The History of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Cambridge
In 1908 a group of worshipers at a local Episcopal Church felt the need to become independent. Under the leadership of Mr. John S. Brown, the group met at the home of Mrs. Grace Manuel on Windsor Street in Cambridge. At that meeting, the group named themselves the St. Andrew’s Association and declared their purpose was “to establish a church in the Dioceses of Massachusetts.” They petitioned the Bishop, who made available to them a small 80 seat church on Columbia Street. The mission church began with 47 people.
The congregation grew rapidly. In 1911, the Rev. Walter D. McClane was appointed Priest in Charge. Under his leadership, the church was very successful in raising money; a rectory was built and a parish hall added to the church. In subsequent years the church building was used for religious and social activities by many guilds and organizations, including the Boy Scouts, 4-H Club, and the Girls’ Friendly Society. Everyone enjoyed the church picnic, parish basketball team, pancake suppers, and celebrated the week-long church fair.
In 1930 the Rev. James Mitchell arrived and served for eight years. Under his tenure additional major renovations were made, and activities continued. The Rev. Harry O. Bowles served during an interim period after Father Mitchell.
In 1940, The Rev. Kenneth dePoullain Hughes accepted the position as Priest in Charge. With his first words to the congregation he issued forth a challenge to the mission to become an independent, self-supporting parish within three years. Under his guidance they achieved this goal, and Father Hughes was installed as the first Rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church.
By 1950 the membership had grown to 750. The church was a vital participant in the life of the community and in furthering various social causes. The pulpit became a place to discuss human rights and social justice issues.
During the 1960’s the children and youth were nourished and enriched by the abundance of attention and activities of the Sunday School and Young People’s fellowship. Students from neighboring colleges offered assistance, including tutoring, fashion shows, plays, sunrise prayer services, and an annual bike-a-thon.
In 1970 Father Hughes retired – after 30 years of serving the church. He was followed by the Rev. Alvin Robinson. Under his encouragement, the church reached out to the community, and many new members were welcomed. As a staff member of the Episcopal Divinity School, Father Robinson instructed, trained and supervised seminarians. He resigned in 1985. The Rev. Dr. Bennet served as Interim from 1986 to 1988, with his wife, Marceline Donaldson Bennett, working along side him.
The Rev. L Nelson Foxx arrived in 1988, after having served the congregation previously as a Seminarian. He was installed as Rector by the R. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, the fist female bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The congregation supported the new minister, and the numbers of parishioners grew. Father Foxx emphasized shared ministry and encouraged members to use thalents to the glory of God. Many church groups were revitalized, such as Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Sunday School and Youth Group. The Young People’s Fellowship was reactivated and the YOung Adults Group was formed. St. Bartholomew’s continued to be a training ground for new priests. Several seminarians who were trained, nurtured and supported by the pastor and congrgation went on to be ordained. Under Father Foxx’s direction, a Renovation Fund was established. major improvements were made to the physical structure of the church. In August 2008 Father Foxx retired after twenty fruitful years of service.
In October 2008, St. Bartholomew’s celebrated its 100th year in Cambridge. But even as we celebrate this milestone occasion, we recognize that all institutions must be willing to adapt and change with times and circumstances in order to remain vital. St. Bart’s is in the process of discerning and defining its mission for the years ahead. We must go forth into the world spreading God’s message in our daily interactions with one another. This is an ongoing process by which we are seeking God’s will for St. Barth’s.
The Rev. Leslie K. Sterling began serving as our Priest in Charge in February 2009, and was installed as Rector in October 2013. She brings big visions for revitalizing the ministry and worship of this historic congregation. We are excited and hopeful about what the future will bring.