase of an organ several years earlier.[48] The voluntary Easter offering of 1921, the largest in the history of Saint Stephen’s parish, amounted to $3,100. The vestry employed this amount to pay off most of the remaining debt, which stood at $4,000.[49] Without a doubt, the seeds of consistent voluntary parish support began to take root during the early 1920s. At the same time the economic problems of this period mirror themselves in parochial support. During October, 1921, Father Penfold wrote about the hard times and unemployment of the period and attributed certain parochial financial problems to the secular economic situation.[50]

Despite these difficulties, the parish income for 1923, exclusive of the Easter and Christmas offerings, was estimated to amount to $20,697—$5,200 from pew rental, $10,197 from weekly offerings, $900 from unpledged offerings, and $4,400 from interest on invested funds.[51] Voluntary offerings amounted to twice the sum received from pew rental and pointed to a day when all pews could be made free.

Father Penfold was conspicuously successful in enhancing the theological knowledge of his people, as well as in the ornamentation of his church building, and in increasing the voluntary financial support of his parish. Along with these improvements he also regularized the full Catholic churchmanship and ceremonial which Doctor Fiske had introduced. In April, 1921, Mrs. Wallace Chandler offered to give a small set of Stations of the Cross, twenty-one by ten inches in size. At least twice in the past, permanent stations had been refused by the vestry because of the problem of placement, although Doctor Fiske had frequently performed the Way of the Cross with temporary station cards.[52] For some unknown reason these stations never were placed in Saint Stephen’s. Probably quiet lay resistance to such an innovation made their immediate installation unwise.

Parochial acceptance of Catholic churchmanship naturally led to an increased number of confessions. During the year 1921 eight hundred confessions were heard in Saint Stephen’s, and in addition the parish records indicate an increase in service and communion statistics.[53] During April, 1922, Father Penfold took advantage of the spiritual keenness of his people by inviting the Reverend Fathers Huntington and Hughson of the Order of the Holy Cross to give a mission. These two great missioners had contributed their collective spiritual genius to Saint Stephen’s in the past. Once again the parishioners responded heartily, nearly filling the church every night of the mission.[54]

In June, 1922, Saint Stephen’s received the gift of a first set of white High Mass vestments in memory of Frank H. Martin, its late senior warden. Formerly the clergy had been forced to borrow such vestments from neighboring parishes; now, with these articles a part of the church property, the High Mass tradition was a firmly accepted way of worship in Rhode Island’s first citadel of Catholicism.[55] During March, 1923, Saint Faith’s Guild presented a Sanctus bell for the high altar in memory of its departed members.[56] More and more the sound and sight of Catholic worship was becoming the norm at Saint Stephen’s.

On September 1, 1922, the Reverend Frederick L. Maryon left the curacy of Saint Stephen’s to become rector of Trinity Church, Bristol, Rhode Island.[57] The Reverend Arthur B. Dimmick, who had supplied during the summer consented to stay on and fill the position of curate after Father Maryon’s departure.[58] Both of these curates provided firm and loyal support to Father Penfold during the early 1920s, a period of severe personal distress for him.

