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A New Beginning – by Allen Nohsey
WELCOME TO ST. MARY’S SEWANEE
The 77th annual conference of the Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee will be held July 21-23, 2023, at St. Mary’s Sewanee. St. Mary’s has had a presence since 1888 at Sewanee, high atop the Cumberland Plateau on what is known as Monteagle Mountain or Sewanee Mountain and which I refer to as the “Tennessee Holy Land.”
The first monastic vows in modern times, by women, in the Church of England were taken in 1841. In 1845, the first vows were taken in America in New York City at the Church of the Holy Communion, but the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion was not formally organized until 1852 and disbanded in 1858. One of the Sisters, Harriet Starr Cannon, was a lifelong friend of Charles Todd Quintard, both having grown up in Connecticut. Dr. Quintard received his medical degree in Connecticut in 1847, practiced briefly in Athens, Georgia and in 1851 became a professor at the Memphis Medical College. Under the influence of James Hervy Otey, Tennessee’s first Bishop, Dr. Quintard was ordained Deacon in 1855 and Priest in 1856. Bishop Otey died in 1863 and following service in the Confederate Army as both a Chaplain and a Surgeon, the Rev. Dr. Quintard was consecrated second Bishop of Tennessee in 1865 and opened the junior department, in 1868, at what was to become the University of the South at Sewanee and he is credited with getting the University open and functioning as a great school. The Sisterhood of St. Mary was formally organized in New York in 1865, with Sister Harriet as a founder and first elected “Mother Superior,” and is the oldest continuing Anglican order in America.
The Sisters of St. Mary functioned primarily in New York with the Mother House at Peekskill, but Bishop Quintard contacted Mother Harriet in 1867 about his plans to establish a home in Memphis for children orphaned by the War and sent a Memphis debutante, who became Sister Martha, to her for training. Bishop Quintard elevated St. Mary’s Church in Memphis to the status of Cathedral in 1871 and soon reorganized the former St. Mary’s School for Girls under the authority of his friend Mother Superior Harriet in New York. The school began in the Bishop’s former residence west of the Cathedral when he moved to a healthier climate at Sewanee in 1872. The legitimate successor of this school is St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, however, the Sisters ceased their involvement in 1910 and withdrew to Sewanee.
Mother Superior Harriet sent four nuns to Memphis, Sister Constance, as Superior, and Sisters Martha, Thecla and Hughetta, a sister of Colonel R.B. Snowden of Memphis and benefactor of St. Mary’s School for many years. The school was open in the fall of 1873, but a yellow fever epidemic reached Memphis and the Sisters shifted from teaching to nursing. The epidemic was rather mild and the school prospered for five years until the severe epidemic of 1878. Three additional nuns were sent from New York to Memphis and four of the seven nuns died, Constance, Thecla, Frances and Ruth. Sister Superior Constance and her three companions became known as the “Martyrs of Memphis.” Cool weather killed the mosquitoes and the epidemic ended and the school reopened.
Mother Harriet visited Bishop Quintard at Sewanee in 1887 and a school for local mountain people and a summer retreat for the Sisters in Memphis were discussed. A 100 acre farm with the Hayes homestead, just east of the present St. Mary’s, was leased from the University and the first Sisters arrived in 1888, with the formal dedication of St. Mary’s-on-the-Mountain on August 6th. The 100 acres were the first of three distinct campuses of St. Mary’s. Soon a whistle stop on the railroad from Cowan, complete with a Victorian platform known as “Summer House,” appeared. Several Sisters lived at St. Mary’s permanently and others from Memphis and New York would spend the summers. A chapel was constructed in the Hayes home and a small private cemetery was laid out and fenced, where several Sisters are buried.
From these humble beginnings on the Mountain in 1888, but with rich heritages of service and sacrifice in New York and Memphis, the Sisters of St. Mary’s opened a school for mountain girls in 1896. Shortly thereafter, literacy classes for interested men, women and older children began. In 1909, the Hayes house burned and the Sisters started developing a new campus with stone structures on 200 acres purchased west of and off of the University domain. This was the second of the three campuses. The Sisters arrived from Memphis in 1910 and more development occurred including St. Elizabeth’s convent, a large stone home, now privately owned and known as “The Cloister”.
