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 Shaking of the Foundation
THE SPEED with which the vestry elected a new rector in 1930 bore witness to the decisive leadership exercised by the wardens of the parish. It is difficult for us to imagine the wide international influence which several vestrymen, such as H. Anthony Dyer and R. H. Ives Goddard, enjoyed during this period. For example, in 1930 Saint Stephen’s articulate senior warden, Mr. Dyer, spoke at the opening meeting of the Anglo-Catholic Congress held in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Evidently Mr. Dyer, Mr. Goddard, and the members of the vestry manifested the same sort of skill and concern when handling parish affairs as they showed in their extensive activities outside Saint Stephen’s.
Father Townsend’s known pastoral predilections had indicated that he might be a happy choice for rector of Saint Stephen’s in 1930, when so much urban parish support was lost and never regained. He had spent a successful eighteen-year ministry in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pennsylvania. It was as pastor and teacher that his reputation had spread throughout the Church in the East. Religious indifference during the 1930s, the widespread economic depression of that time, and the movement of population away from older sections of the East Side made Father Townsend’s pastoral and pedagogical assets particularly valuable to Saint Stephen’s at that juncture in parochial life.
The Reverend William C. Robertson, who had been employed and paid by Father Fleming, and the Reverend Cassius Hunt carried the duty during the short interim between the residence of rectors; both men left around May 1, 1930, the time of Father Townsend’s arrival. Almost immediately the new rector engaged the Reverend Henry L. Ewan to start work by July 1, 1930, as senior curate in charge of the ministry to older boys, young men, and acolytes. Shortly afterward he engaged the Reverend James Richards, a deacon, to arrive in September, as junior curate in charge of work with children and the church school. The two curates, the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, and the rector himself began a vigorous parochial visitation program. Always Father Town-send considered parish calling an integral part of the work of each member of the staff; and frequently he made his expectation unmistakable by checking on parish calls at staff meetings. No one set a more assiduous example in the duty of parish visitation than the new rector himself.
Father Townsend introduced several significant changes shortly after his arrival in Providence. In September, 1930, he announced the beginning of the weekly Children’s Mass to be celebrated every Sunday at 9:30 A.M. in the Lady chapel. The following Christmas the new rector introduced the first Midnight Mass, a service which has become a popular part of parish tradition since that time. In November, 1933, for the first time at Saint Stephen’s, Father Townsend said the last gospel aloud. He also set in motion long-range plans for the enlargement of the sanctuary of the church, a worthwhile project considering the cramped quarters in which the dignified ceremonial of Saint Stephen’s had been performed for so many years.
Another proposal, though it never reached fruition, indicates Father Townsend’s abiding concern for the college work which since 1865 had been a missionary concern of the parish. In June, 1931, the rector mentioned to the vestry the need for a door which would open from the church directly upon the Brown University campus. Today the campus surrounds Saint Stephen’s as it did not in Father Townsend’s day; in a certain respect, then, his wish has been fulfilled. Saint Stephen’s doors open upon the campus as well as to the rest of the community.
Perhaps the most significant and far-reaching change, carried through at the beginning of Father Townsend’s rectorate, was the freeing of all pews, made possible by an act of the Rhode Island State Legislature amending Saint Stephen’s charter, passed on March 10, 1931. At the January 18, 1932, corporation meeting, the parishioners voted to sell no more pews and requested all pew holders to surrender rights to their pews. There were eighty-nine pew holders left at the time of the complete abolition of rented pews, and of this number twenty-five were present on the last Sunday when the private ownership of pews was recognized. Since the late nineteenth century there had been interest in abandoning the pew rental system. Doctor Fiske was a leader of the free pew movement. Both Father Penfold and Father Fleming had made strides in that direction. Finally, on the very heels of a national economic collapse and at the outset of a new rectorate, Saint Stephen’s people took the bold step which did away with a stable source of parish income, in order to eliminate what seemed to many a needless flouting of material inequality.
