Phillips Brooks vs. Julia Chester Emery

The second match-up of the Elate Eight pits a renowned preacher and bishop against a tireless lay woman. Both were spiritual giants, although at six foot six and nearly 300 pounds, Brooks was also a physical giant.

To get to this point, Phillips Brooks defeated Simeon and Catherine of Siena while Julia Chester Emery was victorious over Charles Henry Brent and F.D. Maurice. Don't forget you can see all the previous match-ups to refresh your memory about the contestants by going to the bracket page and scrolling down.

Yesterday saw Lydia sneak past Basil the Great in another squeaker 51% to 49%. Yowza! Fortunately there was no great scandal with this battle as there was in the Charles Wesley/Thomas Merton match-up. To put everyone at ease, please know the Supreme Executive Committee keeps Jimmy Carter on retainer as an impartial election observer. Also, one member of the SEC used to work for IBM so BIG FATHER is always watching.

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unnamedPhillips Brooks

Phillips Brooks’ Trinity Church was the first Episcopal Church I ever entered. It was 1980, and The Empire Strikes Back had been released that summer (retain this important detail). I was on a college orientation trip to Boston with 400 other freshman, and one stop was Copley Square. Trinity Church beckoned and, as I stepped inside, the spectacular sacred space of Brooks’ imagination stunned me. Christian and Missionary Alliance churches didn’t look anything like this.

But enough of this reverie! Let’s get to the saintly kitsch!


A cursory search for Phillips Brooks treasures on Zazzle turns up the usual pithy quote-bedecked beer stein and travel mug, both a whopping $29.95, and sporting a particularly Victorian-sounding epigram: “Jesus Christ, the condescension of divinity, and the exaltation of humanity.”

The young children in your life might like this O Little Town of Bethlehem stocking stuffer pop-up book on Amazon.A visit to the web store of the Phillips Brooks Elementary School in Menlo Park, California, turns up the requisite long-sleeved t-shirt for only$29.99.

unnamedBut where are the items of devotion for a man whom Peter Gomes described as the most famous American preacher since Cotton Mather? Where are the commemorative goods for the first American minister to be invited to preach at Westminster Abbey? The man who had 15,000 Bostonians turn up for his funeral.

Where, where you ask? The answer, in a word, is Ebay.

My first find is this rather spectacular lithograph with a quote from one of Brooks’ sermons can now be  yours for $89.99 OBO. “O, do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks!” it begins.

That first search led to dozens, nay, tens of dozens of vintage Brooks books and memorabilia. For just $3.00 youunnamed can own a lovely volume from 1908 titled, Jewels of Phillips Brooks. It contains color plates and pithy quotes from his sermons and is way better (and cheaper) than a coffee mug.

unnamedThere is even a Phillips Brooks precursor to Forward Day by Day published shortly before his death, a “yearbook” that offers “day by day guidance to live a meaningful life, for yourself and for others.”

One of the most remarkable finds is this 1953 wall calendar that commemorates Phillips Brooks. 1953! Such was the appeal of his preaching and wisdom and the longevity of his reputation that 60 years after his death people were still buying calendars upon which to note their dentist appointments. You can own this “used not abused” calendar for a mere $12.99 plus $3.00 for shipping.unnamed

unnamedBut now we must return to Copley Square in 1980. Somehow upon entering the church I missed the famous statue of Brooks by the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens that was installed in 1910. Saint-Gaudiens had intended to place a stylized angelic figure behind Brooks. But, alas, he died in 1907 before it was completed. However, a group of artists decided a depiction of Jesus would be better. Unfortunately they designed the creepiest Jesus ever cast in bronze, whom I would have immediately identified, having seen The Empire Strikes Back three times that summer, as Emperor Palpatine.

Here’s what I believe: The real and loving Jesus steered me clear of the creepy statue-Jesus and led me into unnamedTrinity Church, because having seen it first, I would have turned around and gone to get a coffee at the old Harvard Book Store Cafe on Newbury Street. Instead I entered and the beauty and peace of that sacred space lodged itself in my heart and opened a door for a new way of thinking about the mystery of God.

Thank you, Phillips Brooks. Without your life and witness and your perseverance in building that stunning church, I might have turned out to be a CMA missionary in some remote, buggy place with spotty Internet and poisonous snakes.

