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Feast of Philander Chase (September 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Philander Chase

Image in the Public Domain

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PHILANDER CHASE (DECEMBER 14, 1775-SEPTEMBER 20, 1852)

Episcopal Bishop of Ohio, and of Illinois; and Presiding Bishop

September 22 is the Feast of Philander Chase in The Episcopal Church.

Chase, in the same league as Jackson Kemper (1789-1870), was one of the great Western missionary bishops in The Episcopal Church.

Chase was a native of New England.  He, born in Cornish, New Hampshire, on December 14, 1775, grew up a Congregationalist.  In 1791 he matriculated at Dartmouth College.  There he encountered The Book of Common Prayer (1789).  Chase read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested the Prayer Book, converted, and became a lay reader.  After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1795, our saint married Mary the following year.  In 1796-1798 Chase, a father as of 1797, read theology under the direction of Thomas Ellison, the Rector of St. Peter’s Church, Albany, New York.

Chase, ordained by Samuel Provoost, the Bishop of New York, in 1798, was an active missionary from the beginning.  In a year and a half he, assigned to be a missionary in central New York state, traveled more than 4000 miles, preached 213 times, and planted congregations.  Later Chase simultaneously served in two churches in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill while teaching school, to make ends meet.  In 1805 our saint moved his family to New Orleans, where he founded Christ Church (now Christ Church Cathedral), New Orleans, the first Episcopal congregation in Louisiana.  The Chases left New Orleans in 1811 due to Mary’s tuberculosis.  Our saint served as the Rector of Christ Church, Hartford, Connecticut, from 1811 to 1817.

Missionary work in Ohio summoned, however.  In 1817 Chase moved to Ohio, where he bought a farm at Worthingham.  He ministered to people in the immediate area and became the principal of the local academy.  Then Chase sent for his family.  Mary, sadly, died of natural causes in 1817.  The following year Chase helped to organize the Diocese of Ohio, the first Episcopal diocese west of the Appalachian Mountains.  He, elected Bishop of Ohio later that year, assumed the office in 1819.  Also in 1819, our saint remarried; the second wife was Sophia Ingraham, of Poughkeepsie, New York.  Chase was, for several years, the guardian of his adolescent nephew, Salmon P. Chase, 1808-1873), who went on to become a prominent abolitionist, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1861-1864), and the Chief Justice of the United States (1864-1873).  The future politician recalled his several years with his uncle negatively, for the bishop was allegedly too strict.

Chase, who became the President of Cincinnati College (now the University of Cincinnati) in 1821, recognized the need for a seminary in Ohio, to build up The Episcopal Church there.  He found deep pockets in England.  Kenyon College, which opened at Chase’s farm in 1825, moved to Gambier, Ohio, in 1828, and completed its first building the following year.  The name of the college came from Lord George Kenyon, the Second Baron of Gredington, a generous donor.  The name of the town came from James Gambier, the First Baron Gambier, and Admiral of the Fleet, another donor.  The name of the seminary, Bexley Hall, came from Nicholas Vansittart, the first Baron Bexley, yet another donor.

Chase made enemies, though.  He, as the President of Kenyon College, was, according to more than one person, too strict and controlling.  The revolt at the diocesan convention in 1831 prompted our saint to resign as both the President of Kenyon College and the Bishop of Ohio.

Chase moved to Michigan, where he purchased a farm.  He enjoyed farm life.  Our saint had grown up on a farm, so he knew that setting well.  In Michigan he ministered to local people, operated a successful lumber mill, and had about 100 cattle.  For about four years Chase enjoyed this stage of life, until he received an invitation from Illinois.

In 1835 the newly formed Diocese of Illinois had 39 communicants.  It could not afford to pay its first bishop, Chase, a salary at first.  Our saint accepted the challenge, raised funds, and increased the numerical strength of the diocese.  In 1845 the Diocese of Illinois had more than 500 communicants in 28 parishes.  He also founded Jubilee College, Peoria, extant from 1840 to 1862, and raised funds for it.  Chase, as the Bishop of Illinois, also traveled on church work outside the state.  In 1840 he assisted Levi S. Ives, the Bishop of North Carolina, in dedicating the new building of Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia.  (There was no Bishop of Georgia until the following year.)

Above:  Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia, 1902

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a09596

From 1843 to 1852 Chase doubled as the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.  At the time the basis of the office of Presiding Bishop was seniority.

Chase became involved in ecclesiastical controversies.  He, a member of the Evangelical wing of the Church, considered the Tractarian movement to be morally and existentially dangerous.  Our saint overstated the case greatly in that matter; he was wrong, actually.  On the other hand, Chase understated the evils of slavery.  Although he opposed slavery and made no excuses for it, our saint challenged abolitionists and was overly diplomatic vis-á-vis the Peculiar Institution of the South in public.  That was a moral failing.

Chase died in Peoria, Illinois, on September 20, 1852.  He was 76 years old.

Chase belongs on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, along with those Tractarians and Roman Catholics he opposed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM HERZBERGER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEVKADIA HARASYMIV, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC NUN, AND MARTYR, 1952

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUIGI BELTRAME QUATTROCCHI AND MARIA CORSINI BELTRAME QUATTROCCHI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF JESUS, JORNEY Y IBARS, CATALAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND CONFOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE ABANDONED ELDERLY

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Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith:

We give you heartfelt thanks for the pioneering spirit of your servant Philander Chase,

and for his zeal in opening new frontiers for the ministry of your Church.

Grant us grace to minister in Christ’s name in every place,

led by bold witnesses to the Gospel of the Prince of Peace,

even Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 44:1-6, 8

Psalm 108:1-6

Acts 18:7-11

Luke 9:1-6

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 599

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