Almost immediately the parish began to experience financial hardship. The budget for 1932 was set at $38,467, of which $31,000 was earmarked for parochial purposes and $7,467 was to be devoted to missions. Less than half of the budget, or $16,000, could be counted on from pledges. The rest had come from endowments and pew rentals prior to 1932. The parish fell $6,000 short of the proposed budget for 1932, and by March of that year the treasurer held little cash on hand. Such severe monetary shortages made the elimination of one curate’s salary necessary; and by June 1, 1932, Father Richards had left to become curate of Trinity Church, Princeton, New Jersey. In the autumn of 1932 Father Kuhns, the remaining curate, together with the rest of the parish staff, accepted a 10 per cent cut in salary in order to promote economy while maintaining an adequate group of workers.
Saint Stephen’s financial problems stemmed from several decreases in income compounded with the loss of pew rental. Of the $4,000 income that had come from pew rental, the holders made up $2,500 by increasing their pledges which left a $1,500 deficit in that source. Because of investment losses, the yearly endowment income had also decreased by an alarming amount, $2,400. Finally, the $1,819.76 unpaid pledge shrinkage contributed the last complication to Saint Stephen’s sorry budgetary plight.
The year 1932 ended with shortages of $4,000 for parish support and $2,000 for missionary giving. For 1933 the vestry made a partially successful effort to raise the number of pledges as well as to increase their size. They obtained 323, including 86 new pledgers, who promised $11,415.80 toward the necessary $12,550 for parish support and 242, including 68 new pledgers, who promised $5,138.60 toward the $7,542 missionary quota. In 1933 more than two-thirds of the parish families or individuals had made a pledge, a proud showing considering the economic exigencies of the time and the commonly permissive attitude toward regular lay financial support.
In early 1932 Father Townsend initiated a drastic pruning of the parish list. Frequently priests allow meaningless numbers of lapsed or removed communicants to swell their parochial reports year after year. Toward the end of Doctor Fiske’s rectorate Saint Stephen’s reported membership probably did not give an accurate picture of the number of active communicants. For this reason Father Penfold made a necessary readjustment of the communicant list. During the late 1920s the membership once again must have appeared un-realistically large. The figures at which Father Townsend arrived appear to be drastically small: 517 active communicants, 46 doubtful communicants, 125 lapsed, 87 removed or deceased, 492 families and individuals. Considering, however, the fact that at the height of the Fiske era, when Saint Stephen’s claimed 1,400 to 1,500 communicants, the Easter communions numbered few more than 500, we are safe in assuming that the number of active communicants probably remained fairly constant during the 1920s and early 1930s. Undoubtedly the number of fringe members decreased during this time. The church school and service records support the thesis that Saint Stephen’s true membership had remained fairly constant during the previous fifteen or twenty years. Although the enrollment in the church school went down to 65 in 1930, by January, 1932, it had been brought up to 115, a fair average for the preceding period. In 1930 communions numbered 7,222, sick communions 181, confessions 574, confirmations 16, baptisms 11, marriages 7, burials 27. During the succeeding year communions amounted to 7,800, sick communions 235, confessions 696, confirmations 40, baptisms 21, marriages 6 and burials 23. These figures are in some cases slightly larger than yearly statistics at the end of Doctor Fiske’s rectorate, and in other instances they are somewhat smaller. They seem to indicate that while Saint Stephen’s did not achieve the great numerical strides which it had attained around the turn of the century, the parish did at least hold the line during a period of widespread ecclesiastical and economic decline.
For many years one of the striking features of Saint Stephen’s Catholicity had been an unaffected concern for the poor and a keen interest in church life outside the parish. While Father Townsend was rector this manifestation of theologically-grounded social consciousness took several forms. On May 1, 1932, the Reverend George D. Rosenthal, vicar of Saint Agatha’s Church, Birmingham, England, and editor of the Fiery Cross, the publication of the Anglo-Catholic Congress, preached at Evensong at Saint Stephen’s. In November, 1934, the Very Reverend Sergius Bulgakoff, dean of the Russian Seminary in Paris, preached at Solemn Vespers. Later such Church of England leaders as the Reverend Humphrey Beevor, the librarian of Pusey House, Oxford, and Canon Bezzant of Liverpool preached at Saint Stephen’s.
