Posts by epiphany

December 7: Beulah Burr Stelle (1851)

In her long 85-year life, Beulah Burr Stelle was associated with many of the early events and people of the new nation.  In 1789, when George Washington traveled from Mount Vernon to New York City for his first inauguration, he made triumphal stops at several cities along the way. As he crossed the bridge into Trenton, New Jersey, Beulah was one of several young women chosen to strew flowers in his path (see accompanying depiction by artist N.C. Wyeth). Beulah’s sister, Keziah, was married to New Jersey Governor Richard Howell. Beulah frequently assumed the social responsibilities at the Governor’s Mansion for her invalid sister. When Beulah’s family followed the new government to Washington, she and her husband operated a hotel on Capitol Hill, which was primarily for members of Congress. Vice President Aaron Burr was her cousin.  Reportedly, Beulah’s daughter, Elizabeth, was the first child born in the new nation’s capital. Beulah was a personal acquaintance of the Marquis de Lafayette. When the British attacked Washington during the War of 1812, Beulah Stelle personally appealed to the British military officials to save the home of a poor widow with children as well as her own. After much back and forth, the British agreed. The houses were marked with candles in the windows.

It is difficult to determine to what degree Beulah was associated with Epiphany. Several sources indicate she was a Quaker. Her second husband, Pontius, came from a long line of Episcopalians and was a member of the vestry of St. Michael’s Parish in Trenton. Only one of her eight children appears to be associated with Epiphany. The wedding of that son (Edward) in September 1842 is the second marriage listed in Epiphany’s register. Several of Beulah’s grandchildren were baptized and married at the church. Beulah’s Stelle’s funeral is listed in Epiphany’s register and took place at the residence of her son.

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December 6: Meeting of African-American Communicants (1866)

Following the Civil War, the Washington Episcopal churches set up a new convocation, which had the primary objective of helping to erect new churches for the growing city. The convocation had already taken steps to establish two new churches, St. Paul’s (1866) and Incarnation (1867). On December 6, 1866, a meeting of Epiphany’s African American communicants was the first step in the launching of a church specifically for blacks. Formally, the convocation became their sponsor and for several years served as a funnel for some financial assistance. Epiphany’s rector, Dr. Charles Hall (who was also dean of the convocation), was interested in the meetings of the group and frequently attended them. He led the devotions and advised the group on the formation of a separate congregation. The Rector of St. John’s, Dr. John Lewis, was brought into the conferences with the group. The acquisition of the first church building has been attributed to Dr. Hall. “I was in the office of the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton (one of Hall’s parishioners), when something led him to mention that there was a chapel attached to Kalorama Hospital (see attached photo), which was about to be taken down and sold for lumber. I asked him to give it to the colored people for a church. He was pleased with the suggestion and offered to have it taken down and rebuilt in the city.” A parishioner of St. John’s offered the use of a lot on 23rd between G and H Streets, N.W. for the relocation of the chapel.

In the new Negro chapel, known initially as St. Barnabas’ Mission but soon thereafter called “St. Mary’s Chapel for Colored People”, the first service was held on the second Sunday in June 1867, with both Dr. Hall and Dr. Lewis officiating. By then, the new body had twenty-nine members including some communicants from other churches who had joined with the nucleus from Epiphany. While beginning as a “non-affiliated mission,” the new chapel being within the metes and bounds of St. John’s came under its physical and spiritual jurisdiction rather than Epiphany’s, and at the outset had a lay reader from St. John’s in charge. But it never became completely attached to St. John’s, and as St. Mary’s it eventually would achieve separate status both as a church and as a parish. As Epiphany celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2017, St. Mary’s is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

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December 5: Jefferson Finis Davis (1889)

Editor’s Note: The inclusion of Jefferson Davis in this listing is in no way an endorsement of his political and social views.  His insertion here simply documents the fact that he was a parishioner of the church prior to the Civil War and helps to illustrate more fully the divergent group of people and experiences that have made Epiphany what it is today.

