Some Particularly Notable past & Present Clergy...
Emmanuel has been blessed through the years with rectors of the highest caliber, including three who moved to further notable positions after their tenure here: the Rev. Dr. Alfred Magill Randolph, third rector (1867–1883), later serving as the first Bishop of Southern Virginia; the Rev. Dr. Noble Cilley Powell, sixth rector (1931–1937), later serving as Dean of Washington Cathedral and then Bishop of Maryland; and the seventh rector, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Parker Ferris (1937–1942), who went on to become the rector of Trinity Church, Boston. Before agreeing to become Emmanuel’s sixth rector, Dr. Powell 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 understanding, then and now, is our tradition.
Our first rector was the Rev. Dr. Henry Van Dyke Johns (1854-1859), who was known for his melodious voice and extemporaneous preaching. He served as the 26th chaplain of the Senate of the United States of America from December 14, 1829 until December 19, 1831. On Easter Sunday 1859, Dr. Johns died at age 56, and he is buried in Greemount Cemetery.
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 that “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, becoming 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 (1912-1929) 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 and brought with him the sophisticated sense of ecclesiastical design that he wished to recreate in Baltimore, forming a space that gladdens the heart and 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) made a most significant contribution on three fronts through his 20 years of service to Emmanuel: 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 (2006-2010) was selected as the twelfth rector of the parish due to his great gift for teaching. In his time at Emmanuel, Dr. Pagano strengthened congregationally-based Bible study, as well as continuing the parish's rich tradition of intellectual engagement from both the pulpit and the gallery.
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 same church that Dr. Ferris had gone on to serve as rector.) 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 city around it. He inspired a renewed sense of contemporary worship and social justice outreach in Emmanuel, including growing the parish's young adult population significantly.