In spite of ill health and a gathering personal tragedy, Saint Stephen’s stalwart rector continued bravely both to teach and to defend the Catholic faith as set forth by the Bishops in the Dallas Pastoral of 1923. During 1924 the tide of modernism still threatened to weaken the foundations of the church. In several articles, written for The S. Stephen, Father Penfold attacked the theological premises of the Reverend Percy Stickney Grant of New York and of some of the faculty members of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[59] In April and May of 1924 a nationwide priests’ conference was held in Philadelphia. During this conference the leading Catholic thinkers in the Anglican Communion preached and lectured about the fundamentals of the faith. Along with such eminent men as the Right Reverend William Walter Webb, Bishop of Milwaukee, and the Reverend Doctor Bernard Iddings Bell, the President of Saint Stephen’s College, Frederick Spies Penfold took an important part and delivered a notable address on the Real Presence.[60] Saint Stephen’s brilliant, articulate rector realized that the shifting sands of his time could not be stabilized by a theology even more quixotic than secular ideologies. Frequently the faith had to be restated; but always it was the same faith. A good Christian apologist must interpret the changing times in the light of the changeless faith. He must not change the faith to suit contemporary, fashionable, secular dogmas which vacillate from one decade to another. Equipped with perhaps a keener intellect and a more eloquent tongue than any previous rector of Saint Stephen’s, Father Penfold placed his gifts at the service of God and of His Church at a critical moment when the Catholic religion needed clear, decisive articulation. Doubtless, increased pressures, both personal and priestly, led Father Penfold to the threshold of a nervous disorder which struck him in the autumn of 1925. Because of this and in recognition of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, the vestry voted to give him a vacation of at least two months abroad at the expense of the parish during the summer of 1926.[61] Early in the summer of 1926 he laid the cornerstone of Saint Barnabas’ Church, Apponaug, Rhode Island, a parish founded largely through his efforts, and led by one of Saint Stephen’s loyal lay readers, Gustav A. Schweitzer.[62] Then he set off for a summer of rest and relaxation in Europe. He returned from this holiday ostensibly in excellent health; but during November, 1926, he suffered a severe nervous breakdown. For a time he seemed to improve, as he wrote to a priest friend on November 20, 1926.

Thanks for your letter. I seem to be getting better, and able to do a day’s work again. A man can stand just so much, and then he breaks. Every conceivable examination has been made of me, and I am reported to be a well preserved “old man,” with sound heart and lungs and kidneys and blood pressure. I am so glad you heard and cared.[63]

“A man can stand just so much and then he breaks.” These words of Father Penfold were tragically prophetic, for on Advent Sunday morning, November 28, 1926, Frederick Spies Penfold died, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage the previous day. With his death a pall of gloom and dismay descended over the entire parish. On Monday, November 29, his body was fittingly placed in the Lady chapel, the part of the fabric which had occupied his greatest efforts in ornamentation. From Monday until Wednesday, December 1, 1926, parishioners kept a perpetual watch by his body.

There was not a moment when one or more persons were not kneeling in prayer near the bier. Night and day the watch was kept by loyal, loving souls.[64]

Bishop Perry and Father Huntington, Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, said the Burial Office. The Reverend Granville Mercer Williams, S.S.J.E., celebrated the Requiem Mass, assisted by the Reverend Oliver B. Dale, S.S.J.E., deacon, and the Reverend Frank Damrosch, subdeacon. The Reverend Frederick L. Maryon, long-time friend of Father Penfold and former curate, acted as master of ceremonies.[65]

The vestry of Saint Stephen’s, meeting the day after their rector’s death, decided to buy a burial lot for him in the Swan Point Cemetery and to offer his family any financial help which they might need. Father Dimmick was entrusted with temporary charge of the parish and given a salary of $2,100.[66] Later the vestry ordained that the Holy Sacrifice be offered yearly for the repose of Father Penfold’s soul on the anniversary of his death[67] and presented the following resolution:

Doctor Penfold was a priest of rare ability. As a preacher few could excel him, and his assiduity in executive management was unflagging and unsurpassed. During the seven years he was with us he brought the interior aspect of Saint Stephen’s and its devotional services to a high altitude of Catholic faith and practice, of which he was an ardent and intrepid champion. His burning love of our Lord’s Presence on the Altar kindled in the parish a flame of devotion which, please God, shall never be extinguished. In the full vigor of natural manhood, at the height of his uncommon strength and virility he was taken, and his many friends will never cease to mourn his loss. We feel that the words of Saint Paul may be most fittingly applied to him—“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”[68]

The sudden shock of grief brought on by Father Penfold’s death did not deter the vestry from the pursuit of its task, the search for a new rector. For the first time, two women, Mrs. Howard Hoppin and Mrs. F. Ellis Jackson, were appointed members of the committee to seek a new rector which was made up also of R. H. Ives Goddard, Wallace R. Chandler, and John R. M. Orpen.[69]

