Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mother of Missions

As we consider our cornerstone values as a faith community today, Stewardship Committee Historians John Will and Paula Peeling will be highlighting historic moments and stories from the Cathedral's past. 

For many years St. Paul's Episcopal Church carried the proud label "Mother of Missions." Even when I first tip-toed in through the back door of our church decades ago, the "Mother of Missions" moniker was still being quoted. If I asked for more detail it was mostly "hmmmm, I think they started St. Matthew's in National City, and others, I think." So in this season of contemplating "cornerstones," here is the genesis story of the "Mother of Missions."

Grass was not growing under the feet of the nascent first Protestant Episcopal church in San Diego. The Parish of St. Paul (incorporated in 1887), formerly known as the Parish of the Holy Trinity (1882-1886), was a small but active group of laity and community leaders. When they hired their newly ordained priest, The Rev. Henry B. Restarick in 1882, I wonder if they realized their spiritual life was poised for the great commission-- "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations..." Sometimes the "nations" are at the edge of your own geographic sphere.

Henry Bond Restarick eventually
become Bp of Honolulu
When the Rev. Restarick came to San Diego in 1882, he was in charge of an area twice the size of Massachusetts. The railway had newly come to San Diego bringing new settlers who had no community, much less an organized church community. The Rev. Restarick worked with his laity to develop a plan for taking Protestant church services to the growing but isolated areas of the county. By sending out lay readers to initiate and establish services in the remote areas, St. Paul's nurtured the gatherings and leadership of "country folk." Once these gatherings established their own lay leaders, St. Paul's continued to offer material aid of funds and furnishings to the new churches and chapels.

In 1892 a group of lay people proposed to Rev. Restarick that they wished to initiate services within a radius of 20 miles of San Diego for country settlements where no religious services were currently held, a much larger sphere than the former mission work had encompassed. This lay group became known as the Lay Reader's Association of St. Paul's. These lay missionaries provided a roving Eucharist complete with sermon and music. "The idea was to gently lead such people into the Church... by letting the Prayer Book service work upon them, and by giving them instruction in the Spirit of Love." Several members of this Lay Readers Association of St. Paul's went on to seek Holy Orders.

The churches, chapels, and missions  established by the Parish
of St. Paul, under the leadership of the Rev. Henry  B. Restarick
and the Lay Reader's Association of St. Paul were:

All Saints Church in Hillcrest was a mission of St. Paul’s
1887  St. Paul's- San Diego
1887  St. Matthew's- National City
1892  St. James the Great- Logan Heights
1895  St. John's- Bostonia (now El Cajon)
1897  St. Mark's- South San Diego
1897  All Saints- Mission at 6th and Thornton St.
1897  Mission in Oceanside
1897  St. Peter's- Mission in Coronado
1897  Mission in Escondido

Paula Peeling is a long-time member and Stewardship Committee Historian

Sources: History of San Diego 1542-1908 (San Diego, 1907) by William E. Smythe; The Churchman February 19. 1898, p. 295; Lay Readers Their History, Organization and Work (New York, 1894) by The Rev. H. B. Restarick

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