Dear St. PJ’s friends,
This week I am wrapping up my little three-part series that glimpses some of St. PJ’s long and rich history. One of the things we’re most proud of here at St. PJ’s is our longstanding commitment to helping our neighbors, so today’s letter focuses on PJ’s history of mission and outreach throughout the years.
In the 1850s, the Episcopal Church was flourishing in New Haven, and St. Paul’s was the second of eight churches to be formed within 50 years. Two of the others, St. John’s and Church of the Ascension (which no longer exists) were formed from Missions of St. Paul’s. The church also became involved in mission work beyond Connecticut, paying for the first Episcopal missionary in Kansas. This missionary, Rev. Hiram Stone, founded one of the earliest Episcopal churches in Leavenworth, KS, in 1856, and named it St. Paul’s after St. Paul’s, New Haven.
Throughout all of St. Paul’s history, it prided itself on its Sunday School, which in 1904 comprised of 500 students, 50 teachers, and 6 librarians for the library. Since the public library did not exist before 1905, a tradition was started of giving a book to every Sunday School student each Easter. Around 1904, a Chinese Sunday School was opened for about 20 students, and a book with hymns and prayers was translated into Chinese for them.
Beyond spreading the Word of God in the traditional sense of the word “mission,” St. Paul’s has had a history of spreading care in the forms of fellowship, food, clothes, books, and more to vulnerable populations.
As early as the 1850s and 60s, the Sunday School Teacher’s Society was created to help children in need, among other work. In 1861, the Society distributed 2535 garments to those in need, particularly children.
In the late 1890s, Betsy Bradley, a loyal parishoner, left two thirds of her estate to St. Paul’s, designating half of that to be used to establish the St. Paul’s Church Home for Aged Women. The Church Home housed 10-12 occupants plus a matron and a nurse, and existed until it closed 1995. At that point the Betsy Bradley Trust Fund was redesignated as a staff position called the Minister of Spirituality and Aging, continuing the parish’s ministry of working with older people.
In response to the wave of Italian immigration in the early 20th century, and keeping in St. Paul’s spirit of mission, the parish established the Neighborhood House, a settlement house which provided classes for Italian children, Italian men, and Chinese men, and included a bank and a library. One component, the Neighborhood Music School, became its own entity and continues today.
In the early 1980s, Loaves and Fishes was launched, started by our very own Hanne Howard who began stockpiling non-perishable food in the church office for neighbors who asked for it. Today, Loaves and Fishes is its own non-profit organization, providing food and clothing to neighbors in need. Keep an eye out for weekly updates in the Grace Notes section of the bulletin!
In the 1990s, St. PJ’s ran a Children’s Mission, which included an after-school program, a Saturday morning reading program, and Tuesday night Compline and a meal for local children, echoing St. Paul’s mission from over 100 years prior to support and nourish children, literally, spiritually, and intellectually.
While St. PJ’s has started and nurtured many endeavors led by the parish, we also have supported a large variety of community and non-profit organizations by providing financial and political help, space in our building, and meaningful partnership. This has been especially true in more recent history.
Here are just a few examples of our presence in the neighborhood: In the 1960s/70s, St. Paul’s gave financial and political support for the “Friendship Apartments” affordable housing development between Artizan and Olive streets. The Yale AIDS Program in the late 80s and 90s used the basement as their headquarters. IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) used the basement space from when they arrived in New Haven 1995 until 2006 when they moved to their current location in East Rock (fun fact: IRIS grew out of an initiative by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut to welcome and resettle Southeast Asian refugees fleeing communist regimes after the Vietnam War). Our undercroft currently houses Sunrise Café (since 2016), which serves free breakfast every weekday morning and was co-founded by Anne Calabresi, and City Seed Inc.’s Sanctuary Kitchen (since 2019), as well as a variety of 12-step recovery groups.
These are only a few of the many activities and outreach that St. PJ’s has been involved with over its long history! St. PJ’s has long been a neighborhood cornerstone, and I can’t wait to see where the next years take us as we explore what it means to serve the community in new ways. We have a beautiful building, a historic legacy, and a forward-looking faith.
Let’s continue to love, grow, serve and go, rejoicing in the power of the spirit!