Hope for the future and thanksgiving for the past filled the thoughts and actions of many Saint Stephen’s people as the year 1927 began. During January of that year the vestry discussed memorials in thanksgiving for the work of both Doctor Fiske and Father Penfold. The Fiske memorial had been considered for some time and was long overdue. The tragic circumstances surrounding Father Penfold’s death undoubtedly spurred the parish to action. Mrs. Wallace Chandler, Mrs. Frank A. Sayles, and Mrs. Charles A. Kilvert led a group of women who wanted the parish to give a set of permanent Stations of the Cross. As Mrs. Chandler was traveling in Europe, Mrs. Charles Kilvert wrote the vestry in January, 1927, suggesting that a set of Stations of the Cross be given by the parish as a memorial to Father Penfold. Eight members of the vestry voted for this memorial, two abstained, and one voted against its erection.[70] So popular was the memorial that by June, 1927, the parishioners had contributed enough money, over and above the cost of the stations, to pay for a gravestone for Father Penfold in the form of a Latin cross.[71] During October, 1927, the new rector announced the approval of memorial carved-oak doors and of a stained glass window over this entrance in memory of Doctor Fiske.[72] The carved wood Stations of the Cross were executed in Italy and dedicated on Ash Wednesday, 1928; the Fiske memorial was completed shortly afterward and dedicated on Low Sunday, April 15, 1928.[73]

In order to assist the Reverend Arthur B. Dimmick, who ably and faithfully headed the interim ministry, the Reverend Cassius H. Hunt was engaged as curate. In the meantime the vestry set out on an energetic search for a new rector.[74]

The swiftness with which the vestry located and called the tenth rector of Saint Stephen’s is remarkable. On January 26, 1927, less than two months after Father Penfold’s untimely death, the vestry voted unanimously to call the Reverend Frederic Fleming of the Church of the Atonement, Chicago, Illinois, to become rector of Saint Stephen’s.[75] Father Fleming enjoyed a fine preaching reputation as had Father Penf old. Like his predecessor’s, his recent ministry had also been in that part of the Midwest noted for its strong Anglo-Catholicism, sometimes called the Biretta Belt. The eagerness of Saint Stephen’s to engage him was obvious from the generous personal benefits and wholehearted agreement which the vestry offered him: a salary of $8,000 per annum, the cost of moving, a rectory and fuel to heat it, an annual vacation of two months, and a completely free hand in the conduct of the affairs of the parish.[76] On February 27, 1927, Father Fleming accepted the call to become rector of Saint Stephen’s, but asked the vestry to look into the sale of the old rectory, 228 Angell Street, and the leasing or purchasing of a new house. He stated at this time that he planned to arrive in Providence on May 1, 1927.[77] After considering several houses, the vestry decided to renovate 228 Angell Street and to keep it for that purpose.[78]

On Sunday, May 1, 1927, the Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Bishop Perry instituted Father Fleming as tenth rector of Saint Stephen’s between the services of Matins and Mass.[79] Since Father Dimmick had consented to stay on for a time and Father Hunt had recently been engaged, Saint Stephen’s new rector started his work with a strong and able staff. With this firm foundation Father Fleming commenced his ministry, as he noted from the pulpit, by taking time to observe and become acquainted with the manner of life in the parish and by laying lines of policy and activity for Saint Stephen’s future.[80]

Scarcely more than two months after his arrival in Providence, Father Fleming was injured in a serious automobile accident on Cape Cod. This misfortune necessitated a period of hospitalization which kept him from his parochial duties until the autumn.[81] By September, 1927, he had recovered sufficiently from the mishap to institute a number of changes in the church school program. At this time he rearranged the Sunday morning Masses so that a church school service could be held at 9:30, followed by an instruction in the guild hall terminating at ten-thirty.[82] An increasing awareness on the part of Father Fleming that the Mass is the ground of Christian education as well as of Christian life and worship is evidenced by his institution on February 25, 1928, of an instructed Mass for children of the confirmation class on Saturdays at 10:00 A.M.[83] By December, 1928, a radically new approach to Christian education had been introduced by Saint Stephen’s new rector. The short church school service on Sunday was eliminated. Instead the church school hour was devoted entirely to an instruction given by Father Fleming and to class sessions. In order to fulfill the necessary element of worship, every child above the primary level was requested to attend at least one eleven o’clock Mass each month. In addition, all confirmed children had the responsibility of attending one early Mass a month, at which they were expected to make their communions.[84]

