Party celebrates Episcopal Church Women’s 150th birthday

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jun 24, 2024

Joanne Alston-Hooker (left) and Renee Escoffery-Torres, both from the Diocese of Southern Virginia, take part in the June 23 150th birthday party for the Episcopal Church Women. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] A 150th birthday party thrown by the Episcopal Church Women drew 200 people to festivities that included a photo booth, 1970s music, a dance floor and themed cupcakes. The June 23 event took place in a ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, where the 81st General Convention also is happening.

ECW dates its founding to action taken by General Convention in 1871 that authorized creation of the Woman’s Auxiliary. A 150th party had been planned for the 2021 ECW Triennial meeting alongside General Convention that had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because the anniversary’s observance was delayed by three years, the party was highly anticipated and enjoyed not only by Triennial delegates but also by deputies, bishops and other visitors who attended.

Karen Patterson, outgoing ECW president, welcomed party-goers to the event. Her three-year term stretched to six years while awaiting this meeting, at which her successor will be elected.

Two women from the Diocese of Southern Virginia, both first-time Triennial attendees, told Episcopal News Service the party was a joyful addition to their service as delegates. Both also lead diocesan work with two ECW-affiliated organizations – Joanne Alston-Hooker is United Thank Offering coordinator, and Renee Escoffery-Torres heads the Church Periodical Club in the diocese.

Escoffery-Torres said the value of 150 years of the ECW at the churchwide, provincial and parish level “can’t be overstated.” She added, “150 years since the Woman’s Auxiliary is nothing short of phenomenal.”

Plus, Alston-Hooker said, “we’re having fun.”

Mary Beth Welch from the Diocese of Mississippi, who represents Province IV on the ECW board, told ENS she enjoys being part of ECW not only because “women actually run the church” but because no matter what skills a woman may have, “there’s a place for you.”

Long Island Assisting Bishop William Franklin, who previously was bishop of Western New York, told ENS that the party was the first time he’d ever attended a churchwide ECW event. As a church historian, he said, he found the sesquicentennial birthday noteworthy, and he was among a handful of bishops who joined people from their dioceses at the celebration.

Besides, Franklin said as he is gestured toward women of all ages gathered on the dance floor, “there is so much joy in this room.”

— Melodie Woerman is an Episcopal News Service freelance reporter based in Kansas.