Feast of Jackson Kemper (May 24)   3 comments

Above:  Jackson Kemper, 1855

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-cwpbh-01884

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JACKSON KEMPER (DECEMBER 24, 1789-MAY 24, 1870)

Episcopal Missionary Bishop

Jackson Kemper was the first missionary bishop in The Episcopal Church.  He held various titles during his ministerial career.  Perhaps the most appropriate one was “Bishop of All Outdoors,” which he applied to himself.  Also apt was “The Bishop of the Whole Northwest,” given his importance to The Episcopal Church in the Old Northwest of the United States.

Kemper, who spent most of his life in the Midwest and the Old Northwest, came from the East.  He, born on February 24, 1789, hailed from Pleasant Valley, New York.  He studied at Columbia College, where John Henry Hobart (1775-1830), who became the Bishop of New York in 1816, became his mentor.  Kemper, who graduated in 1809, joined the ranks of Episcopal deacons two years later and became a priest in 1814.  From 1811 to 1831 he was one of the assistants serving under William White (1747-1836).  White was a major figure in The Episcopal Church.  He was an assistant priest at Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1772-1779); the Rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia (1779-1836); the Chaplain of the Second Continental Congress (1777-1781); the Chaplain of the Confederation Congress (1781-1788); the Chaplain of the United States Senate (1789-1800); the Bishop of Pennsylvania (1787-1836); and the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (1789 and 1795-1836).  Kemper was White’s agent in western Pennsylvania, traveling in the wilds on behalf of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and the new Society for the Advancement of Christianity in Pennsylvania while keeping track of Episcopal Church work on the frontier of that state.  He also traveled into western Virginia (now West Virginia) and Ohio in that capacity.  Kemper convinced the 78-year-old White to embark on a 800-mile long journey into western Pennsylvania, to pay pastoral visits in 1826.

Kemper was also a pioneer in the Sunday School movement in the United States.  In 1814 he and another assistant, James Milnor, founded a Sunday school immediately north of Philadelphia.  This was the first Sunday school in The Episcopal Church and the United States.

Kemper left the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1831.  For four years he was the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Norwalk, Connecticut.

On September 25, 1835, Kemper acquired another title and a different set of responsibilities when he became the Bishop of Missouri and Indiana.  He, a high churchman, became the first missionary bishop in The Episcopal Church.  In 1836, at St. Louis, Missouri, our saint founded a college for training priests.  Kemper College, as friends called it contrary to his wishes, struggled financially due to the Panic of 1837 and closed in 1845.  Despite his title, Kemper’s work extended far beyond Missouri and Indian.  In 1837 and 1838 he and Bishop James Harvey Otey of Tennessee visited Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

The Diocese of Georgia, organized with three parishes (Christ Church, Savannah; Christ Church, Frederica, St. Simon’s Island; and St. Paul’s, Augusta) in 1823, did not have its own bishop until 1841.  By that time the diocese had grown to six congregations.  The newer churches were Christ Church, Macon; Trinity Church, Columbus; and Grace Church, Clarkesville.  On March 25, 1838, Kemper dedicated the new edifice of Christ Church, Macon, and conducted the first confirmation service in Middle Georgia.  On June 3 of that year our saint dedicated the new building of Trinity Church, Columbus.

The territorial range of Kemper’s episcopal jurisdiction expanded and contracted over time.  After 1838, for example, our saint was also responsible for Iowa and Wisconsin, but Bishop Leonidas Polk’s new territory covered parts of the South.  Over time Kemper became responsible for Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, also.  Along the way new dioceses elected their bishops.  He visited the East to recruit missionary priests and raise funds.  Two of his recruits were John Henry Hopkins, Jr., and James Lloyd Breck (1818-1876), “The Apostle of the Wilderness.”  These men were some of the founders of St. John-in-the-Wilderness Church, Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1841, and Nashotah House, Nashotah, Wisconsin, the following year.  Kemper also founded Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin, in 1852.

Kemper’s legacy was impressive.  It included seven dioceses–Missouri (1840), Indiana (1841), Wisconsin (1847), Iowa (1853), Minnesota (1857), Kansas (1859), and Nebraska (1868).  From 1859 until his death in 1870 Kemper was simply the Bishop of Wisconsin.  His legacy also included ministry to indigenous people.  Our saint, an advocate of such work, helped to found a mission to Native Americans in Minnesota, in 1859.

Kemper, aged 80 years, died at Nashotah, Wisconsin, on May 24, 1870.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Lord God, in your providence Jackson Kemper was chosen first missionary bishop in this land,

and by his arduous labor and travel congregations were established in scattered settlements of the West:

Grant that the Church may always be faithful to its mission,

and have the vision, courage, and perseverance to make known to all people the Good News of Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 15:22-25

Psalm 67

1 Corinthians 3:8-11

Matthew 28:16-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 385

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3 responses to “Feast of Jackson Kemper (May 24)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Enmegahbowh (June 12) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of William White (July 17) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  3. Pingback: Feast of Philander Chase (September 22) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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