From his announcement of this new program of Christian education, it is evident that Father Fleming understood clearly the principles of the Parish Eucharist, a service which was just beginning to take root in England during his time, but which since has swept through many parts of the American Church. Attending the principal Mass on Sunday implies that Christian education is primarily training for membership in the Christian household, the Church. Consequently, Christian education is not essentially a miniature of secular education, but rather training in a way of life. In the light of this understanding, children’s services are an anachronism because by definition they are a kind of hothouse worship, a feeble approximation of the entire family of God gathered for the Parish Mass. The small start which Father Fleming made in 1928 toward revitalized Christian education, with particular reference to worship, has steadily grown and prospered to the present day when the Sunday Parish Mass at Saint Stephen’s includes parishioners of nearly every age.

Unfortunately, the secular financial pressures of the late 1920s began to reflect themselves in the parish’s inability to meet its budget in 1928 and for several years subsequently. The proposed 1928 minimum budget was $30,000. From the endowment an income of $12,975 could be expected. Of the remaining $17,025 required to meet the budget, only $9,349 had been pledged by 234 people in 1927. The missionary quota of $7,320 in 1927 had been only approximated by an aggregate $4,257 pledge, given by 172 people.[85] The year 1927 had left Saint Stephen’s parish with a deficit of $3,274.92, even after the use of the sizable income from the endowment which stood at $168,848.84.[86] In 1929 the parish attempted to raise a $32,000 budget. Although the $6,300 missionary quota was realized, the pledges for work within the parish fell $5,000 short of the goal.[87] In November, 1929, the total weight of the Crash and of the subsequent Depression began to press heavily upon the parish finances. So desperate for funds did the vestry become that it voted to secure an advertising company to compose a letter to parishioners in the hope of attaining larger pledges. Although the parish had stayed within its budget during 1929, the pledges had fallen far short of the desired goal. As Saint Stephen’s parish approached the 1930s, her financial problems looked much like those of most other institutions in the United States.

Fortunately, not every part of the parochial horizon looked as depressing as the financial portion. In March, 1929, Saint Stephen’s organist, F. Walter Williams, described to the vestry the proposed Saint Dunstan’s College of Sacred Music which he was to lead. The vestry heartily endorsed the idea which did not require any direct subsidization from the parish.[88] By the summer of 1929 the Saint Dunstan’s foundation, made possible through the generosity of Mr. John Nicholas Brown, a regular attendant of Saint Stephen’s, had been organized. For a number of years subsequently, this choir college trained the boys of Saint Stephen’s and of other church choirs in Providence. It is well to remember that its initial impetus, both musical and financial, came from Mr. Brown with Saint Stephen’s parish in mind.

Years of financial uncertainty did not stop the steady flow of candidates for the ministry issuing from our George Street parish. On Monday, October 28, 1929, the Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Mr. Williams, Saint Stephen’s able organist, was made a deacon, and Gustav Adolf Schweitzer, the former lay reader instrumental in the establishment of Saint Barnabas’ Church, Apponaug, was ordained to the priesthood in Saint Stephen’s.[89] On June 24, 1927, another able parish boy, James M. Duncan, had been ordained to the priesthood.[90] In good times and bad the same seemingly inexhaustible supply of men for the priesthood issued from Saint Stephen’s, testifying to a parochial depth of conviction and life, the legacy of generations of Catholic faith and practice.

In September, 1927, the Reverend Arthur Dimmick resigned from the curacy of Saint Stephen’s after five years of service.[91] Saint Stephen’s parish has been blessed with a number of able curates as well as with many outstanding rectors. Certainly Father Dimmick’s loyalty and devotion to his rector, Father Penfold, as well as his successful execution of the interim ministry before Father Fleming’s arrival, entitle him to a place of honor among curates of this parish. For one year Saint Stephen’s got along without a second curate; but on October 1, 1928, the Reverend H. H. Walsh arrived to take on the duties of curate along with the Reverend Cassius Hunt.[92]

Father Walsh came to Providence in order to do graduate work at Brown University and left at the end of September, 1928, in order further to pursue graduate studies at Columbia University in New York.[93] Fortunately, shortly before Father Walsh arrived, F. Ellis Jackson, the well-known Providence architect and vestryman of Saint Stephen’s, had drawn up the plans and engineered the remodeling of the guild house fourth floor to provide two curates’ apartments with a common kitchen, dining room, and guest room. All of these improvements were financed through special funds, and were not a part of the budget.[94]