St Mary’s greatest accomplishment since 1888 was the operation of a fully accredited preparatory school for girls from 1940 through 1967, with most of the students being boarding students from throughout Tennessee and the South. The administration and most teachers were Sisters with a few paid teachers and support staff. This school was an academic compliment to the boys’ schools at Sewanee Military Academy and St. Andrew’s. Most of the University professors’ daughters went to St. Mary’s and the girls provided the boys at these two schools and at the University with dates to the many social events on all four campuses. The Mother Superior General in New York abruptly closed the school at the time of graduation in 1967. The University was able to operate the school for 1967-1968. This was on the third of the three campuses, which is the present St. Mary’s Sewanee..
St. Andrew’s used St. Gabriel’s, the large two story building erected in 1965, for a dormitory for a few years. A local physician proposed to lease it and the one-story classroom building, St. Joseph’s, to establish a senior citizens’ residence and a nursing home, respectively and modified St. Gabriel’s by installing the long interior ramps. Unfortunately, the physician died in an accident in 1971 ending these plans. The Sisters sold St. Elizabeth’s and moved to St. Gabriel’s and opened a small retreat center. The other lovely stone buildings were vacant, deteriorating, virtually uninsurable and did not fit into the Sisters’ plans for the retreat center. The buildings were offered for sale, but there was no interest and they were eventually demolished except for the sacristy of the chapel, which became a guest hermitage just east of St. Gabriel’s, and the school barn south of the public road.
The Sisters had second thoughts about their retreat center ministry in the 1980’s, desiring to return to a life centered on contemplation and prayer and offered to sell most of the property, in order to construct a new, more private convent nearby. The Diocese of Tennessee was approached but was not interested. Dr. Robert M. Ayers, Vice Chancellor of the University, proposed that an independent corporation be organized to buy the property which was done in 1987. Today, the property is operated as St. Mary’s Sewanee with the subtitle of The Ayers Center for Spiritual Development. The large two-story Anna House has been built adding several rooms with baths for retreat attendees.
The Sisters retained 43 acres and used the proceeds of the sale to construct a chapel consecrated on August 6, 1988, the 100th anniversary of the original dedication of St. Mary’s-on-the-Mountain and a convent and accessory building, which were dedicated a few months later. The 43-acres face due South and looks off the bluff at miles of uninhabited forest in contrast to the view of the Cowan and Winchester valley from the other side of the bluff near St. Gabriel’s which the Sisters called New Hope. The chapel functions as an Episcopal Church and all services, conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer, are open to visitors. Currently, there are four Sisters at the convent.
Much of the material in this short history is from the book, “Saint Mary’s – The Sewanee Sisters and Their School,” published in 2018 by Dr. Waring McCrady, a retired Professor of French at the University of the South, to whom credit is hereby given for his scholarly research and creative writing. This book is available for purchase in the lobby of St. Gabriel’s.
St. James, Union City
Attendee since 1981
Past President, 2009
Good Friday, 2023
2022 Conference Speakers
Greetings Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee!
I hope everyone is doing well and looking forward to a fantastic experience BACK ON THE MOUNTAIN!!! Yes, we are planning to return to a fully in person conference this year without a virtual option. So please plan to make your reservation once we are ready to start taking them — we will send another notice soon once that is an option.
I am very appreciative of the work of our board in helping make this year’s conference a reality. It takes a lot of planning and diligence on their part to pull off a successful gathering.
This year the theme is based on Matthew 25:40–The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” With that in mind, we have lined up some inspiring speakers who have made their life’s goals to care for those less fortunate than ourselves.
1) Becca Stevens: Episcopal priest who founded Thistle Farms, an amazing organization that houses women who are victims of addiction, prostitution, and sex trafficking and trains them in skills to be successful contributors to society.