Frequently, parochial interest in missionary affairs attaches itself to the bizarre and exotic and ignores the mundane but crying needs of less fortunate parishes nearby. Saint Stephen’s people never seemed to lose sight of the mandate to begin charity at home. In May, 1932, Bishop Perry, cognizant of the long and successful work which the parish had already done among colored people, requested the rector and vestry to foster a new mission for Negroes. Nearly a year later, March, 1933, the vestry went on record in favor of taking over as a parochial mission the Negro Church of the Savior. Although this plan never came to fruition, for many years Saint Stephen’s did maintain a generous interest in the work of Providence’s mission to Negro people. In 1935, for example, Father Moore-Brown, the vicar of the Church of the Savior, made known his mission’s need of a furnace boiler. Since Saint Stephen’s had connected its heating system to the Brown University heating plant, it owned an unused boiler which the vestry gladly gave to the Negro mission.
The more prosperous members of Saint Stephen’s brought their charity and concern for the poor even nearer home on Whitsunday and Trinity Sunday, 1933, when the members of the parish contributed pieces of their old gold and silver to be melted down and used for the poor of the parish who had been struck by the rigors of the Depression. In order more vividly to demonstrate the manner in which the precious gifts of the donors would be combined, Father Townsend placed a crucible at the door of the church as a receptacle for the gold and silver. During 1932 the parish had expended $1,632 for relief of its own poor people; and by the summer of 1933, $1,143 more had been used for this same purpose.
Probably internal financial shortages had kept Saint Stephen’s from taking on the Church of the Savior as a parochial mission. The fact that money remained hard to come by until the beginning of World War II is clearly indicated in all parish reports up to 1942. Nevertheless, Saint Stephen’s parishioners continued to answer the pressing needs of men, whether parishioners or not, all through this time of financial stress.
In the autumn of 1933 one of the most significant theologians and apologists of the American Church, the Reverend Doctor Bernard Iddings Bell, was brought to Providence and made a canon of the cathedral largely through the efforts and generosity of a parishioner of Saint Stephen’s, Mr. Joseph J. Bodell. Doctor Bell had been warden of Saint Stephen’s College, Annandale, New York. Once, when asked what he liked best to do, this distinguished scholar had replied, “Say Mass and preach.” Mr. Bodell brought Bell to Providence specifically to do these two things. Although Doctor Bell was not a member of Saint Stephen’s staff, he spent a good deal of time at Rhode Island’s first Anglo-Catholic parish, saying Mass and preaching.
Because of Doctor Bell’s firm Catholic convictions, he was requested to preach at the Oxford Movement Centennial service held in Saint Stephen’s on Advent Sunday, December 3, 1933. Time and again his name appears as preacher and lecturer in this parish. The stimulation, enlightenment, and elevation which serious churchmen must have received from this man, sometimes called the gadfly of the American Church, must have helped to raise spirits considerably during a time of trying material problems.
On December 24,1935, the Most Reverend Doctor William Temple, then Archbishop of York, later Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Providence and celebrated a Mass at Saint Stephen’s to which all of the clergy of the diocese were invited. After the Mass the clergy met Doctor Temple at breakfast in the guild house.
The year 1939 was the centenary year which marked the granting of Saint Stephen’s corporate charter. As early as June, 1933, Mrs. John Nicholas Brown had anonymously expressed her desire to finance the drawing up of plans for improvements to the church interior as a kind of centennial project. The vestry approved of the idea and left the matter in the hands of Father Townsend. Ralph Adams Cram, the leading Gothic architect of the day, was consulted and asked to present an overall plan for the centennial renovation. In November, 1933, his plans, which would have involved an expenditure of several hundred thousand dollars, came before the vestry but were not approved because the majority of its members believed that Mr. Cram had presented a more ambitious scheme than the parish could then finance. In order to consult with the architect and arrive at a plan, the vestry appointed a committee made up of the rector, the wardens, and any interested vestrymen.
Although little came of these initial plans, in March, 1936, Mrs. John Nicholas Brown once again offered to finance plans for improvements in the generally shabby interior of the church. The wardens and F. Ellis Jackson, vestryman and noted architect, were made a committee to discuss the project with Mrs. Brown and Mr. Cram. Unfortunately this plan did not come to fruition either; and so in October, 1937, the rector appointed Joseph J. Bodell, chairman, and the wardens and F. Ellis Jackson, a committee, to plan a more modest renovation of the church.