Father Fleming initiated a number of minor changes during the first part of his rectorate. In August, 1927, after arrangements had been made by Wallace R. Chandler, the vestry voted to give up an independent furnace and take all its heat from Brown University.[95] With only one interruption, this Baptist heat has served the parish well ever since. On Tuesday, November 22, 1927, at 8:00 P.M. Father Fleming held the first rector’s conference with his parishioners to discuss changes under the new regime.[96] During October, 1927, he started a breakfast after the 8:30 Mass in order that all communicants might be enabled to break their fast immediately after the Mass, before a frequently long homeward journey.[97] At the end of 1927 a friend of Father Fleming’s from the West gave enough money to remodel the Webster Memorial Library on the third floor of the guild house as his study. The Women’s League provided the new study furniture. At the same time the organ console was placed back in the choir; and the pulpit detached from the Epistle side of the rood screen and moved to its present position next to the second nave pillar on the Gospel side.[98] In January, 1928, an important amendment to the charter was passed increasing the membership of the vestry from thirteen to its present number, sixteen.[99]

Saint Stephen’s had long been noted for the effective missions given by members of the Order of the Holy Cross and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. During the first week in Lent, 1928, and during Passion Week of the same year the Reverend Paul B. Bull of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, England, gave an excellent mission at Saint Stephen’s and also preached and took conferences on the Brown University campus. Father Fleming availed himself of this opportunity to leave the parish in order to make a preaching tour which covered Trinity Church, New York, the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D. C., Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, Maryland, and several parishes in the diocese of Massachusetts.[100] Father Bull’s magnificent sermons and engaging manners have been vividly remembered in this parish; and a few choirboy stories concerning his pulpit deportment, more particularly the placement thereon of his paunch and of his false teeth, still circulate to this day.

Although Father Fleming had not the concise, muscular preaching style of Father Penfold, his homiletical abilities were generally recognized throughout the American Church. Testimony to this fact was given in January, 1929, when the Reverend William H. Milton, assistant chairman of the National Commission on Evangelism, requested that Saint Stephen’s rector be released for two weeks in order to preach missions. With its characteristic generosity the vestry granted the request.[101]

During 1928 and 1929 Saint Stephen’s parish once again sustained a series of losses through death which deprived the church of valued leadership. On September 30, 1928, Theodore Foster, long-time senior warden of Saint Stephen’s, died. The death of two other loyal vestrymen, Charles Denison Dunlop and Thomas Wray, followed soon on January 6, 1929, and May 24, 1929, respectively.[102] Mr. R. H. Ives Goddard was elected the new senior warden on October 11, 1928, and immediately shouldered many of the large parochial responsibilities which Mr. Foster had carried.[103] Continuity in the quality of parish leadership always remained at Saint Stephen’s, even though the prosperity of the Fiske days no longer lingered.

In May, 1929, Father Fleming was honored in his election to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Rhode Island.[104] This election resumed afresh the Waterman and Fiske tradition of Saint Stephen’s clerical representation in the most important committee of the diocese. Once again, in September, 1929, the discussion concerning free pews came up during vestry meeting. Such a step would have required a change in the charter; therefore, legal advice from the firm of Edwards and Angell was sought.[105]

While the vestry was still considering the possibility of freeing all pews, the entire project was brought to a halt by the resignation of Father Fleming who had accepted a call to become vicar of the Chapel of the Intercession of Trinity Parish, New York.[106] From the Chapel of the Intercession Father Fleming later went to become rector of Trinity Parish, New York, one of the most notable positions in the American Church.

Shortly before Father Fleming left the parish, he recommended that two lists of parishioners be kept, one which included all confirmed persons, and the other which would comprise all members who kept in active touch with the parish.[107] This suggestion marks the beginning of a firm distinction made between active communicants and confirmed persons, a division which has since been observed in Saint Stephen’s records and has led to a well-defined communicant list presenting a true picture of parochial strength.

