ECCT in the ‘Twenties’

Historical comparisons are useful for discerning the values of a given time period and for considering the similarities and differences that reveal historical change evident from one era to the next. This post offers highlights of an analog archive exhibit, entitled, “ECCT in the Twenties”, exploring the 100-year comparison between the 1920s and the 2020s with regard to the presence and participation of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT). 

The images presented in the collages below intend to represent the past and the present historical and cultural milieus in which the ECCT has served as an active participant in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation of all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Additional media and description provide historical evidence of ECCT’s participation and achievement in this active engagement from the past century up to the present day.

Historical milieu of the 1920s and 2020s

Of the significant historical events of the 1920s, the political landscape in America began to shift as women voted for the first time in the national presidential election. Prohibition would go into effect as the country continued to recover from it’s 1918 influenza epidemic and the ravages of World War I. Responding to the global fear of communism caused by the Russian revolution, the United States faced new modern political challenges as national industry boomed, urban centers expanded, and mass media communication took on new life with the advent of radio broadcasting. 

Historical life in 1920 witnessed: 

  • Establishment of the League of Nations in Geneva with 58 member states … USA never joined 
  • Thirty-eight people were killed and hundreds were injured in an anarchist terrorist attack known as the “Wall Street Bombing” 
  • U.S. Constitution includes the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting alcohol nationwide
  • Women in the United States gained the right to vote with Nineteenth Amendment Women (August 26) 
  • First International Convention of Negro Peoples of the World (August 1-30) in NYC
  • Mass media is born with the first commercially-licensed radio station broadcasting live mass results of the 1920 U.S. Presidential election 
  • First “Red Scare” in the United States as the Russian Red Army continued it’s offensive in the Polish-Soviet War and Communists and radicals were targeted by law enforcement in Palmer Raids 
  • Republican Senator Warren G. Harding defeats Democratic Governor of Ohio Republican James M. Cox and Socialist Eugene V. Debs, in the first national U.S. election in which women have the right to vote 
  • Lambeth Conference 1920, presided over by The Right Reverend Randall Davidson 

Historical life in 2020 witnesses to: 

  • Impeachment proceedings against sitting U.S. President
  • Global Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)
  • Soaring levels of global unemployment and economic depression
  • The murder of African-American George Floyd by Minnesota police officers and subsequent civil protests for police reform and the dismantling of national systematic racism 
  • First use of private sector company rocket and equipment to advance NASA space program 
  • Ongoing U.S. conflict and warfare in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq (with US sanctions against Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, and Venezuela) 
  • Lambeth Conference 2020 rescheduled for 2022: God’s Church for God’s World — Walking, Listening and Walking Together 

Cultural milieu of the 1920s and 2020s

The 1920s in America brought about cultural development that matched the scope of the industrial expansion of the times. Traditional forms of media (newspaper and literature) continued to carry news to individuals, while more sophisticated uses of radio and the telephone enhanced interpersonal communications. New inventions facilitating daily consumer living sprang up in support of the needs of urban populations as several novel cultural developments emerged in the worlds of art and entertainment. 

Cultural life in 1920 witnessed: 

  • Coordinated movements of social reform to address the exploitation of children and the equal opportunity rights of women 
  • Increasing consumerism as Americans purchased automobiles, electric appliances, and other widely available goods and services 
  • New Art Deco style innovations and applications in painting, design, architecture, and fashion 
  • The flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance, the Jazz Age (i.e. vocalist Bessie Smith and trumpet-player Louie Armstrong) and new forms of dance called “Swing” 
  • The inaugural season of the American Professional Football Association (later re-named the National Football League in 1922) 
  • Trade of home run slugger Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox and the founding of baseball’s Negro Southern League in Atlanta, Georgia 
  • Crossword puzzles and board games becoming new “crazes” 
  • The re-evaluation of conventional forms of transportation for their use and efficiency (i.e. the railroad) as more than eight million automobile registrations are issued across the nation 

 Our cultural world in 2020 carries forward its ongoing promise to exhibit diverse forms of creativity and innovation, spectacular examples of talent in all walks of life, and new forms of communication that will continue to re-shape our experience of culture in ways that would have been unimaginable just several years ago. With the advent of the digital age, new types of consumerism flourish, at times bringing about new cultural trends. Additionally, pressing environmental factors continue to challenge our cultural understanding and bring into existence new forms of cultural definition and expression. 

Cultural life in 2020 witnesses to: 

  • Coordinated movements of social reform to address systemic injustices associated with racism, white supremacy, and anti-black bias (precipitated by murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police officers) 
  • Increasing consumerism as Americans purchase goods and services made available by a wide variety of industries, some of which provide record breaking forms of product delivery 
  • Radical innovations in media broadcasting and communication, including the internet, social media applications, digital streaming devices, and personal cellphones 
  • Public forms of art, music, entertainment, news and sport shared simultaneously with global audiences 
  • The mourning of hundreds of thousands of worldwide deaths resulting from Coronavirus and the development of habits, protocols and practices associated with fighting the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • Patriot Tom Brady is acquired as a free-agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while other sport franchises reconcile with the social insensitivity associated with the named identity of their teams 
  • Video gaming and outdoor recreational sports and leisure becoming new “crazes”

The Episcopal Church in Connecticut, Then and Now

Diocesan Shield and Coat of Arms of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, 1920
Scottish Cross representing the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, 2014

