Charles Henry Brent vs. Julia Chester Emery

Today's match-up features two amazing people with six names between them (insert Trinitarian reference here). Charles Henry Brent, bishop and missionary vs. Julia Chester Emery, lay woman and organizer of what we now know as the ECW (Episcopal Church Women). We hope you enjoy getting to know them and then, well, sending one of them into Lent Madness ignominy.

Yesterday's Lent Madness 2014 kick-off was a historic day in the annals of the Saintly Smackdown. Record turnout saw Basil the Great live up to his name while Christina the Astonishing  was sent packing (given her penchant for levitation, we hope she's aware of those steep extra baggage fees). Nearly 7,000 votes were cast as Basil defeated Christina 55% to 45%. He'll now advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen to square off against the winner of Antony of Egypt vs. Mary of Egypt.

For those new to Lent Madness, congratulations! You're now a seasoned veteran. If you tracked the nearly 300 comments you also know that Lent Madness isn't just voting and learning about saints -- it's an online community where people share some pretty personal stories and connections as well.

Of course yesterday also saw the emergence of our first controversy. In the opening ceremonies video there was lively debate over whether Dean of the Washington National Cathedral Gary Hall's cassock was purple, as he claimed, or blue. It's a Lent Madness scandal!

Are you curious about when the various first round battles will take place? We thought so. Thus, you are invited to check out our handy Match-Up Calendar. Go ahead and print it out. Have a teenager add all the dates to the calendar on your smart phone. Put it on your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, or have it tattooed to your spouse's forehead. Once you do, you'll know that tomorrow's battle between Alcuin and Ephrem is the only Saturday pairing in the entirety of Lent.

Bishop Brent legitCharles Henry Brent

In 1901 as the Philippine-American War drew to an end, Charles Henry Brent was elected as the first missionary bishop to the islands, arriving a year later on the same ship as its Governor-General, William Howard Taft.

Bishop Brent brought with him $100,000 that he had raised before his departure in order to build churches, schools, and a hospital. Instead of staying within the American enclave, Brent worked with a wide range of people, including the Chinese community in Manila and the Igorot people. He fought tirelessly against the opium trade, chairing the U.S. delegation to the International Opium Conference.

Twice elected bishop of Washington, D.C. and once of New Jersey, he turned down these appointments to remain in the Philippines. After the first election, he sent a telegram to the head of the standing committee that read, “Must decline. I would have gone, but God bids me stay. John 3:30.”

After serving as the senior chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, he became bishop of Western New York. Prior to this, he established himself as a leader in the ecumenical movement, having attended the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910. He continued to work for the cause of Christian unity, presiding at the World Conference of Faith and Order in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1927. He died in 1929.

Bishop Brent may be best remembered for this prayer that summarizes well his life and ministry:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.101)

Collect for Charles Henry Brent
Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one: deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of thy Son Jesus Christ: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Laura Darling

jcemeryJulia Chester Emery

Julia Chester Emery (1852-1922) was an extraordinary woman. At age 24, she took over from her sister Mary the job of national secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church. It was the only ecclesiastical post she ever held, and she held it for forty years (and not the Biblical kind of “forty years,” either). She was a missionary whose calling was to do the often unglamorous work of organizing, administering, educating, and supporting. Her work enabled thousands of women to realize their potential for ministry at a time when women’s roles were severely limited. And she encouraged the church to broaden its own understanding of faithful lay ministry.

The Women’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church was created by General Convention in 1871 mostly through the work of the four Emery sisters. Mary Abbott Emery was the first national secretary, and Julia stepped into the job in 1876. During her tenure, she visited every diocese in the United States and helped organize branches of the Women’s Auxiliary in more than 5,600 parishes—nearly two-thirds of all the parishes in the U.S. Many of these branches continue today as the Episcopal Church Women, or ECW.