On February 13, 1930, sometime before Father Fleming’s resignation officially took effect, April 13, 1930, the vestry voted to call the Reverend Charles Townsend of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, to become their rector. Father Townsend accepted the call on March 8, 1930.[108] A smooth succession was secured with a very short interim period between rectors.

[1] The S. Stephen, Vol. 34 No. 7, June 1919, p. 3.

[2] Vestry Minutes, September 30, 1918, Record Book 3, p. 154.

[3] Vestry Minutes, January 8, 1919, Record Book 3, p. 157.

[4] Vestry Minutes, February 27, 1919, Record Book 3, p. 158.

[5] The S. Stephen, Vol. 30 No. 3, February 1915, p. 4.

[6] Ibid., Vol. 34 No. 5, April 1919, p. 4.

[7] Ibid., Vol. 34 No. 2, January 1919, p. 3.

[8] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 3, February 1920, p. 2.

[9] Ibid., Vol. 34 No. 5, April 1919, p. 4.

[10] Ibid., Vol. 39 No. 7, June 1919, p. 3.

[11] Wallace R. Chandler, personal interview, October 4, 1961.

[12] The S. Stephen, Vol. 35 No. 1, December 1919, p. 1.

[13] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 3, February 1920, p. 2.

[14] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 5, April 1920, p. 3.

[15] Ibid., Vol. 36 No. 4, March 1921, p. 3.

[16] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 7, June 1920, p. 2.

[17] Ibid., Vol. 36 No. 9, October 1921, p. 3.

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

[19] The S. Stephen, Vol. 36 No. 2, January 1921, p. 3.

[20] Ibid., Vol. 39 No. 4, May 1924, p. 3.

[21] Vestry Minutes, April 21, 1919, Record Book 3, p. 161.

[22] Vestry Minutes, June 10, 1919, Record Book 3, p. 164 and Vestry Minutes, April 5, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 178.

[23] The S. Stephen, Vol. 35 No. 6, May 1920, p. 3.

[24] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 3, April 1922, p. 2.

[25] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 5, June 1922, p. 2.

[26] Vestry Minutes, January 28, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 173 and June 23, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 180.

[27] The S. Stephen, Vol. 35 No. 2, January 1920, p. 4.

[28] Ibid., Vol. 39 No. 4, May 1924, p. 3.

[29] Ibid., Vol. 40 No. 1, December 1924, p. 2.

[30] Ibid., Vol. 30 No. 9, November 1924, p. 3.

[31] Vestry Minutes, January 28, 1920, Record Book 3, pp. 171-172.

[32] Vestry Minutes, February 25, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 174.

[33] Corporation Minutes, September 2, 1919, Record Book 3, p. 166.

[34] Vestry Minutes, October 31, 1919, Record Book 3, p. 167.

[35] Ibid.

[36] The S. Stephen, Vol. 35 No. n, October 1920, p. 3.

[37] Ibid., Vol. 36 No. 1, December 1920, pp. 3-4.

[38] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 2, January 1920, p. 4.

[39] Vestry Minutes, February 25, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 175.

[40] Vestry Minutes, May 12, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 180.

[41] The S. Stephen, Vol. 35 No. 7, June 1920, p. 3.

[42] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 10, September 1920, p. 3.

[43] Ibid., Vol. 35 No. 3, February 1920, p. 2 and Vol. 35 No. 7, July 1920, p. 3.

[44] Ibid., Vol. 36 No. 2, January 1921, pp. 3-4.

[45] Vestry Minutes, January 9, 1922, Record Book 3, pp. 200-201 and The S. Stephen, Vol. 37 No. I, January 1922, p. 2.

[46] Corporation Minutes, April 5, 1920, Record Book 3, p. 175.

[47] The S. Stephen, Vol. 36 No. 2, January 1921, p. 2.

[48] Vestry Minutes, February 10, 1921, Record Book 3, p. 187.

[49] The S. Stephen, Vol. 36 No. 4, April 1921, p. 3.

[50] Ibid., Vol. 36 No. 10, October 1921, p. 3.

[51] Vestry Minutes, January 8, 1923, Record Book 3, p. 208.

[52] The S. Stephen, Vol. 36 No. 4, April 1921, p. 3.