 -- Heidi Shott


Julia Chester Emery

unnamedAlthough her influence in the Episcopal church was far-reaching (remember how as national secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions for the Episcopal Church from 1876 to 1916 she visited EVERY DIOCESE and set up more than 5,600 chapters of what is now the Episcopal Church Women (ECW)? How she visited missions all over the Far East as well? And how she championed the canonical office of deaconess? And how she created the United Thank Offering (UTO)?), Julia Chester Emery’s actual likeness appears on … basically nothing. As Forward Movement notes: "She was a modest and self-effacing Victorian lady who was so careful to stay out of the limelight …"

unnamedStill, as such a major figure in the church and in the world through her encouragement and support of missionaries (we know that she was a major inspiration for all sorts of wonderful things. For instance, look at all these Julia dolls! Clearly she is the model for the cute baby, the adorable toddler wearing Crocs, AND the demure teen. Clearly she is the model for the “My Friend Julia” machine washable doll!


unnamedunnamed(OK, and this last doll is actually inspired by Christina the Astonishing, who, sadly, did not survive the first round even though lots of people wanted to see what sort of kitsch she inspired, so here you go.)unnamed

She also clearly inspired the trucking industry! How many people can say that?

unnamedAlso, check out this toast rack in the “Julia” pattern from Royal Winton china. Perfect for holding your Virgin Mary and/or Jesus toast. (There are salt and pepper shakers, teapots, and other lovelies in the Julia pattern, too.)

Naturally, Julia also inspired such important and useful items as key chains. See?unnamed

_DSC8634Now, all of these other Julia-inspired items are available for purchase, somewhere. (Well, maybe not the truck.) However, there’s another Julia item that is unique and priceless, and I own it. It’s almost like a relic. This is a raku pottery UTO box (circa 2000) made by my son when he was in elementary school.

So vote for Julia and send her to the round of the Faithful Four!

-- Penny Nash


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115 comments on “Phillips Brooks vs. Julia Chester Emery”

  1. For kitsch, Phillips has Julia beat (for two lovely people of God, how else to find a way to differentiate?) Plus, Heidi provides a chance to reminisce on my Star Wars memories.

  2. I know there are stained glass memorial windows for Phillips Brooks (I've seen at least one in an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), but personally I haven't seen stained glass tributes for Julia. I own a couple of those Brooks' books, courtesy of my mother-in-law, so PB it is for me!

  3. Had to go with Julia today. And I think it was because there wasn't anything that could be posted that celebrated the actual Julia. No posters or calendars or statues. But I sure hope we all have blue boxes in our homes. And there are UTO funded projects all over this world that stand in tribute to the difference her saintly faith has made.

    1. I share your sentiment. But Brooks found my vote anyhow, as I was glossing over a sermon of his, called Beauty of a Life of Service. I was expecting Victorian platitudes, and found... hard to name what I found. Found, as he addressed it explicitly, an answer to the (Baptist's) question, "Is another yet to come?"

    2. Susan, you make me feel better about voting for Julia. If she goes all the way, she will be on a coffee mug, at last! I came here to vote for Brooks, but somehow that dear little raku UTO box touched my heart, and my cursor touched Julia's name. Awesome kitsch for Brooks, with wonderful quotes, but those mite boxes are mighty mighty.

    3. I was struck by the fact Julia did what we should do, cause people not to look at us, but at Jesus, and the people God created around us. She has a daily focus in my home, not of her, but of the needy through her HOPE boxes. That is truly how a deacon functions - shows us the needs, and shows us how to meet the needs.

  4. I voted for Julia in spite of her doll wearing crocs. We are called to unconditional love.

  5. I am a big Julia Chester Emery fan, and was charmed by the UTO box. I think she could win this round had Ms. Nash focused on the many UTO boxes through time. I used a needlepointed/plastic canvas version for years (in fact, our bazaar (not bizarre) ladies made them). My vote has to go to Phillips Brooks this time. Sigh.

  6. Had to go with Julia! The United Thank. Offering sill needs her presence, perhaps now more than ever. Phillips presence is carved in stone or atleast brick and mortar.

    1. Vote for Phillips! Vote for Phillips!

      P.S. I bought the little gift book on eBay.

  7. Had to vote for Julia because in her life, she just workmanly-like, head-down, plowed on to serve, and now in death, she deserves to just as workmanly-like head-down, plow on to the final four.

  8. You are gonna have another squeaker on your hands today. I like both candidates so I had to vote on the Kitsch--PB hands down.