The primary focus of the Women’s Auxiliary was to empower women for mission and address the issue of funding for women who felt called to dedicate themselves to mission work. Chapters raised money and awareness for the support of local, national, and international mission. The Auxiliary sought to connect women one to another, to encourage them to know that they each had something to do for Christ and the coming of the Kingdom of God, in the company of Episcopal women everywhere. “There are hundreds more earnest, faithful, devoted women who would be cheered if only they knew what is being done by their sisters in the church and see their offering, small and insignificant as it seems, increased and multiplied by the union with the gifts of others” (Spirit of Missions, volume XXXVII, 1872).

Emery also created The United Thank Offering, represented today by small blue boxes with slots for coins to encourage daily giving and thanks to God. The UTO is still under the purview of the ECW, having awarded $1,517,280 in grants for mission in 2012. Thanks to Emery’s foresight and diligence, the work continues.

Collect for Julia Chester Emery 
God of all creation, you call us in Christ to make disciples of all nations and to proclaim your mercy and love: Grant that we, after the example of your servant Julia Chester Emery, may have vision and courage in proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our light and our salvation, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Charles Henry Brent vs. Julia Chester Emery

  • Julia Chester Emery (73%, 4,449 Votes)
  • Charles Henry Brent (27%, 1,642 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,091

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224 comments on “Charles Henry Brent vs. Julia Chester Emery”

    1. Well put. In an era when women could not have leadership positions Julia found a way to serve her God and church by developing all that womanpower!

  1. how could christina the astonishing NOT win with a name like that? i had never heard of her before LM. The SEC digs up some amazing people.

    1. She was just a little too astonishing for me! But interesting, I had never heard of her either

    2. I wonder if Christina was thrown under the bus as a "sacrifice." The match-up today is between more equal players: both leaders in church missions. If there's a "wild card" slot based on total number of votes, Christina may yet rise from the dead (again!).

    3. I read that Charles Henry was stationed at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in the South End of Boston. That is where I am from and have wonderful memories! I have no choice but to vote for him! Go South Boston!

    1. JCE was certainly an outstanding churchwoman, but she gets my vote for her work in support of the whole church's mission, not for her sex.

  2. I have always been impressed with Julia Chester Emery and her organizational skills. My vote must go to Bishop Brent and his work with in Asia and his opposition to the drug trade.

    1. I wanted to go with a woman, but ended up voting for Bishop Brent because he turned down a couple of big promotions to stay with the people he served.

      1. Interesting how the bios can affect the votes. A later commenter points out that Brent was already a "bishop" when he went to the Phillipines, so he didn't really turn down a promotion, just a move back to the states.

        1. There was, however, an expectation that missionary bishops would come back to a "more important" post as bishop of a stateside diocese, continuing to climb the ladder. Henry St George Tucker is one who comes to mind (and he went on to become PB). Similarly, in the CofE, colonial bishops often returned to England to take up English dioceses.

      2. JCE didn't have the opportunity to turn down those promotions, because at that point having women clergy was a pipe dream. I voted for her because she gave women at least some outlet for ministry in a time when there were very few.

      3. I would bet Julia didn't get the opportunity to turn down any promotions. Advancement of women in society or the church was rather limited in that time period. As the father of 3 daughters I had to go with Julia, but I was impressed with Bishop Brent and it was a close call. They were both worthy candidates for the Golden Halo.

    2. It's amazing to me that her work is still so evident in the church! The decision between the two was a real difficult one today though.

  3. It's fascinating to learn about a woman who had such an impact on what happens in our local parishes today through ECW and UTO. Go Julia!

  4. Two years ago, a little boy in my congregation sat patiently while his Sunday School class' UTO collection was counted. As each blue box was emptied of its coins, he watched with great interest. In the end the total was something like $50. This little boy stood up, unprompted, and said, "This is great but next year we can do better. Next year I'd like to see us collect $60."

    The spirit of JCE lives on! My vote goes to her today, even though I love the prayer Brent wrote. It's my favorite at Morning Prayer.