Jefferson Davis was a soldier, farmer, U.S. Representative and Senator, U.S. Secretary of War, and the only president of the Confederate States of America. His birth took place in Kentucky, just 100 miles from and eight months earlier than President Abraham Lincoln’s. Davis was named for Thomas Jefferson, whom Davis’ father greatly admired. His middle name, Latin for “end,” indicated his parent’s intent to make him the last of their ten children. Born into a military family, Davis’s father and uncles were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. His older brothers fought in the War of 1812. Davis was an 1828 graduate of West Point. In 1845, Mississippi sent Davis to the U.S. House of Representatives. His Congressional term was short. He resigned in June 1846 to fight in the Mexican War where he led his troops valiantly at the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. He was offered a promotion to brigadier general in 1847 but refused it when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1853, President Pierce appointed Davis U.S. Secretary of War where he served with distinction and was recognized as one of the most capable administrators to hold the office. In 1857, Davis returned to the Senate as a vocal proponent of states rights. He formally withdrew from the U.S. Senate on January 21, 1861 after Mississippi seceded from the Union. One month later, the Confederate Congress in Montgomery, Alabama selected Davis to become the President of the Confederacy.

Davis became associated with Epiphany when he first came to Washington to serve in Congress. Three of his children were baptized at the church – Margaret in 1855, Jefferson Jr. in 1857, and Joseph in 1860. Davis’ wife Varina was confirmed at the church in 1856. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis appointed Epiphany’s first rector, John French, to be chaplain and professor of ethics at West Point. Davis contributed toward the renovation and expansion of the church building in 1857. By a strange twist of fate, when Davis left Washington in 1861, his vacated pew at Epiphany was rented by Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton.

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December 4: Henry Eveleth Maynadier (1868)

Henry Eveleth Maynadier was a 19th Century U.S. Army officer. Towards the end of the Civil War, Maynadier was made a brevet Brigadier General “for gallant and meritorious services during the rebellion, particularly during operations upon rebel forts on the Mississippi River” and a brevet Major General “for distinguished services on the frontier while operating against hostile Indians, and accomplishing much toward bringing about a peace with late hostile tribes.” In an 1866 report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., the following account is made of Maynadier’s efforts. “Col. Henry E. Maynadier commanded the Fifth U.S. Volunteers headquartered at Fort Laramie.  One of a small number of officers who empathized with the Indians, Maynadier was a good choice to accomplish the mission of bringing peace to the northern plains.  He knew the land—this was his sixth assignment in the West and his third in Sioux country (then called Idaho Territory, today Wyoming), which he had explored and surveyed for the Army before the Civil War.  He knew the Lakota people and had cultivated a good relationship with [Chief] Spotted Tail and his young daughter.  When the chief’s messenger arrived requesting burial at the fort for his daughter, Maynadier understood what was at stake.  Spotted Tail, he reported to his Washington superiors, ‘would never have confined the remains of his child to the care of one but those with whom he intended to be friends always.’”

Henry Maynadier was a native of Norfolk, Virginia and an 1851 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He was the oldest child of William Murray Maynadier, U.S. Army Chief of Ordnance, who was stationed in Washington, D.C. most of his career. The elder Maynadier was an early lay leader at the Church of the Epiphany. Henry was associated with the church during the times he was stationed in Washington. The baptisms of his last two sons occurred at the church during the Civil War years. Henry was confirmed at the church following the war. A year and a half later, his funeral took place at Epiphany prior to his interment at Oak Hill Cemetery. A cross and crown adorns his headstone.