  9. I still don't know enough about Emery to discern what her contributions were beyond little blue boxes, which I concede have financed some good things. Brooks' words continue to convert the hearts and minds of people. Brooks today.

    1. She helped pave a way for women to serve in the Church when we were not officially allowed to do anything beyond altar guild or choir. Most of the CB writers are too young to remember those days -- the days of deaconess ministry when even they were not equal to deacons.

  10. This was hard. There is always a blue box on a counter here. Trinity was just about the second Episcopal church I visited- his sermons, the church the hymn. Had to be Phillip.

  11. “O, do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks!” vs. the little blue UTO box. What a tough choice! Do I choose the man whose words continue to influence people today, or the woman whose dedication to the church has helped so many? Both are so worthy. But for some reason, I can't get that little blue box out of my mind. Go Julia!

    1. Julia did what Phillips preached. She did not take on an easy life and she certainly took on immense tasks which she completed with great strength. Phillips challenged men and Julia accepted the challenge.

  12. I still vote for Julia, for the opportunities she gave women to serve in a male-dominated church. And somehow the absence of items directly related to her speaks so much to her real servanthood--her good works have surpassed any fame she might have had. That UTO box,Penny, is priceless!

  13. Cast my vote for Julia, today's underdog (at least this morning). While the Brooks kitsch is more numerous and inspiring, that means WE as the Church should do more to highlight Julia's legacy to us. Maybe her time on the LM bracket will help spread her story.

  14. Voting for Julia today. UTO boxes, deaconesses, ECW, so much that she championed still influencing folks every day all these years later.

  15. I have no doubt of the influence of Brooks, but the little blue box has been a part of my life since childhood and still is. Brooks might have preached about praying for powers equal to the task but in my opinion Emery actually went out and did it. (And I am persuaded more by the lack of kistsch, as other commenters have noted.).

  16. This is my third time voting for the other holy person, as opposed to Julia. I say that because I'm not really voting against Julia, just for someone else. Hopefully, this will diminish the amount of haunting I will experience from my late mother who was a diocesan ECW president. As can be expected, she was fierce about ECW and UTO. She always had a little blue box on her dresser - I thought everyone's mother had one.

  17. Another day, another LM competition with no bad decisions possible. I'm going with Phillips Brooks this time because "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of my favorite Christmas carols, especially when sung to Williams' tune, "Forest Green." I love the verse that ends with, "Where charity stands watching, and faith holds wide the door, The dark night breaks, the glory wakes, and Christmas comes once more." In addition, one of the former rectors of our parish also served as rector of Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square.

  18. How could you forget the rousing song in praise of Juleeaaa offered by the Beatles? Julia got my vote because of the current UTO mess — she needs all the support we can give to her great work.

  19. FYI...the chapel at St Clement's in Hell's Kitchen/ Manhattan/NYC sports a lovely stained glass window of Julia holding the infamous "Blue Box" in one hand, an a coin in the other.

  20. Julia it is, altho it hurts, two quite admirable, to put it lightly, folk. however, my uto box is staring at me, so an unavoidable vote.

  21. Ditto Joy and Emily. Plus I cannot imagine traveling to every diocese which back in Julia's days meant by train,boat or horse-drawn vehicles. Such journeys surely took tremendous dedication.

  22. Glad I came to the comments for inspiritation. Yes, I think it is Julia's day. Carol's aforementioned travel itinerary is what pushed me over the edge. And the thought of all those different UTO boxes that are stuffed away in drawers and musty smelling boxes in attics out there somewhere ... here's to Julia and all her humble work.

  23. I agree with others that the kitsch for Phillips Brooks could tilt the ballot in his favor. But kudos to Penny for working as hard as Julia would have to find items to include! Great write ups today for two of my favorites this year. It was hard for me to choose as I greatly admire them both. Either way, I knew I would regret not voting for the other. Cast my vote for Brooks because his spirit has inspired so many in dedicated ministry. But I'm feeling sad at the same time because Julia's legacy lives on through the women of the church and our beloved blue boxes (even though I bet most have never heard of her).

  24. I've had a blue box in my home as long as I can remember. There's one in front of me next to my monitor at work. It's better than the kitsch (great as the PB kitsch is) because it reminds me to be grateful and to share my gratitude. It's because of Julia Chester Emery, and she gets my vote today.

  25. Again I vote for Julia Chester Emery in honor of Martha Perry at St. Peter's in the Mountains, Callaway, VA, our United Thank Offering coordinator.