2) Onnie Kirk: Executive director and founder of Family Foundation Fund, “helping mentor boys with absentee fathers, training them to become Christ-centered men who will impact their families and communities for generations to come.”
3) Jarad Bingham: Director of Dragonfly Collective of Memphis, “a social impact development firm specializing in harnessing market forces to create and implement social change.” It has been instrumental in implementing The Hub in Memphis, an effort to address homelessness from many directions including shelter, employment, and health services, all in one location.
So please mark your calendars for August 19-21, 2022 to join us at DuBose. We will send out more info soon about registration.
I look forward to seeing all of you back on the mountain soon!
Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee
Message from President Tom DiNella
I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and are starting the 2022 New Year with gusto! Your board has been hard at work on the 2022 conference so I want you all to mark your calendars and plan to attend. Plans are for the conference to be in person (not virtual) at DuBose again this year. The conference dates are: AUGUST 19-21, 2022. Please put these dates in your calendars NOW so that you can reserve this time for your own enrichment (and so that the women of your lives can get a break from you!).
Our theme this year is based on Matthew 25:40. The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” We are lining up some dynamic speakers, champions in our communities for the under-served. We’d love for you to join us for some wonderful fellowship! Lastly, as a physician, I am extremely aware that the pandemic marches on. Rest assured that we are well aware of this fact and will continue to hold essentially all activities outdoors, thereby making this gathering as safe as possible (safer than shopping or dining indoors anywhere!).
Tom DiNella, MD
Registration is Open for 2021 Laymen’s Conference
Greetings Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee, I hope this day finds each of you well and enjoying God’s Blessings,
I am excited to announce that registration for the 75th Annual Laymen’s Conference, to be held in-person at DuBose Conference Center, is now open! Please register today at this link: https://tnchurchmen.org/register/
Since last year’s all-virtual Laymen’s Conference, the board has been preparing for the 2021 conference with great excitement and anticipation. We are confident the 75th Annual Conference will give laymen the opportunity to enjoy an in-person conference experience on the mountain, following the prevailing public health guidance in August, 2021.
For those unable to attend in person, we will also offer the opportunity to virtually participate in a limited conference experience. This will look very similar to last year’s conference when we uploaded pre-recorded content of the bishops and music, as well as the keynote speakers. Registration for the virtual conference will not be open until in-person registration has closed. The conference brochure is at the printer and should be mailed to Key Men in each diocese within the next few weeks.
I think we have a tremendous lineup of speakers this year, all addressing the conference theme: “Life After…a look at the Christian perspective on dealing with life transitions and how we approach, embrace, and thrive after them”. Our Scripture link to this year’s theme is Romans 8:28 “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”
Our keynote speakers will be:
- Mr. Willie Roaf (brother of Bishop Phoebe), NFL Hall-of-Famer on “Life After the NFL” (Pre-Recorded)
- Dr. Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate in Infectious Diseases on “Life After COVID” (Pre-Recorded)
- Bob Corker, former U.S. Senator on “Life After Politics” (IN PERSON)
In addition to our standard keynote speakers, we are also planning on adding informal “campfire discussions”, on theme-related topics, to be led by laymen Friday and Saturday nights.
Also new in 2021: a Friday afternoon tailgate and Friday night fish fry, moving the BBQ contest to Saturday to hopefully allow for more participation, and a beer brewing contest. Additionally, we are also coordinating with the 3 Bishops to include a new Friday afternoon offering called “Episcopal 101”. Plus we will have all the other regular activities on the mountain that we have enjoyed at the conference over the years.
I don’t need to tell each of you that 2021 is a pivotal year for this conference. Not only is it our 75th Anniversary, but obviously we are anxious to come back from last year with a stellar conference experience. Please consider joining us at DuBose Conference Center August 20-22nd, and also consider bringing friends from your parish this year.
I look forward to gathering on the mountain with you on August 20th.
