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"Faithful stewards of the Catholic Faith in the Anglican tradition since 1869"

Saint Barnabas Parish

129 North 40th Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68131
(402) 558-4633

 

 

A Narrative History of the Parish of Saint Barnabas

The following brief History is divided into three parts. The first years of the parish are taken from the handwritten account left by the first Rector. The years 1872 until 1969 are taken from a history written in 1969 by the late Mr. Durward B. Liffee.  The third section covering the years since that time was composed by L.J. Crouse.  

Rectors

I. George C. Betts, 1868-1872
II. James Pinckney Hammond, 1872-1875
III. John Williams, 1876-1914
IV.Lloyd Burdwin Holsapple, 1914-1925
V. Bertram L. Smith, 1925-1928
VI. Robert Dean Crawford, 1928-1947
VII. Henry L. Ewan, 1947-1949
VIII. Theodore Yardley, 1949-1954
IX. James Brice Clark, SSC, 1954-1975
X. Xavier C. Mauffrey, 1975-1978
XI. Rodney Alan Moore, 1978-1979
XII. T. Raynor Morton, SSC, 1979-1987
XIII. Thomas H. Brouillard, SSC, 1987-1989
XIV. Robert F. Scheiblhofer, 1994-

 

I. The Beginnings of St. Barnabas Church as recorded in the parish record by Father George C. Betts, first Rector 1869-1872

On St. Barnabas Day, the 11th of June, 1868 it was determined by some gentlemen to erect when practicable a small mission church in the east end of the city of Omaha. From various causes, no opportunity offered to carry their designs into effect until the month of October 1868, when Mr. A.C. McDonald of New York gave $100 to advance the project. In January 1869 the Rev. George C. Betts, then Rector of Trinity Church, Omaha [Trinity Church would later become the Cathedral of the Diocese of Nebraska], with Mr. Robert C. Jordan and Mr. James W. Van Nostrand determined to borrow enough money to enable them to build a Church which would not exceed in cost $1200. This they did.

And on Quinquagesima Sunday, the 7th day of February, 1869, the first service was held in St. Barnabas Church, a very neat structure, (at the corner of 9th & Douglas Streets) in size 20 x 36 ft., with a small recessed chancel, bell tower, and vestry. The building was designed by the minister and the work executed by Mr. John Dorsey. Divine Service was celebrated on Sundays at 8 AM and 4 PM. The Holy Communion being administered at the former hour and Evening Prayer and Sermon at the latter, until 11 June, 1869. 

During the month of April 1869, it was deemed advisable to organize a new parish, and the proper notification and request having been prepared and signed by 12 persons, promising conformity with the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Bishop (the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Clarkson) gave his consent and approval to the formation of another parish, and after due notice a meeting was held in the Church on Monday, the 3rd day of May, 1869, when St. Barnabas Parish was duly organized by adoption of the Constitution of a Parish - prescribed by the Diocesan Council - and by election of Robert C. Jordan, first Senior Warden, James W. Van Nostrand, first Junior Warden, and General George D. Ruggles, George F. Lebagh, George F. Mayer, H.L. Seward, and Frederic E. Mason, first Vestrymen.

The Church was declared to be Free, and it was mutually agreed upon that the Services and Sacraments celebrated in this Church should be in conformity with the Rubrics and in harmony with the teachings of the Book of Common Prayer. The Wardens and Vestry then offered the Rectorship of the Parish to the Rev. George C. Betts who accepted the trust and entered upon the discharge of his duties on Saint Barnabas Day, 11 June, 1869. On the 12th day of July, 1869 the moving of the Church building was begun to lots which were leased to the vestry for 5 years from 1 July, 1869. The new location (was) on the corner of 14th & Cass Streets. On Sunday the 1st day of August, 1869 the Church was opened for worship: The Rector announced that Morning Prayer would be read daily in the Church at 9 AM. 

On Easter Sunday, 1870, the Rector read a circular stating the indebtedness of the Parish to be $1000, and asked for a special Offertory - when something over $500 was laid upon the altar. On Easter Monday George D. Ruggles and George F. LaBagh were elected Wardens. George F. Mayer, Horatio L. Seward, Charles W. Mead, Lorin Miller, J. Jay Dickey, Charles F. Catlin, and T. Holmes were elected Vestrymen. Mess'rs. Mead, LaBagh, and Mayer were appointed a committee to secure possible suitable Church lots. 