  5. I love learning new people. I was already familiar with Bp Brent, and feel like I've always known him as the author of that fabulous collect for mission in Morning Prayer. Somewhere I read that he was also known for having a lead foot (a fact that stuck with me for some odd reason - I'm sure not having anything to do with the speeds I sometimes drive at?) But Julia got my vote today. We truly need to know more about our lay saints, and the work of the Women's Auxiliary, the ECW (which in my parish has now become the Episcopal Church Workers), and the UTO have all been so important to living as people of God's kingdom.

  6. This is a hard one, but an anti-imperialist in the midst of imperialism wins out for me over an anti-sexist in the midst of sexism.

    1. You have killed two birds with one stone: Sexism is a form of imperialism/domination.

    2. Who says Brent was an anti-imperialist? Religion can be used in an imperialist manner, also. Btw, in Brent's bio the reference should be "Spanish-American War," not "Philipine American War." Up to the Filipinos to decide if they were better off under American or Spanish rule, both of which were imperialist.

      1. Smite me: I see the Library of Congress has reclassified what used to be called the Filippino "rebellion" to American rule as a separate war. At any rate, it proves the Filippinos saw Americans as imperialists.

  7. Tough one, I am in awe of the Rev. Brent and his answer to his call. My vote went to Ms. Emery for the outreach nature of her ministry.

  8. Wow, so it's gotten hard already. I was all set to vote for Julia until I read Brent's prayer and agree with Ryan, it's a favorite from Morning Prayer...

    So, convince me people!

  9. I so wanted to vote for Chuck--I've lived in the Philippines and know how tough existence is there. (And I wonder if he started the Episcopal parish in Manilla?) But in the end, those who work busily in the background--the fast paddling little feet under the water line--enable those like Charles Henry Brent to do their work. So, I had to vote for Julia.

    1. Kathi, I totally agree. How many parishes and ministries have long been supported by those who work busily in the background?

      1. My thoughts exactly, Kathi and Mary. My vote goes for Julia (and her sisters by extension). Let's hear it for the those making it sandwiches in the kitchen, as it were (to slightly misquote a great Gaventa sermon).

        1. Agree wholeheartedly. Not because CHB isn't worthy of course but because JCE represents the silent unfussed work without which we'd have relatively little.

    2. I was all set to vote for Brent, until I read the post from Kathi. Now I have to think about it a little longer-you have made an excellent point. Thank you

  10. I am proud to cast my vote today for Julia Chester Emery. Many of the church women I most admire have been shaped through lay leadership positions with ECW. And yes, today is the World Day of Prayer which brings together Christian women around the world. Go Julia!

  11. getting a message that "your request is still being processed." Did I break the server?

  12. Had to vote for Bishop Brent since he baptized two wonderful people I knew here in Geneva: Charles and John Kenny. John Kenny just died recently, and Charlie a couple of years ago. They were wonderful African American leaders in the community here.

  13. As a newcomer to the process, I am immediately impressed with how difficult it is going to be, unlike the process in March Madness, which basically comes down to establishing a team's "worthiness" through Darwinist survival. But this is all about choosing the greater of two goods (in contradistinction to the lesser of two evils!). Hard choice today, but, as with some others, I am anti-imperialist and laud any and all from our faith tradition who inveigh against that, especially in [personal sacrifice, so I am going with Bishop Brent.

  14. Julia's work has touch every dioceses - both to challange women to apostolic action and to give monetary aid to programs SO LET'S HONOR HER
    Oh, about the Dean of the National Cathedral - cameras more often than not turn purple blue

    1. This is my first Lent Madness. I am finding today's vote very difficult. Sitting with the choice between two such devoted people--the more I sit, the more aware I become of the different ways I could approach making the decision. The only thing I'm sure of is that I'm not done sitting with it yet.

      1. Yeah, me too.

        I wondered how a saint bracket could be considered Lenten reflection. Guess I'm figuring that out at least.