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December 3: Nation Wide Campaign (1919)

In the 2017 liturgical calendar, today (December 3) marks the first Sunday of Advent. The four Sundays prior to Christmas are observed as a time of preparation for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus. The term advent is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming.” In Advent 1919, Epiphany and the broader Episcopal Church were involved in a Nation Wide Campaign for “the awakening of the Church and the revival of spiritual life, the development of a stronger and more loyal discipleship.” In November 1919, Epiphany’s vestry resolved, “the Wardens and Vestry of Epiphany Parish most heartily commend this project and plan to canvass every member of the parish, bespeaking their interest and co-operation in it to the extent of each one’s opportunity and ability, to the end that this parish may take a part in the beneficiary movement commensurate with its responsibility as one of the largest churches in the Diocese.” The goal was for Epiphany to give $20,412 per annum for three years, a staggering amount for that time. The money would be used for new churches, rectories, and hospitals. It would raise the salaries to clergy to at least $1,500 per annum. It would provide advances in religious education and social service as well as in missionary endeavor.

In the Advent issue of the Parish Guide newsletter, rector Randolph McKim laid out the Advent appeal for the Nation Wide Campaign. There would be a series of five evening services the first week of Advent. Service topics were to be: Monday – “Sin and Redemption,” Tuesday – “Perfect Remission and Forgiveness,” Wednesday – “Consecration and Sacrifice,” Thursday – “Stewardship,” and Friday – “The Great Commission.” Dr. McKim concluded, “I long to have you all with me at the Throne of Grace in the meetings appointed in the schedule for the week. We have no fear that Epiphany Parish will not rise to the height of this opportunity if the people catch the vision and feel the inspiration of the love of Christ.”

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December 2: Children’s Hospital (1870)

A bronze plaque with the following inscription is attached to a modern day office building at the corner of 13th and G Streets, N.W. “Here stood the first Children’s Hospital of Washington, D.C. Opened as a rented rowhouse in 1871, the hospital had a capacity of 12 beds and had only four doctors on staff. Now internationally recognized, Children’s National Medical Center is proud to have been a part of the D.C. community for more than a century.” On December 2, 1870, the “Children’s Hospital of the District of Columbia” was incorporated. The object stated was “to establish and maintain in the District of Columbia a hospital and dispensary for the gratuitous medical and surgical treatment of indigent children under the age of 12 years, without distinction of race, sex, or creed.” It was provided that sick children, whose parents or guardians were able to defray the expense of care may be admitted to the hospital a well. After the first location mentioned on the aforementioned plaque, a building with more ample accommodations was rented on E Street. The number of children seeking admission increased so rapidly that in 1875 the current site was purchased and has been the home of the hospital ever since.

It will come as no surprise that an outreach enterprise such as this with an initial location almost across the street, that people from Epiphany were involved in the hospital from the beginning. Dr. James Crowdhill Hall, described as “a skillful, conscientious, and benevolent physician, more willing to render service to the suffering poor that to receive remuneration,” was a member of the first board of directors and left a significant bequest to the hospital upon his death. Dr. Hall was buried from Epiphany in 1880. Joining Dr. Hall on the first board of directors were fellow parishioners General Edward Townsend and Lewis Davis, the latter being Epiphany’s Senior Warden at the time. By a gift of $100 each, parishioners John G. Parke, Sarah Coleman, and Margaret Coleman Freeman endowed a bed in the hospital for one year.

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December 1: World AIDS Day Service (1997)

World AIDS Day takes place on December first of each year. It provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. The day was conceived by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The first observance of World AIDS Day took place on December 1, 1988. Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist from San Francisco, had recommended the date of December 1, believing it would maximize coverage by western news media, sufficiently long following the U.S. elections but before the Christmas holidays. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) became operational in 1996, and it took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day. Rather than focus on a single day, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign in 1997 to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education. In 2004, the World AIDS Campaign became an independent organization.

