Tag Archives: Episcopal Church

A Story of Love & Dedication

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On October 19th, we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke, the patron saint of my parish. In my research, I found the following article in the Tacoma newspaper dated January 20, 1936. It is regarding Ms. Emma M. Unthank, the fiance of the Rev. Henry S. Bonnell, the first priest who died in 1884 (age 31). Her story of love and dedication to him is both heart warming and inspiring. I have reprinted here:

A little white-haired lady put fresh flowers on a 52-year-old grave in Tacoma cemetery today, keeping a tryst with her fiance of half-a-century ago. Every day since 1884, seasonable flowers have nodded over the grave; and every day except in the stormiest weather, Ms. Emma Unthank has seen to it they were in place.

The grave was that of the Rev. Henry S. Bonnell, an Episcopalian clergyman. In 1882, Mr. Bonnell, a tall, eager-eyed young man with the square cut full beard of his day, came to the wilderness of Washington Territory. A native of St. Peter’s Episcopal Parish, Brooklyn, and protege of Bishop Paddock of that city, he had just graduated from General Theological Seminary in New York.

Here in the Northwest he assumed the rectorate of St. Luke’s Church, Tacoma, and in addition rode a circuit through the valleys of the Puget Sound country. One of his charges was Christ Church, Puyallup. He was instrumental in founding the first Tacoma Young Man’s Christian Association. In Tacoma, too, he met Miss Unthank, then studying to be a school teacher. Petite and dark-haired, she attracted him immediately. They were affianced and the wedding date tentatively set.

Constant rain in the Sound country, however, aggravated a lung ailment from which the minister suffered. He contracted tuberculosis, went to California to recuperate and died there in 1884. His body was returned to Tacoma on almost the exact day that been set for his wedding. Miss Unthank, remained here and become a teacher in the city schools. She continued in this position until a few years ago. Generations of children passed under her tutelage without guessing of her after-school pilgrimages to the cemetery five miles from her home.

She never married.

A few days ago a curious visitor to the cemetery noticed the flowers on the old grave. Investigating, he learned the whole story from the Rev. E.C. Schmeiser, present rector of the Puyallup church, who was one of the few persons cognizant of Ms. Unthank’s half century of devotion. Miss Unthank retired from active teaching some time ago. She and her sister, also unmarried, continued to live together in an old-fashioned house. Rain was threatening in Tacoma today and few visitors were expected to the cemetery. But attendants waited confidently for the arrival of a sprightly little old lady-she’s nearly 75 now-who would surely come with flowers for the lover of fifty-two years ago.

I hope you found that story heart-warming as I did. Ms. Unthank died, unmarried, on the 23rd of February 1941, age 82. She is also buried in the old Tacoma cemetery in the same grave as her sister, Minnie. The cross on our altar is in memoriam of the Rev. Henry Bonnell on which is inscribed “He was a bright and shining light.” May we also be remembered as such.

Two Men and a House They Built

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On a lake in southeastern Wisconsin, is a house, Nashotah House, a traditional and theologically conservative seminary in the Episcopal Church. It is also officially recognized by the Anglican Church of North America. Here is the story of two of the men who founded the school. 

Bishop Jackson Kemper (1789-1870) was the first missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church. He was born in the Hudson River Valley of New York, where his parents had taken temporary refuge during a smallpox outbreak in New York City. Baptized David Jackson Kemper by Dr. Benjamin Moore, the assistant rector of Trinity Church, NYC. He eventually dropped the name “David.” His father was Colonel Daniel Kemper, a former aide-to-camp to General George Washington at the battles of Germantown and Monmouth during the American Revolution. His mother, Elizabeth (Marius) Kemper, descended from well-known families of the Dutch New Amsterdam era.