        1. I am a newbie too. I consider this activity to fall within the ambit of Ash Wednesday's invitation to "read[] and meditate[e] on God's holy Word." I've been pulling out the BCP, EfM materials, and other resources to help enlighten me and guide my elections. All in serious fun, but chalk it up to devotional study, which is always good.

  15. I have always respected the work of the Emery sisters, and in one of my former parish assignments, St Clement's in NYC, thee was a stained glass window in the chapel of Julia holding a "blue box" and a coin reminding us all to help the work of the church. As Julia's organization, which morphed into today's ECW, supported many deaconesses in their work, I am hoping the modern diaconal community will come out in support of one who supported those who have gone before.

    1. As a Canadian deacon who regularly works alongside the tireless ACW (Anglican Church Women up here) I had to pick Julia. So much outreach and pastoral work is supported by the dedication of the ACW.

  16. Thanks be to God that our heavenly Father made a way through difficult times for women to persevere and to do great things in the name of Jesus. Women like Julia have made things possible for women today.

    1. I had to revisit the definition of Saint. Once done however, Julia got my vote. I think I am in the company of some living saints today.

  17. It is great to read about a person who expanded the functional role of ALL people in the mission of the church. It was wonderful
    Learning about her

  18. Yes to Julia. Too often the people behind-the-people don't get the credit they deserve. They make everyone else more effective, sometimes even make the crazy dreams possible. Kudos and well-deserved halos for those who do the support work! This vote is for all of you.

  19. I had to vote for Charles Henry Brent. As he served as Bishop in western New York for a time; where I live. His likeness is in the small Anglican Chapel at Chautauqua Institution. I had the pleasure of hearing his biography last summer as I attend that chapel. I had to vote for him, as he seemed like an old friend.

  20. What a wonderful pair. I didn't know much about Brent or Emery before I started reading this morning. I read Brent's bio and prayer and thought, "Oh yeah, this is the guy." I read Emery's bio and collect, and still felt inclined toward Brent. But then the image of that blue box came into my mind--the one in my kitchen cupboard, the latest in a long line stretching back to my childhood, where I also observed my mother taking part in ECW. What came to me is that the work of people like Ms. Emery helped empower Brent to get to the Phillipines and carry out his fine work. I think they each would have voted for each other. Will have to toss some cash in the UTO box in appreciation of both.

    1. I love that image of each one of these saints voting for the other. It eases my heart, and reminds me that this devotional is silly, and that both of them have already won.

      (I still don't know who to vote for. But it seems less all-consuming.)

    2. I, too, have had a blue box going back to my childhood. I am the UTO representative at my church. I didn't know about Miss Emery until reading about her today. My vote goes to her. Think of all the good works that come from the coins in the blue box from thousands of people, who offer thanks each day. Amazing!

  21. I am sure that my Mom, a very active ECW member for 60+ years, would be giving her vote to Miss Emery. I, however, must go for Bishop Brent. Any man who could go and work that hard in a struggling country, in difficult conditions, and refuse a call to come back to an elected position of such social and worldly comfort as those offices would have afforded him, gets my vote. A rare heart and character must have been in this man.

  22. Bishop Brent's collect is one of my favorites and I'm so delighted to know now the author. This is a tough, tough decision today, because I honor the work and legacy of Julia...

  23. Really tough choice. However, since my master's thesis at UNC many years ago was on "women's work for women" about women's missionary organizations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I have to vote for Julia.

  24. While Bishop Brent was an amazing man and an amazing fund raiser ($100,000 in 1901 is almost $2.5 million today) I have to go with Ms Emery; because without the women many of our local churches (and certainly Ascension in Salida, CO) would not exist.

  25. Had to go with one of my heroes and vote for Charles Henry Brent. Use his book Things that Matter all the time.

  26. great way to learn about all these wonderful people who have made a difference in our world. Look forward to learning about all the Saints listed.