While the parish was preparing for its centennial, its members observed a second historical event on February 28, 1937, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the consecration of the George Street building. Bishop Perry was the guest preacher on that occasion and took the opportunity to remind his congregation of the tremendous theological and ceremonial advances which Saint Stephen’s had made since the time in the early 1840s when Bishop Griswold had censured the incumbent for the reading of the psalter and prayers with his side to the congregation and for the assumption of the eastward position when celebrating the Holy Communion, practices which he had labeled “superstitious and abominable fooleries.”
Early in 1938 the centennial renovation committee appointed F. Ellis Jackson architect in charge of renovation. During 1938 and 1939 he carried out extensive repair work, the cost of which amounted to $15,212. Gifts to the centennial fund ranged from fifty cents to $3,000. The centennial improvements included: renovation of the organ; enlargement and beautifying of the sanctuary by removal of the rood screen several yards to the west; a change in location of the organ console and the pipe casework; the carving of an exit from the altar rail to the nave through the organ chamber; the installation of a new sacristy door (in 1930 Mr. and Mrs. Joseph J. Bodell had donated anonymously a handsome Tudor interior for the old sacristy); redecoration of the nave, chapel, and porch walls; installation of new electric lanterns in the nave and in the chapel; certain exterior repairs such as new entrance steps, repainting of the tower masonry, and improvement of the drainage at the east end of the church; and the execution of certain minor repairs such as the purchase of new kneeling hassocks for the nave.
The centenary program which lasted for two weeks centered about the charter day, November first. It commenced with a festival service on October 29, the Feast of Christ the King, at which the Right Reverend Benjamin F. P. Ivins, the Bishop of Milwaukee, pontificated; and the Reverend Frederic Fleming, the former rector, preached. It was concluded on Sunday, November 12, 1939. Mrs. John Nicholas Brown and Mrs. R. H. Ives Goddard were chairwomen of a luncheon and reception held on October 29, 1939, at the Biltmore Hotel. Between services and banquets the parish marked its first hundred years with both ecclesiastical splendor and secular gaiety—holy hilarity, an old priest once called it.
Throughout the 1930s Saint Stephen’s connection with Saint Dunstan’s Choir School remained affable and close. The school had been made possible through the generous patronage of Mr. John Nicholas Brown and the remarkable talents of F. Walter Williams, Saint Stephen’s organist who had recently taken holy orders. In May, 1934, Mr. Brown suggested that Saint Dunstan’s be made a school of Saint Stephen’s Church with a corporation to consist of its present members brought under the control of the corporation of Saint Stephen’s parish. He offered to underwrite the school’s deficit for the following five years up to $13,000 for the first year and $2000 less for each succeeding year. This plan was referred to a committee composed of Messrs. R. H. Ives Goddard, Horace Weller, and Doctor Earl K. Strachen. Although the vision and future potentialities of this proposal seemed great, the parochial financial problems at that time kept the vestry from pursuing the project. The following year Father Townsend offered to take smaller quarters in order to decrease the considerable expense of the rectory at 228 Angell Street. By 1937 he accepted a $1,000 cut in his salary which went into effect when the reduced budget of 1938 was adopted. Unfortunately the mid-thirties was not a period when Saint Stephen’s could consider the opportunities which the operation of Saint Dunstan’s School might have offered. Even in 1940 the parish was still undergoing financial stresses, witnessed by the fact that Father Townsend then carried out his suggestion and left the rectory to take up residence in a small apartment at 121 Angell Street.
The Reverend F. Walter Williams in October, 1934, announced his resignation as organist and choirmaster of Saint Stephen’s in order to take a similar position, along with some priestly duties, at Christ Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The departure of this talented musician left a place difficult to fill at Saint Dunstan’s Choir School as well as in the parish church. Fortunately, Father Townsend was able to secure the services of Lawrence Apgar, an able young organist, who carried on the work at Saint Dunstan’s School along with his parish duties.
