7 Dec

“Let us now sing the praises of famous —–“

A word from Susan Stonesifer, one of our newest board members, about remembering our history.

As the Historiographer of the Diocese of Washington for the past six years, I’ve made the acquaintance of many women of our Diocese through letters, diocesan magazine articles, and photographs in the Archives. I grew up in the Diocese, so some of the names are people I have known all of my life. As I sift through all of these papers, and increasingly, online items, I’m reminded of the reading that you might have heard on All Saints: “Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.”

I was fortunate to grow up in a parish where a member became the first woman to head the Standing Committee, and was one of the advocates for women clergy throughout the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference in 1988. In the early 1980s, during a graduate class, I sat next to a gracious woman who was a fellow alumna of the College of William and Mary. Only later did I realize the strength of Pam Chinnis, the first female president of the House of Deputies.

At the same time Ecclesiasticus reminds us: “But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. But these were also godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten.”

The majority of women in our church are among the most anonymous in older records. A few years ago I had a college intern who was indexing the diocesan newspaper from 1968. She wondered aloud: “Why are all of the women identified as Mrs. John Smith? What are their real names?” It gave us a chance to talk about the differences in our past and current society.

Do you have stories about someone who was special in your parish? Your Diocese? Your faith’s journey? Record them, share them, and encourage others to do the same. [You can honor them and help EWHP’s mission by giving their names to our All the Saints, All the Time campaign, too!–ed.]

Let my experience lead you to joy: last year I was combing through photographs, preparing for my annual Diocesan Convention display, and I came upon a folder of conventions past. There were a few familiar faces in many of the pictures and there was one large shot which featured two people who were obviously prominent. I have no idea who they were, but a tiny face several rows back turned out to be my mother’s. “Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.”

Thanks be to God.

Susan Stonesifer,

Historiographer, Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Susan was elected to EWHP’s Board in 2012. Read more about Susan and the other board members here.


So, what do you think?