Epiphany hosted at least two AIDS-related events in the early days of the pandemic. The first was a benefit concert in 1992 sponsored by a local group, “Musicians Against AIDS.” The group was founded “in order for performing artists to contribute their time and talents to assist local nonprofit organizations directly serving persons with AIDS and those who are HIV positive.” The concert featured chorus and orchestra members from the Washington-Baltimore area, with Epiphany’s organist choirmaster, James Buonemani, as one of the conductors. The second event was “An Interfaith Service of Celebration and Healing for persons living with and affected by HIV and AIDS,” held in conjunction with World AIDS Day in 1997. Since its inception, each World AIDS Day has a theme. As can be seen in the accompanying photo of the service cover, the theme in 1997 dealt with the impact of AIDS on children. The theme for 2017 is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships.”

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Holiday Schedule

Sunday, December 24 
– In addition to our morning services, we will have an 8:00pm Christmas Eve service with a choral prelude beginning at 7:30pm.
Monday, December 25
-Church offices closed
-10:00am Christmas Day service
Tuesday, December 26
– Church offices closed
– No Street Church
Monday, January 1
– Church offices closed

November 30: Epiphany Church Home Donations (1897)

For its one hundred years of operation, the Epiphany Church Home was supported in many ways by the parish. A member of the clergy served as chaplain. Various parishioners who were doctors served as attending physicians. Parishioners contributed financial support as well as food and supplies. Once a year, the articles received would be reported. The following is a excerpted list from 1897.


Abert, Mrs. W.S., salad and rolls                                    McKim, Mrs. R.H., tonic for inmates, turkey

Arms, M/M.  J.T., barrel of flour and cakes                  Miller, Mrs., magazines

Austin, Mrs., three pairs blankets                                  Mitchell, Miss A., rocking chair

Berry, Mrs. Grace, barrel of vegetables                        Nat’l Flower Guild, cut flowers during year

Blagden, Mr. Thomas, bouquets and cards                 Robinson, Mrs. L., pincushions to each at Xmas

Collins, Mrs., caramels                                                      Rodgers, Mrs. J., $5.00 for ice or ice cream

Cornwell, Mr., case of corn                                              Rousseau, Miss, fans

Dade, Miss, two hams                                                       Sampson, M/M., turkey, milk, cream

Garnett, Miss Maria, fancy articles                                Schrepler, Mr., beef tongue

Heth, Mrs. Gen., chicken, terrapin, biscuits                 Smith, Mr. E., dinner bell

Janney, Miss E., 4 bed spreads                                        Tannehill, Mrs., oranges, lemons

McDonald, Mrs., celery                                                     Townsend, Miss H., hymnals, Xmas cards

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November 29: Epiphany Church Home (1857)

The Epiphany Church Home, the principal medium for the local social work of the church after 1857, had its genesis in a meeting of the male members of the congregation on November 22 of that year at which they agreed to establish an organization for “extending relief to the sick and the poor, the ignorant and the destitute” living within Epiphany Parish. The specific aims were to be: to seek out the sick and the needy and relieve them; to take charge of destitute orphans; to find employment for those who lacked the means to support themselves; to exert an influence over the youth of both sexes “who may be tempted to form idle or dissolute habits”; to instruct those so benefited through church services and lectures, and by establishing a Sunday School and such other schools as might be practicable; to secure the gratuitous services of one or more physicians to care for the poor of the parish; and “to obtain a house at which the beneficiaries of the parish may be provided, for a longer or shorter time, with a home,” and one that could serve also as a haven for the relief of destitute sick persons.

Before the end of November 1857, it was agreed to call the new enterprise “The Epiphany Church Home Association”; to establish a male Board of Managers (the rector, wardens, vestrymen, and four others) to run it, that would meet annually on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, to review its work; and to support the work by monthly pledges of $1.00 or more. Initially there were sixty-six subscribers including several ladies. Despite the breadth of its aims, the Home from its beginnings became principally a haven for indigent women, and some children, and a medium for providing poor women able to work in their homes with sewing as a means of livelihood. The Home remained in operation, in various locations (including 1221 Massachusetts Avenue NW depicted here) and with varied goals until January 1958 when it was consolidated with the Episcopal Church Home.

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