One way in which Saint Stephen’s vestry promoted economy and at the same time assisted in the work of Saint Dunstan’s School was by sharing a curate, the Reverend Frederick A. McDonald, who took part-time duty at the school as chaplain and instructor in sacred studies and history. From 1934 until 1936, when he left to try his vocation at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, Father McDonald assisted Father Yeoman, the senior curate, who did the bulk of the calling and parish work. Saint Dunstan’s paid half Father McDonald’s salary while the parish paid the rest.
In the autumn of 1936 when the Reverend Robert L. Jacoby and the Reverend George P. Huntington succeeded Father Yeoman and Father McDonald, the same arrangement was continued. Then Father Huntington, son of a well-known Brown professor and grand-nephew of the founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, assumed the part-time position at the choir school. During the late 1930s both curates assisted in the Saint Stephen’s Society for work with Brown University students, which met every Sunday evening for discussion and refreshments. In 1937 Mr. H. Anthony Dyer mentioned in vestry meeting the effective work which the curates were then doing among the Brown University students. The vestry indicated its approval by an allocation of additional funds to cover the social expenses of the Sunday evening meetings.
Physical and emotional burdens during this time of increased work demands and decreased funds eventually took their toll of Saint Stephen’s rector. During January, 1937, he became seriously ill and was obliged to ask for a leave of absence until April of that same year. Father Townsend’s unfortunate illness served as a kind of rallying point which demonstrated the lay strength of the parish, especially among the Brown professors; for during Lent of 1937 the wardens and vestry sponsored a series of Wednesday evening talks delivered by well-known members of Saint Stephen’s. Mr. H. Anthony Dyer spoke on “An Artist’s Approach to Religion.” Professor Earle K. Strachan took the subject “A Scientist’s Approach,” while Professor Robert P. Casey chose “The Approach to Religion through History.” Professor Edmund L. Loughnan delivered an address on “A Saint’s Approach (Jeanne d’Arc).” Professor Ben W. Brown gave his conception of “The Approach through Drama and Poetry,” and Professor Joachim Wach concluded the series with “The Approach through Philosophy.” Another series on Sunday nights during Lent was conducted by the provocative and scholarly thinker, Doctor F. Hastings Smyth, who later founded the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth. In these lectures he discussed scientific thought and religion.
During Lent of 1938 Father Jacoby left Saint Stephen’s to accept the position of assistant and organist at Trinity Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was succeeded by the Reverend Edmund L. Souder, formerly a missionary to China and the Phillipines. By December, 1938, Father Souder had left, and at that time, Father Huntington was made senior curate and the Reverend Henry C. Taylor, Jr., and the Reverend Emerson K. Hall, a parishioner and public school teacher by training, became junior curates. By the fall of 1939 Father Taylor had left Saint Stephen’s, largely because of the parish’s inability to keep up his stipend.
Just at the time that Father Townsend was experiencing so much difficulty in finding the money with which to pay his curates, three unusually able men, already well situated in secular positions, offered themselves for the sacred ministry. We have mentioned the Reverend Emerson K. Hall who worked at Saint Stephen’s as a deacon until he was appointed vicar of the Church of the Resurrection, Norwood, in the spring of 1940. Father Hall took charge of Father Townsend’s already active church school and continued to improve it during his tenure. In October, Robert P. Casey and Edmund L. Loughnan, both communicants of Saint Stephen’s and professors at Brown, were ordained to the priesthood. Father Casey served as honorary curate of Saint Stephen’s from January, 1940; however, Father Loughnan left to become assistant at Trinity Church, Princeton, New Jersey, soon after his ordination. The unstinting work of these three devoted men, both in their lay and in their clerical capacities, contributed considerably to the strengthening of the ministry of Saint Stephen’s during a time when the salary of a second curate could not be raised.
In the spring of 1941 Father Huntington left Saint Stephen’s to take up duties as Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Tiverton, Rhode Island. During his long curacy, nearly five years, this young Providence native had done excellent work both among parishioners and students and at Saint Dunstan’s School. The Reverend Donald Platt, who succeeded Father Huntington as curate and chaplain to students, arrived in the fall of 1941.
The final chapter in the history of the relationship between Saint Stephen’s parish and Saint Dunstan’s School was commenced in November, 1939, when Bishop Perry requested the vestry of the church to give a yearly amount to the school which was $7,000 in debt for the year 1939. The vestry refused to make a yearly contribution, stating that the benefits which Saint Stephen’s had received from the school had resulted from a policy of the founder and patron rather than from any parish commitment. At a subsequent corporation meeting, Mr. Horace Weller stated that the insecurity of the parish finances precluded any regular support of Saint Dunstan’s.