Rob Clark, President
Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee
An Update from President Rob Clark
Dear Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee,
On behalf of your Board of Directors, I bid you all a happy and healthy 2021 as we move out of an eventful first month of the new year.
I am very thankful to work alongside this board; they are an outstanding group of men leading our organization. They care deeply about growing the fellowship experience of gathering on the mountain each year, and about preserving it for generations to come. We weathered an unprecedented fully virtual conference last year. And through the board’s strong stewardship, we are on sound financial footing as we look ahead not knowing exactly when full in-person gatherings will be allowed again.
The board had an excellent virtual meeting just this past weekend. While exact plans for the 75th Annual Laymen’s Conference, set for August 20-22, 2021, are still being developed, there is a great deal of enthusiasm for gathering together on the mountain. It is looking more and more that we will be able to offer an in-person meeting experience at DuBose Conference Center, while maintaining a virtual offering for those who cannot, or choose not to, gather in person. I will keep you all posted as plans come into greater focus, but please go ahead and hold August 20-22 on your calendars.
As I shared with you at the end of last year, the conference theme for 2021 will be “Life After…a look at the Christian perspective on dealing with life transitions and how we approach, embrace, and thrive after them”. The Scripture basis for the conference theme is taken from Romans 8:28, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Details about speakers and specific conference activities will be forthcoming over the next few months.
Thanks to all of you for your continued prayers for the ECT and for the DuBose Conference Center. We are all hopeful that the conference center will be able to begin the process of returning to full operation this spring. As you can imagine, they are struggling financially during this difficult time. If you would like to donate to help support DuBose you may do so here: https://www.duboseconferencecenter.org/donate
Thank you for your continued interest in, and support of, the Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee. I look forward to sharing more details of our Semisesquicentennial Conference with you in the near future.
Until then, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any comments, suggestions or question.
Rob Clark, President
Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee
2020 Conference Update from President Haralson
We are just over one week form the 74th annual conference and the first ever virtual conference, of the Episcopal Laymen of Tennessee. The excitement is growing!
We will send the links to access via Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook by next Wednesday.
A reminder –to listen to the Bishop of your diocese or to participate in the question and answer session that follows, and to vote in your diocesan elections, YOU MUST REGISTER for the conference. Otherwise we cannot send you the unique links to that part of the conference. You may register via our website, tnchurchmen.org. It’s easy, and no payment is needed.
Music will feature old and new hymns.
We videoed Bishop Roaf’s powerful sermon “Inside God’s Grace” last week at All Saint’s Chapel, Sewanee. To prepare, the readings are:
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
For the necrology, if you have any names of men who have attended the conference and have died since our 2019 conference, please send them to me at email@example.com.
An updated schedule is posted on our website. Small changes may be made.
2020 Conference President
2020 Laymens Conference
Your Board is listening! And busily working on the 2020 conference – Save the date August 14th -16th!
Thanks to all who responded to our survey following this year’s Conference. We had a terrific response from first timers and a fantastic response from men who have attended countless conferences in our past.
Your Board has taken much time to review all the feedback. We’ve taken note of what is important to the TN Episcopal Churchmen, what you want most out of the conference, and ways we can tweak the conference to make it even better.
One thing you reminded us is the number one reason for attending the conference IS the promise of spiritual enrichment. We come to the mountain each August with our bishops, our speakers, old friends and new friends, for spiritual enrichment. We gather, sharing our meals, sessions, afternoon activities and it all culminates with a magnificent worship experience at All Saints Chapel on Sunday morning.
Suggestions to enhance the conference experience this year include informal break-out discussions, more time with the bishops, and a little less pork.
Your board has taken your input to heart and is planning an outstanding conference for 2020:
- An exciting panel of speakers focused on a spiritual message of faith and service.
- A more relaxed arrival with the tailgate event on Friday afternoon, concluding with an old-fashioned fish-fry dinner with hush-puppies and all the standard sides.