[53] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 3, April 1922, p. 3.

[54] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 3, April 1922, p. 3.

[55] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 5, June 1922, p. 2.

[56] Ibid., Vol. 38 No. 3, March-April 1923, p. 2.

[57] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 6, August 1922, p. 2.

[58] Ibid., Vol. 37 No. 7, September 1922, p. 2.

[59] Ibid., Vol. 39 No. 2, January 1924, ff.

[60] The American Church Monthly, Vol. XV No. 4, June 1924, “The Real Presence,” Frederick S. Penfold, p. 311.

[61] Vestry Minutes, November 27, 1925, Record Book 3, p. 224.

[62] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 3, February 1927, p. 4.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Vestry Minutes, November 29, 1926, Record Book 3, p. 228.

[65] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 2, January 1927, p. 2.

[66] Vestry Minutes, November 29, 1926, Record Book 3, p. 228.

[67] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 2, January 1927, p. 2.

[68] Vestry Minutes, December 19, 1926, Record Book 3, p. 228.

[69] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 6, December 1926, p. 2.

[70] Vestry Minutes, January 26, 1927, Record Book 3, p. 235.

[71] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 6, June 1927, p. 2.

[72] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 9, October 1927, p. 2.

[73] Ibid., Vol. 43 No. 3, March-April 1928, pp. 3-4.

[74] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 2, January 1927, p. 1.

[75] Vestry Minutes, January 26, 1927, Record Book 3, p. 235.

[76] Vestry Minutes, February 6, 1927, Record Book 3, pp. 236-237.

[77] Vestry Minutes, February 27, 1927, Record Book 3, p. 238.

[78] Vestry Minutes, April 1, 1927, Record Book 3, p. 239 and April 20, 1927, Record Book 3, p. 240.

[79] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 4, March-April 1927, p. 2.

[80] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 5, May 1927, p. 3.

[81] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 7, Midsummer 1927, p. 2.

[82] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 8, September 1927, p. 2.

[83] Ibid., Vol. 43 No. 2, January-February 1928, p. 3.

[84] Ibid., Vol. 44 No. 1, December 1928, p. 4.

[85] Ibid., Vol. 43 No. 1, November-December 1927, p. 4.

[86] Corporation Minutes, January 16, 1928, Record Book 3, p. 247.

[87] The S. Stephen, Vol. 44 No. 2, January- February 1929, p. 5.

[88] Vestry Minutes, March 5, 1929, Record Book 3, p. 262.

[89] The S. Stephen, Vol. 44 No. 7, November 1929, p. 4.

[90] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 6, June 1927, p. 2.

[91] Ibid., Vol. 42 No. 8, September 1927, p. 3.

[92] Vestry Minutes, October 11, 1928, Record Book 3, p. 255.

[93] The S. Stephen, Vol. 44 No. 5, Midsummer 1929, p. 3.

[94] Ibid., Vol. 43 No. 4, May-June 1928, p. 2.

[95] Vestry Minutes, August 29, 1927, Record Book 3, p. 266.

[96] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 9, October 1927, p. 3.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid., Vol. 43 No. 2, January-February 1928, p. 4.

[99] Corporation Minutes, January 16, 1928, Record Book 3, p. 249.

[100] The S. Stephen, Vol. 42 No. 2, January-February 1928, pp. 2-3.

[101] Vestry Minutes, January 28, 1929, Record Book 3, p. 261.

[102] The S. Stephen, Vol. 43 No. 6, September-October 1928, p. 2, Vol. 44 No. 3, March-April 1929, p. 3, and Vestry Minutes, June 3, 1929, Record Book 3, p. 263.

[103] Vestry Minutes, October 11, 1928, Record Book 3, p. 255.

[104] The S. Stephen, Vol. 44 No. 4, May-June 1929, p. 4.

[105] Vestry Minutes, September 27, 1929, Record Book 3, p. 267.

[106] Vestry Minutes, January 4, 1930, Record Book 3, p. 269.

[107] Corporation Minutes, January 20, 1930, Record Book 3, p. 271.

[108] Vestry Minutes, February 13,1930, Record Book 3, p. 273 and March 8, 1930, Record Book 3, p. 273.