As a result of the shortage of money for the support of the choir school, its board of trustees then voted to charge each participating parish for the number of boys which Saint Dunstan’s supplied them. In the year 1940, at a time when Saint Stephen’s did not have as many boy choristers as it wanted, the parish would have had to pay the school $1,150. Without a doubt, costs would go up in the future. In view of this, during Lent, 1940, the vestry voted to sever its relationship with Saint Dunstan’s School.
For several years the boy choir of the parish was continued without aid of school training. Gradually the boys’ section weakened. During the 1930s Miss Helane Ames, an accomplished local soprano, had joined the boys’ section in order to increase its strength. As time went on, more women were recruited. By 1944, when Mr. Hollis Grant became organist, the difficulty in procuring boy sopranos had become so great that the eight or nine remaining boys were made a choir for the Children’s Mass, and the eleven o’clock choir was composed entirely of a mixed group of men and women.
In October, 1942, an addition to the structure of the college work of Saint Stephen’s was formulated. For nearly eighty years, through both the Bishop Seabury Society and the Saint Stephen Society, the parish had carried on the college work unassisted. Finally, in 1942, certain parishes in the diocese decided to help Saint Stephen’s in this important work among students, and from this decision a Diocesan College Work Commission was formed. Those interested in college work realized that any vital student ministry must be rooted and grounded in the parish life of the church within whose boundaries the educational institution is found. Neither Grace Church, nor Saint Martin’s, nor the Church of the Redeemer, nor Saint John’s Cathedral were capable of carrying on work at Brown. At the same time the commission recognized that the entire diocese should assist in supporting college work so that the generosity of one parish would not be taxed to the breaking point in one area of advanced work. Saint Stephen’s continued the college work with the advice and financial aid of the Diocese of Rhode Island.
In October, 1943, the guild room on the first floor of the guild house was equipped for the use of Brown men until 10:00 P.M. every night. A special invitation was issued to students to attend any Sunday mass, in particular the 8:30 mass and the breakfast which followed it. Father Casey who continued as chairman of the Biblical Literature department at Brown as well as honorary curate of Saint Stephen’s did much to bring students into the parish life at this time.
A personal and rather charming gift was added to the church in October, 1942, when needlepoint altar rail kneelers were made by Mrs. Augustus Calder and given by several women. Such an offering typifies the external manifestation of devotion through beautifying the fabric of the church, a characteristic of the life of the parish from its foundation.
By 1942 the United States was thoroughly embroiled in World War II. The parish could not avoid being touched by the war in all sorts of ways. Father Townsend was careful to give his people air raid instructions should an attack occur during church hours. Prayers were frequently offered for the servicemen from the parish. The war also brought some positive trends to the struggling economic life of Saint Stephen’s. For the first time since the pews were freed in 1931, the church started 1942 without any debt and raised a budget of $24,985.
In Lent, 1943, Father Platt left Saint Stephen’s and the Reverend Alexander van C. Hamilton came to take his place as curate. He remained until November, 1944, and was succeeded by the Reverend John R. Ramsey, who stayed for only the first half of 1945.
Although Father Townsend was known chiefly for his devoted labors within the parish, he also took an active part in diocesan affairs. During the 1930s he had been on both the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council. In 1941 Bishop Perry had appointed him to fill a vacancy on the Standing Committee left by the resignation of the Reverend Stanley C. Hughes of Trinity Church, Newport. His tenure on the Standing Committee was lengthened by his election to it in 1943.
At the same time Albert F. Newman, treasurer of the parish, was made treasurer of the Diocese of Rhode Island. Two years later F. Ellis Jackson, junior warden of the parish, was elected to the Standing Committee, a further witness to Saint Stephen’s support of activities beyond its bounds.
Perhaps the greatest single personal loss which the parish sustained during the early 1940s was the death on Saint Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1943, of Mr. H. Anthony Dyer, long-time senior warden, member of the Standing Committee of the diocese, and totally devoted churchman. Mr. Dyer, who died after a lingering illness, left, not only a family, but also a parish and an entire community in mourning, so vital and irreplaceable had been his personality.
