January 9: Julia Chester Emery, Missionary, 1922

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About this Commemoration

Julia Chester Emery was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1852. In 1876 she  succeeded her sister, Mary, as  Secretary of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions which had been established by the General Convention in 1871.

During the forty years she served as Secretary, Julia helped the Church to recognize its call to proclaim the Gospel both at home and overseas. Her faith, her courage, her spirit of adventure and her ability to inspire others combined to make her a leader respected and valued by the whole Church.

She visited every diocese and missionary district within the United States, encouraging and expanding the work of the Woman’s Auxiliary; and in 1908 she served as a delegate to the Pan-Anglican Congress in London. From there she traveled around the world, visiting missions in remote areas of China, in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Hawaii, and then all the dioceses on the Pacific Coast before returning to New York. In spite of the fact that travel was not easy, she wrote that she went forth “with hope for enlargement of vision, opening up new occasions for service, acceptance of new tasks.”

Through her leadership a network of branches of the Woman’s Auxiliary was established which shared a vision of and a commitment to the Church’s mission. An emphasis on educational programs, a growing recognition of social issues, development of leadership among women, and the creation of the United Thank Offering are a further part of the legacy Julia left to the Church when she retired in 1916.

In 1921, the year before she died, the following appeared in the Spirit of Missions: “In all these enterprises of the Church no single agency has done so much in the last half-century to further the Church’s Mission as the Woman’s Auxiliary.” Much of that accomplishment was due to the creative spirit of its Secretary of forty of those fifty years, Julia Chester Emery.


I God of all creation, thou callest us in Christ to make disciples of all nations and to proclaim thy mercy and love: Grant that we, after the example of thy servant Julia Chester Emery, may have vision and courage in proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our light and our salvation, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II God of all creation, you call us in Christ to make disciples of all nations and to proclaim your mercy and love: Grant
that we, after the example of your servant Julia Chester Emery, may have vision and courage in proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our light and our salvation, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Isaiah 61:1–3

Romans 12:6–13

Mark 10:42–45



Preface of  of a Saint (2)

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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6 thoughts on “January 9: Julia Chester Emery, Missionary, 1922

  1. The bio has a “how to” list for us, almost. All those visits to other churches, holding up the vision she had. This is one of the most practical bios I’ve read in HWHM. Thank you!

  2. I prefer the subtitle “Upholder of Missions”. This is used in one of the biographical accounts, and more adequately reflects why she is already in the Calendar.

    Line 1, first paragraph: amend after “born” to read “on September 24, 1852, at Dorchester, Massachusetts.”

    Line 1, fifth paragraph: add (on January 9, 1922)) after “died”. I have been unable to find her place of death, which should be shown here.

  3. Julia Chester Emery, Missionary, 1922
    When this commemoration first entered LFF, I was amazed at this outstanding and wonderful lady. I still am. The commemoration as written can stand as is, and I would be happy to remember her year after year.
    Naturally there are very minor changes I would make if I had the chance, but I’m not even going to obsess over them, I like this commemoration so well. I will, however, say that apart from the wonderful endeavors described today, I’m deeply aware that clergy and various religious orders or church based organizations have veritably “hijacked the show” when it comes to the proportionate makeup of the church vis-a-vis the Baptismal Covenant, judging from HWHM. To see lay people featured, including Julia Emery, is in itself an important “plus,” so far as I am concerned.

    Emery’s role was totally absorbed with the official parameters of church based organizations (and we thank God for such), but in addition to that I would love to see many more whose church life is exemplary AND whose Christian engagement with God’s work is expansive enough to encompass life in arenas beyond church organizations or “in-house” agendas – public service, social engagement, human need, reconciliation between and among groups, family life, youth mentoring, moral formation, economic conditions, equipping for employment, and so forth. There are not many of those in LFF (although HWHM proposes some, at least) and the question of whether such “outside-of-church” contributions makes them “saints” (or “holy”), while relevant, needs to be answered in the light of the full scope of their religious depth, vision and engagement. The best example I have seen, rooted in our church’s publications, is Frederica Harris Thompsett’s volume in the New Church’s Teaching Series, Living With History, which inspiringly describes the “real world” service and ministry of Frances Perkins (proposed in HWHM for May 13). Several othes have come before us already on this blog (composers, architects, newspaper people, etc.), which I confess I haven’t viewed in this light.
    My thanks to those who put Julia Emory before us in LFF. My hopes are for the full and proper presentation of other baptized laity, who represent the vast numbers of Christian whose lives are guided by Christ’s gospel and whose work is in the wider world, who “have a life” beyond just the meetings announced each week in the Sunday bulletin. We need four things, really, the grace of a life of prayer including common worship, nurture that fosters our spiritual growth as a byproduct of belonging as an intimate part of a faith community, ways to use our gifts to support the church’s ongoing life in response to God’s ultimate purposes, and also a vision that recognizes God’s work (and every Christian’s baptismal calling) as extending far beyond the four walls and agendas of the institution, per se.
    Collects: I don’t know. Who writes the collects? Why “God of all creation?” I know creation is vitally important to God’s heart and to the calling of all Christians, but I don’t see the Julia Emery connection, in particular. She travelled a lot. That’s not the same.
    “Thou callest us in Christ to make disciples of all nations and to proclaim thy mercy and love: Grant that we, after the example of thy servant Julia Chester Emery, may have vision and courage in proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” We are so “ought” and “should” oriented! Our relationship with God seems to be presented like a bill of lading rather than a gift of life in its fullness. No Thanksgiving for Julia, just a working model of what’s expected. And how many saying this prayer are going to follow through with what the prayer actually says? It overshoots reality in the interest of churchy sounding rhetoric. AT LEAST make it clear that the overarching petitions are prayed on behalf of the whole church and its mission – the big picture. Maybe that would provide the ballast and balance to express appropriate petitions and objectives for the individuals praying.
    Readings: They all seem good. (Surprise!)
    One more thought: the title. I don’t see her as a “missionary” per se. She was sort of an inspector, visitor, supporter, etc. Bob Hope visited the troops but he was an entertainer and not a warrior. I think it was Nigel who suggested an alternative title. His sounded better to my ears.
    This is a great commemoration. It’s inspiring for what Julia Emery did. It stimulates the possibilities for what the church and its members can do, within and beyond the limits of “officialdom.” It even points us beyond what matters to church, all the way to what matters to God (without being dismissive to the church). Thank you, again.

    • In reading my “comment” I notice it sounds as if Thomsett’s book is focused on Perkins throughout. That’s a false impression. Several pages toward the end focus on Perkins. The focus of the book as a whole is much broader than any one person.

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