Clergy past & present...
The church has been blessed through the years with rectors of the highest caliber, including three who moved to further notable positions after their tenure here: Alfred Magill Randolph, third rector (1867 – 1883), later serving as Bishop of Southern Virginia; Noble Cilley Powell, sixth rector (1931 – 1937), later serving as Dean of Washington Cathedral and Bishop of Maryland; and the seventh rector, Theodore Parker Ferris (1937 – 1942), who went on to become the rector of Trinity Church, Boston. Dr. Powell, before agreeing to become Emmanuel’s sixth rector wrote the vestry saying he intended to put one condition on his acceptance of their call, “…that the pulpit of Emmanuel Church…be entirely free. By this I mean that the Rector shall be under no restrictions, save of course, those demanded by good taste and common sense and the canons of the Church, as to what he shall preach.” This, then and now, is our tradition.
Additionally, four more rectors, of the total of 12, have, through the devotion of significant portions of their careers, made considerable contributions to the parish. The Rev. Dr. James Houston Eccleston, fourth rector (1884 – 1911) and a visionary, called for the establishment of an endowment that would help to support Emmanuel and its many programs as he saw that the population of the neighborhood might shift away to outlying areas. In his 1904 sermon marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of Emmanuel Dr. Eccleston noted “Already more than half our people must pass from one to five churches before they reach our own building…it will [soon] be too late to lament neglect when this building shall have become a huge unmanageable load upon its vestries, and itself a dependent upon the pity of some other congregation because of the removal of its people beyond reach.” From that sermon, and Dr. Eccleston’s continued attention, Emmanuel’s Endowment Fund took root and grew, and became vital to the continuation of our ministry to the congregation, the community, and to maintaining our presence in Baltimore as a vibrant urban parish.
The Rev. Dr. Hugh Birckhead was the force behind the creation of the great beauty of the buildings themselves. He was called to Emmanuel from St George’s in Manhattan in New York City and brought with him the sophisticated sense of ecclesiastical design that he wished to recreate in Baltimore, forming a space that gladdens the heart as it inspires through traditional architectural means.
The Rev. Dr. Alfred Starratt (1955 – 1984), created what is likely the most liberally intellectual atmosphere of that time at Emmanuel. His sermons, brilliantly delivered almost as theological lectures, presented his philosophy of panentheism, the notion of one God for all peoples, and interpreted traditional theology in light of scientific advances and insights derived from other religions, mysticism, and historical fact. It was during Dr. Starratt’s rectorship that Emmanuel became a “booklet” parish, with the entire service, except for the hymns, printed in the Sunday bulletin for ease of use.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Culbertson (1985 – 2005), through 20 years of service to Emmanuel made a most significant contribution on three fronts: outreach, restoration of the buildings, and growth of programs for young people. He also contributed in a most substantive way to Emmanuel’s preaching foundation of reasoned theology. Dr. Culbertson’s feeling is that every 50 years in an institution’s history is a critical time, requiring an assessment of that institution, and the last five or so years of his tenure addressed the issue of renewal with the vestry and committees within the parish.
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Pagano was selected as the twelfth rector of the parish and served from 2006-2010. In his time at Emmanuel, Dr. Pagano strengthened congregationally-based Bible study, as well as continuing a tradition of intellectual engagement and preaching.
In 2011, the vestry called our 13th rector, the Rev. Rodney Hudgen (2012-2015) who had been serving as the senior associate at Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston. The Rev. Hudgen came to us with a passion for urban ministry and an expertise in redevelopment, especially in regards to connecting the life of the congregation with the life of the city around it. He brought Emmanuel a renewed sense of contemporary worship and social justice outreach.
As of April 2016, the vestry called the Rev. Canon Mary Sulerud to serve as our interim rector. Mary brings with her a wealth of experience, ranging from her most recent work as an associate rector with St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, to her time as the transitions officer for the Diocese of Washington--not to mention a plethora of other roles at both the diocesan and parish level. Mary, the rest of the staff, and the congregation of Emmanuel are all very excited to explore what the future might hold for our community as we continue to live into the love of Christ and neighbor.