Episcopal Church Women to celebrate (belatedly) organization’s 150th anniversary during Triennial meeting

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jun 6, 2024

Linda Guest (left) and Tina Stonebarger stand at the Episcopal Church Women’s booth during the 2018 Triennial meeting in Austin, Texas, the last time the ECW met for its every-three-year gathering. Photo: ECW

[Episcopal News Service] When more than 200 delegates from the Episcopal Church Women gather for their Triennial meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, June 23-28, they can finally celebrate the organization’s 150th anniversary, although belatedly. The celebration that was planned for the 2021 Triennial meeting never took place, after that gathering was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The anniversary celebration will take place on June 23 from 7-9 p.m. Eastern at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

“Our birthday party is a big thing,” Karen Patterson, ECW’s outgoing president, told Episcopal News Service. “And everyone is invited.”

Karen Patterson is the outgoing president of the Episcopal Church Women.

The Woman’s Auxiliary, the precursor to the Episcopal Church Women, was authorized by General Convention in 1871, and local women’s groups across the church quickly joined the national effort. Three years later, 66 women from five states gathered for the first Triennial meeting in 1874, held alongside The Episcopal Church’s 31st General Convention.

The Archives of the Episcopal Church has an online exhibit that looks at Episcopal women’s involvement in ministry and mission dating back to the late 18th century.

In 2018, the Archives received a $36,000 grant from the United Thank Offering to help preserve and share the history of Episcopal women, according to a press release from the church’s Public Affairs Office. Research began that year and represents more than 150 resources and 40 collections of archival material, spanning more than 250 years, resulting in, “For the Extension of the Kingdom: Women of The Episcopal Church.”

The exhibit’s Virtual Reading Room offers a firsthand glimpse into the work and dedication of the women of The Episcopal Church through digitized versions of the Woman’s Auxiliary Triennial meeting minutes and handbooks, as well as annual reports and publications of the Auxiliary and the United Thank Offering.

This year’s 51st Triennial, with the theme “Empowering Women of Faith,” will take place at the Galt House Hotel, and it runs concurrently with The Episcopal Church’s 81st General Convention, which also is meeting June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. Delegates will join General Convention attendees in the joint worship services of Holy Eucharist and Morning Prayer in the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Patterson said a featured screening of The Philadelphia Eleven, a documentary about the first women to be ordained Episcopal priests in 1974, will take place June 27 at 3 p.m. Eastern in the Galt House Hotel, and all are welcome to attend.

A Triennial highlight, the Distinguished Women’s Luncheon, on June 25 will honor 45 women from all nine provinces of The Episcopal Church, all of whom were chosen by their dioceses for this award.

Delegates will hear from keynote speaker the Rev. Catherine Amy Kropp, vicar of Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Kilauea, Kaua’i, Hawai’i, who previously served as a volunteer in Lebanon and as associate rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage, Alaska. The meeting’s chaplain will be the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, who recently retired as associate rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Elaine Conger, a Nashville, Tennessee-based keyboardist, singer, songwriter and dulcimer player, will provide music.

Attendees also can pick from among 16 workshops in four time slots, including learning about the recently created Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice. Workshops also will highlight five ECW-affiliated groups – the Episcopal Women’s History Project, Church Periodical Club, the Episcopal Community, Episcopal Relief & Development and Girls’ Friendly Society.

Patterson told ENS that for many years, delegates have contributed to nonprofit organizations in each city where Triennial meets. This year Orphan Care Alliance and House of Hope Kentucky are the recipients. Delegates already have been encouraged to contribute either money or needed items to the organizations.

Delegates also will elect officers to serve for the next three years, something Patterson said she is looking forward to. Her three-year presidency has been stretched to six years since there hasn’t yet been a post-pandemic meeting to elect her successor. She also served as national ECW treasurer from 2015-2018.

—Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.