ECCT in the 1920’s

ECCT in the 2020’s

The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Connecticut was participating in work related to the Nation-wide Campaign, a movement launched by the 1919 General Convention “designed to bring the spiritual and material resources of the Church to bear most effectively and adequately upon her whole task as witness to the Master.” It entailed a survey of the church’s needs and a plan of action to address those needs following WWI. It also involved a national “every member” canvass for the first time in the history of the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Chauncey Brewster’s theological vision was located in the theme of “Christian Unity” as it might be achieved ecumenically, socially, and symbolically (i.e. in the establishment of cathedra or “bishop’s chair” in the new Cathedral of Christ Church, Hartford). The diocese also sought to meet the challenges of rapid urban growth in Connecticut, establishing organized mission work to meet the needs of  newly-arrived immigrants to the state, mostly of Irish and Italian descent. 

In reclaiming it’s original name after relocating it’s diocesan office from Hartford to Meriden in 2014, the Episcopal Church in Connecticut continues to adapt to and deftly navigate the rapidly changing social, political, and technological landscapes of the early first two decades of the 21st century. Parishes across the state work to engage and live into God’s love, nourishing the Body of Christ with their presence, the development of their diverse talents, and the loving-kindness brought by parishioners to their local neighborhoods. 

Focused by the theological vision of Bishop Ian Douglas for the ECCT to live forth as “participants in God’s mission”, service endures in support of the people, the places, and the times in which the Holy Spirit might bring forth the love of Christ in this world. Statewide community worship, local giving, and the increase of working relationships centered in service for Christ give evidence to just some of the ways in which the ECCT looks to address the sins of social injustice and to persevere faithfully into the future.

ECCT Bishops, Diocesan and Suffragan

 The Right Reverend Chauncey Bunce Brewster

(Fifth Bishop Diocesan of Connecticut, 1899-1928) The first ECCT bishop of the twentieth century, Bishop Brewster developed many of the adminsitrative and executive programs which continue to shape the diocese up to the present day. Additionally, a diocesan center was established through Bishop Brewster’s vision and his official consecration of Christ Church, Hartford as diocesan cathedral in 1920.

The Right Reverend Ian T. Douglas, PhD

(Fifteenth Bishop Diocesan of Connecticut, 2009-present) Widely recognized for his active ministry for the mission of God within the body of Christ, as well as, his academic scholarship in missiology and Anglican Church history, Bishop Douglas currently serves the Episcopal Church in Connecticut as bishop diocesan. Substantive operational and ecclesial reforms within the ECCT already give expression to Bishop Douglas’s theological vision and leadership acumen.

The Right Reverend Edward Campion Acheson

(First Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut, 1915-1926) Following a twenty-three year ministry as pastor of Holy Trinity, Middletown, Bishop Acheson served the ECCT as suffragan for eleven years. In 1928, he succeeded Bishop Brewster as diocesan bishop and continued his statewide mission work through his involved leadership on various civic committees and through his efforts to enhance educational opportunities in the state’s secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

The Right Reverend Laura J. Ahrens

(Bishop Suffragan in Connecticut, 2007-present) Elected the first female Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut, (the Episcopal Church’s 14th woman bishop), Bishop Ahrens’s inspirational leadership in diocesan affairs and her passionate ministry and mission work continues to bring hope and the “good news” of the Christian gospel to Connecticut parishes and the Episcopal Church worldwide up to the present day. 

Centennial Celebrations, ECCT Parishes

 ST. MARK’S, BRIDGEPORT (1920 – PRESENT)

In 1920, a small group of Episcopalians without a church home were invited by The Reverend Frank E. Aikens, The Rector of Trinity Church, to worship there. This small group continued to worship at this church for five years. In 1925, this group became a Mission of the Diocese of Connecticut. For a short period the Mission was named St. Benedict, later changing it to St. Mark’s.

In 1925, St. Mark’s Mission moved into the renovated church building formerly owned and occupied by the congregation of Calvary Episcopal Church on Wells Street. The Reverend Aaron J. Cuffee was called from St. Phillip’s Church in New York to become the parish’s first rector.

In 1937, St. Mark’s Mission moved to the East End of Bridgeport to worship — largely because a concentrated number of our membership lived in that section of the city. The Church held services in an unused firehouse on Newfield Avenue until two years later when St. Mark’s present stone building was erected. 

CHRIST CHURCH, WATERBURY (1920 – PRESENT)

Christ Chapel, Waterbury originated in 1920 as a parochial mission. This community came together as a result of a religious survey conducted under the auspices of The Reverend John N. Lewis, D.D., rector of St. John’s Church, which revealed sentiment favoring the establishment of an Episcopal Church in the eastern part of the city. The first service was held there, Sunday, November 21, 1920. The first parish vicar of Christ Church, Waterbury was The Reverend Sydney W. Wallace, who would subsequently became a canon of Christ Church Cathedral in 1924.

CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL, HARTFORD

 Christ Church in Hartford officially became the diocesan cathedral in 1919. The consecration of the Cathedral took place in 1920, along with the institution of it’s first Dean, The Very Reverend Samuel Colladay. These events also celebrated the centennial anniversary of the consecration of The Right Reverend Thomas Church Brownell, Third Diocesan Bishop in Connecticut. Today, renovations are in process to allow Christ Church Cathedral to better facilitate worship and community use for its congregation.

Leave a Reply