During the summer of 1943 Saint Stephen’s was host to a famous visitor, the Earl of Halifax, at that time British Ambassador to the United States. Lord Halifax and his son, Lieutenant Wood, were present at the Mass on Friday, June 4, 1943, during a visit to Providence. Both the Ambassador and his father were devoted Anglo-Catholics as well as frequent daily Mass communicants; and upon his arrival in Providence Lord Halifax naturally made his way to that city’s leading Catholic parish.
An ecclesiastical foreign visitor came to Saint Stephen’s on Sunday, October 10, 1943. At that time the Most Reverend Jaregian Hoesepian, Archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church in America, was present at Solemn Vespers. Bishop Bennett, the assistant to Bishop Perry, was also present at this service. The official reception which this parish gave the Archbishop was in keeping with the long-standing tradition of interest in the Eastern Churches, initiated by Doctor Fiske and carried on by his successors.
While World War II probably did assist Saint Stephen’s parish in achieving a financial equilibrium unattainable during the 1930s, it also brought many problems of both personal and theological nature. Father Townsend took advantage of the presence of the Reverend Bernard Iddings Bell to assist in the instruction of the parishioners during this difficult time of war. In 1943, on Sunday afternoons Doctor Bell presented a series entitled “God for Troubled, Thinking People.” These addresses attracted many people from outside the parish as well as parishioners and helped numbers of men to maintain perspective during the hard times of war.
In the autumn of 1944 Mr. Hollis Grant came to replace the organist and choirmaster, Mr. Lawrence Apgar, who had accepted a teaching position at Earlham College in Indiana. As a young boy, in 1923, Mr. Grant had been both chorister and solo boy in the choir. After leaving the choir of Saint Stephen’s he was organist of both Saint Paul’s Church, Providence, and of Saint Mary’s Church, East Providence. Since his return to Saint Stephen’s Mr. Grant has frequently proved his devotion and value both as a facile and sensitive musician and as a tireless parish worker.
Human devotion is made clear by the gift of fine works of art as well as of time and talent. The skillfully carved stone statue of Saint Stephen which stands near the south porch entrance to the church, given by Mrs. Ralph C. Patton, was blessed on March n, 1945. This statue represents one of the contemporary treasures among the many charming memorials to be found in Saint Stephen’s.
On October 18, 1945, the Reverend Charles Townsend tendered his resignation as rector of Saint Stephen’s Church to take effect as of December 15, 1945, when he expected to take duty as rector of Saint James’ Church, Winsted, Connecticut. Father Townsend offered failing health and the parish’s need for a young, vigorous rector as the major reasons for his resignation. The Reverend Robert Casey was made priest-in-charge of the parish until a new rector could be obtained, and the Reverend Donald O. Platt was employed to assist Father Casey.
Father Townsend was approaching his middle sixties when he decided to leave Saint Stephen’s and take a much smaller and not necessarily easier parish. He had given Saint Stephen’s his wholehearted service and devotion during a period when secular conditions had made the administration of the parish trying, to say the least. At the same time Father Townsend had taken an active part in diocesan affairs, on the Standing Committee as well as on several other significant bodies. At the end of his rectorate the main lines of Saint Stephen’s parish life had emerged intact, a not inconsequential accomplishment considering the substantial number of city parishes which foundered in the 1930s and have not since recovered completely.
The success of Father Townsend’s efforts to maintain the life of Saint Stephen’s parish was based on his total self-giving as a tireless pastor and careful teacher. Perhaps one of the finest examples of this man’s selfless attitude came at the end when, after sensing the need for a more vigorous leadership, he quietly submitted his resignation as rector.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 45 No. 5, September-October 1930, p. 2.
 Ibid., Vol. 45 No. 5, September-October 1930, pp. 1-2.
 Ibid., Vol. 45 No. 5, September-October 1930, p. 3.
 Vestry Minutes, January 15, 1931, Record Book 3, p. 278.
 Vestry Minutes, June n, 1931, Record Book 3, p. 286.