- Informal campfire discussions after evening Compline, with bishops and evening speakers invited to lead discussions on topics as they evolve.
- And more
Stay tuned for more on this year’s conference and mark the dates – August 14th – 16th now!
And join us for spiritual enrichment, time with old and new friends, new experiences, and more intimate discussions with our bishops. Our ECT website, tnchurchmen.org, is being updated with current information, including our speakers, and links to registration.
Don’t forget – August 14th – 16th 2020. See you there!
President – 2020 ECT Conference
——————– Letter from Stephen Davis ————————————
“Good evening Eric,
I would like to share a few words about why I attend the men’s conference.
In 2012 I picked up a pamphlet about the men’s conference with the interest that this may be something that I had been looking for. As a new Episcopalian I didn’t know what to expect and I decided to give it a go. When I arrived at Dubose Conference Center I was greeted at the gate by a good friend of my wife Tammy, one of our past presidents Gary McGee. I did not expect his friendship nor had I had ever experienced this acceptance from a stranger. The guys from Fort Oglethorpe, GA had saved a room for me in what is now the DuBose directors house. After spending time talking and getting to know the fellowship portion of our belief I was hooked. If anyone had said to me that weekend that I would be nominated and elected V.P. of the East TN diocese I would have told them that they were crazy. But here I am seven years later feeling the grace that I have been given.
Every year I look forward to the conference bringing inspiration and a new direction to exercise God’s call to service. In 2017 I ask my son Stephen if he would like to attend and he accepted. Now we look forward to our weekend in August with like-minded men of the church.
This year when your key man asks you if you know about our conference or if you would like to attend, check out our website and social media sites. Please don’t just say “I’ll check my schedule”, we know that you are interested and we want to see you there.
Peace to you and your family.
Stephen A. Davis
V.P. East TN Diocese
President Root says “Our 2019 Conference is set for August 16-18. Get registered!”
Our 2019 Conference is set for August 16-18th !!! Registration is now OPEN. We have three outstanding speakers, an exciting weekend, and new additions to our agenda which are all shaping this year’s 2019 conference into something special.
To take advantage of Early Reigstration – REGISTER HERE tnchurchmen.org .
Here are some updates about this year’s conference
Sean P. Root President Episcopal Churchmen of Tennessee
2019 Conference Speakers –
Football Chaplain at Clemson – Tony Eubanks – Tony is from Nashville and played College Basketball at Ole Miss and Tennessee Temple, along with a Professional stint overseas. He has worked with the FCA and was the Basketball Chaplain at both Georgia and Clemson for 11 years. He has also been the Football Chaplain at Clemson under Dabo Sweeney. He has dedicated his life to spreading Christs love and will be an exciting speaker.
Third generation Vanderbilt basketball star Drew Maddux – Drew is current boys’ basketball coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Drew is a great father of 5, molder of young athletes, and a faithful Christian Leader. Below is his trick shot YouTube page- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-eABhs62t-ODlOgE0Kl4bw
College Football Hall of Fame member Johnny Majors. He is a member of St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville. With over 35 assistant coaches working under him moving on to become head coaches, hundreds of players moving on to the NFL and a National Title at Pitt, Coach Majors has been a great success story in leading young men. It all started in Moore County Tennessee, just 45 minutes from Dubose Conference Center. We look forward to hearing him speak. https://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/coaches/johnny-majors/
President Root says get excited
President Sean Root wants you all to get excited about a wonderful conference in 2019. Also, buy a hat and a shirt!
Inky Johnson’s amazing story
When Greg Champion shared with us that he had secured former Tennessee football star Inky Johnson as a speaker, I was immediately reminded of one of that fateful Saturday almost a decade ago. A bunch of friends of mine had gathered to watch the pay-per-view feed of the UT-Air Force game. It was a tough game and it wasn’t supposed to be. I don’t remember the score, just that it was close, but everyone who watched remembers what happened to star defender Inky Johnson. Please join us on the mountain to meet Inky and hear about his journey, it will change you. – Peter Abell