At Columbia College, he studied theology under Dr. Henry Hobart and graduated in 1809 as valedictorian of his class. Having moved to Philadelphia, he was ordained a  deacon in 1811 and priest in 1814. In 1835, the Episcopal Church decided to consecrate missionary bishops to preach the gospel west of the settled areas. Kemper was chosen and he promptly headed west. He found that clergy who had lived all their lives in the East were slow to respond to the call to join him on the frontier. So he recruited priests from among men already in the West and established a college in St. Louis for that very purpose. He went on to found Nashotah House and Racine College in Wisconsin and founded the mission parish that became the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Milwaukee. 

Kemper constantly urged a more extensive outreach to the Native American peoples and the translations of the Bible and services of the Church into their languages. His first official act as Missionary Bishop, in what would become Wisconsin, was laying the cornerstone for a new frame building for Hobart Church, Duck Creek, which served the Oneida Indian Mission. But more importantly, it was at that church that he ordained William Adams and James Lloyd Breck, two of the men who would assist him in establishing Nashotah House on October 9, 1842. He also ordained a member of the Ottawa tribe, Emmagahbowh, as deacon in 1859. These were the first ordinations in what would become Wisconsin. 

Kemper supported the Oxford Movement, although he maintained the importance of separation from the Catholic Church. In 1846, he purchased a property adjacent to Nashotah House and spent the rest of his life there. From 1847 to 1854, he served as provisional bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Wisconsin, and then served as its diocesan bishop from 1854 until his death in 1870. He also supported the creation of a new diocese, though he did not live to see the formation of the Diocese of Fond du Lac come to fruition. Kemper is honored on May 24th in the Episcopal Church.

James Lloyd Breck (1818-1876) was a priest, educator and missionary of the Episcopal Church. Born in Philadelphia County, he went to high school at the Flushing Institute, founded by William Augustus Muhlenberg, who inspired him to resolve at the age of sixteen to devote himself to missionary activity. He received his bachelors from the University of Pennsylvania in 1838 and a B.D. from the General Theological Seminary in 1841.

In 1842, now a deacon, he went to the Wisconsin frontier, with two of his classmates under the direction of Bishop Kemper, to found Nashotah House as a monastic community, seminary and center for theological work. It continues today as a seminary. Breck was ordained into the priesthood by Kemper later that year. 

In 1850, he moved to Minnesota, where he founded a school for boys and girls such as Breck School in Golden Valley, MN and the Seabury Divinity School at Fairbault, MN. He also started missionary work among the Ojiibwa. On June 23, 1850, on top of Grandad Bluff, Breck celebrated the first Episcopal eucharist in the La Crosse area. 

In 1867, he moved to Benicia, California to build another two institutions. Breck was known as “The Apostle of the Wilderness.”

Breck died in Benecia in 1876. He was buried beneath the altar of the church he served as rector but later his body was removed and reinterred on the grounds of Nashotah House in Wisconsin. The recommittal service there had 14 bishops, around 100 priests and numerous lay people in attendance. As legacy, Breck School was established in 1886 in Wilder, Minnesota. 

Nashotah House considers itself to be within the orthodox Anglo-Catholic tradition. Overall, the faculty support traditional theology and conceptions of Christian doctrine in opposition to liberal theologies. Graduates themselves come from a variety of jurisdictions both inside and outside of the Episcopal Church. Nashotah House sees its mission to form priests and church leaders from all over the Anglican Communion, including several international students.

Nashotah began as a community inspired by traditional monastic life of prayer, work and study. James Lloyd Breck‘s vision was to create a center for Christian formation in the (then) wilderness that would also be movement to propagate other communities for the purpose of evangelizing the frontier. Today, much of this vision remains intact and students still live a Benedictine cycle of prayer,work and study. The life of the Seminary seeks to form the character of priests and leaders into the image of Christ. Various students have been involved in mission work around the Anglican Communion as well.

“Seminarians are invited to participate in an ascetic, disciplined, prayerful season of spiritual growth in Christ” in which they “practice the Benedictine Rule of daily prayer, labor, and study.” Daily routine includes Morning Prayer, Mass, breakfast, classes, lunch, and Solemn Evensong.

172 years later, the mission founded Kemper and Breck continues today and the impact of the House continues to impact the world for Christ. These two men would be pleased to see that.