 Corporation Minutes, January 18, 1932, Record Book 3, p. 291.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 47 No. 1, Advent 1931, p. 2.
 Vestry Minutes, February 7, 1932, Record Book 3, p. 293.
 Vestry Minutes, February 7, 1932, Record Book 3, p. 293.
 Ibid., Vol. 47 No. 5, October 1932, p. 4.
 The Reverend Charles Townsend, to Saint Stephen’s Communicants, November 22, 1932, The S. Stephen, Vol. 48, 1933.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 48 No. 1, Advent 1932, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 47 No. 2, Lent 1932, p. 4.
 Ibid., Vol. 47 No. 3, April-May 1932, p. 2.
 Vestry Minutes, May 12, 1932, Record Book 3, p. 296.
 Vestry Minutes, March 23, 1933, Record Book 3, p. 307.
 Vestry Minutes, December 5, 1935, Record Book 3, p. 339.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 48 No. 3, Summer 1933, p. 2.
 Ibid., Vol. 48 No. 4, November 1933, p. 4.
 Ibid., Vol. 50 No. 4, Advent 1935, p. 2.
 Vestry Minutes, June 14, 1933, Record Book 3, p. 310.
 Vestry Minutes, June 14, 1933, Record Book 3, p. 315.
 Vestry Minutes, March 12, 1936, Record Book 3, p. 344.
 Vestry Minutes, October 14, 1937, Record Book 3, p. 362.
 James DeW. Perry, sermon, February 28, 1937, in The S. Stephen, Vol. 5, back.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 54 No. 3, Centenary Issue 1939, pp. 2-3.
 Ibid., Vol. 54 No. 3, Centenary Issue 1939, p. 2.
 Corporation Minutes, January 15, 1940, Record Book 3, p. 391.
 Vestry Minutes, May 3, 1934, Record Book 3, p. 324.
 Vestry Minutes, December 13, 1937, Record Book 3, p. 365.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 55 No. 3, October 1940, p. 4.
 Vestry Minutes, October n, 1934, Record Book 3, p. 326.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 50 No. 2, Summer 1935, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 51 No. 4, October 1936, pp. 1-4.
 Vestry Minutes, October 14, 1937, Record Book 3, pp. 361-362.
 Corporation Minutes, January 18, 1937, Record Book 3, pp. 352-353.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 52, 1937, leaflet in back.
 Ibid., Vol. 53 No. i, Lent 1938, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 53 No. 5, December 1938, p. 4.
 Ibid., Vol. 54 No. 3, Centenary Issue, 1939, p. i.
 Ibid., Vol. 55 No. 3, October 1940, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 56 No. 3, Whitsuntide 1941, p. 2.
 Ibid., Vol. 56 No. 4, October 1941, p. 3.
 Vestry Minutes, November 8, 1939, Record Book 3, p. 390.
 Corporation Minutes, January 15, 1940, Record Book 3, p. 392.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 55 No. 1, Lent 1940, p. 5.
 Ibid., Vol. 57 No. 4, October 1942, pp. 2-3.
 Ibid., Vol. 58 No. 4, October 1943, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 57 No. 4, October 1942, pp. 3-4.
 Giving in War Time, The S. Stephen, Vol. 57, 1942, pp. 2-3.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 59 No. 4, November 1944, p. 2 and Vol. 60 No. 1, Lent 1945, p. 1.
 Ibid., Vol. 50, No. 2, Summer 1935, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 56 No. 4, October 1941, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 58 No. 3, Summer 1943, p. 2.
 Ibid., Vol. 60 No. 3, Summer 1945, p. 2.
 Vestry Minutes, October 14, 1943, Record Book 4, insert.
 The S. Stephen, Vol. 58 No. 3, Summer 1943, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 58 No 4, October 1943, p. 3.
 Ibid., Vol. 59, No. 4, November 1944, p. 2.
 The Reverend Charles Townsend, to Saint Stephen’s parishioners, March 1945, The S. Stephen, Vol. 60, insert at back.
 Vestry Minutes, October 18, 1945, Record Book 4, p. 48.
 Vestry Minutes, November 15, 1945, Record Book 4, p. 50.
 Vestry Minutes, January 14, 1946, Record Book 4, p. 51.