On 9 July, 1870 Lot No. 4: B.24 (at the) Corner of 19th & California Streets was purchased for $3300. Of this sum $2400 was borrowed on mortgage. The present Church was ordered removed at a cost of $100 to the new lot for enlargement. On Wednesday, 13 July, a severe windstorm blew the Church from its foundations and injured it beyond repair. It was ordered taken to pieces. Trinity Parish offered the use of their chapel on Sunday evenings until we built. On Monday, the 18th of July, 1870, ground was broken by the Rector for the new Church. Foundation to be of stone, superstructure of wood. The Cornerstone was laid the same day by the Rector and Charles F. Catlin, Esq. 

The new Church is designed by Thomas Holmes II, Esq. Architect who is also a vestryman. Dimensions of the Nave - 25 x 36 ft., Transept, 20 x 49 ft., Chancel, 10 x 20 ft. Roof to be painted blue, rafters drab - striped with vermillion. Walls neutral tint. Cost not to exceed $5000 if possible. On Sunday, the 11th of August, 1870, the new Church was opened by the Bishop. The Church is very beautiful. (It) has fittings, carpet, glass, furnace, and cost nearly $6500. On 13 January, 1872, the Rector, the Rev. George C. Betts, accepted a call to become an agent for the Society for the Increase of the Ministry, Hartford, Conn. The Rector places upon record this fact: that the utmost unity has marked the relations of the Priest and the people.  [This same unity has prevailed] as well . . . between the people themselves.  [There is]  not one single one in the congregation that is not in perfect peace and harmony with the Rector, and as far as he knows with each other.

From the 23rd day of January to the 10th day of March, 1872, the services of the Parish were kept up so far as possible by the laymen of the same under the Senior Warden, General George D. Ruggles, who with the assistance of Thomas Holes, Esq. If the Vestry maintained Daily Prayer, and with two exceptions Morning and Evening and Prayer on Sunday.

On the 10th day of March, 1872, the Rev. George C. Betts resumed the Rectorship of the Parish and celebrated Divine Service. On the evening of that day Bishop Robert Clarkson met the Rector and Vestry of this parish and demanded that the Rector relinquish the use of the chasuble or any other vestment save the surplice and black stole, that he direct the choir that they do not turn towards the altar when reciting the Creed or the Glorias, and that the Rector not make the Sign of the Cross in benedictions or elsewhere, save in the baptismal office. Those the Rector declined to comply with, promising however if the Bishop showed them to be wrong or in violation of any law of the Church, to make submission. The Bishop stated it was his "wish" and ought to be obeyed. The Rector declined to obey a mere personal wish. The conference was here ended.

Shortly after this meeting Fr. Betts resigned as Rector and left the city.


II. The history of the parish continues here from an account written by Mr. Durward B. Liffee in 1969 on the occasion of the parish's 100th anniversary. It has been slightly edited.

On July 26, 1872 the vestry called to the rectorship the Rev. James Pinkney Hammond of Reading, Pennsylvania, and he began his duties the following November. The ritual controversy between the bishop and the rector of the parish continued to be stormy and perilous until the Diocesan Council passed a canon empowering the bishop to suppress all new and unaccustomed ceremonial which did not meet his approval. However, considerable advance in ceremonial was made during Father Hammond's rectorship. The vestry was induced to call as assistant priest the Rev. Father Fisse, who was a more advanced ceremonialist than Father Hammond. Although Father Fisse served for about a year without recompense, he helped to make the situation more hopeless with the bishop.

It is hard for us to believe today that bishops one hundred years ago regarded candles on the altar as a sign of unfaithfulness to the Episcopal Church. The ceremonial controversy of the second half of the nineteenth century revolved around the mixed chalice (a slight bit of water being added to the wine at the offertory); colored stoles and possibly eucharistic vestments; vested acolytes with candles/torches; plainsong and chanting certain parts of the service. Such catholic customs such as reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and the use of incense were almost unknown in Anglicanism at that time. (These customs are still suspect by some bishops today.) Looking back, this causes us to wonder what present customs and traditions might be changed or discarded. The only certainty in this life is change.

Father Hammond resigned in September 1875 and for a time worship was sustained by lay reading. But, of course, income almost wholly ceased while interest kept on accruing.

During these difficult years, financial aid and advice was often given by the Rev. H.G. Batterson of Philadelphia, who was at one time rector of St. Clement's Church of that city. (A well known Anglo Catholic parish.) The people of St. Barnabas parish owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. and Mrs. Batterson who were staunch, loyal friends.

The same Rev. Herman Griswold Batterson while rector of St. Clement's Church instituted: sacramental confession, prayers for the dead, bowing to the altar, mingling water with the wine in the chalice, colored vestments and colored stoles

The bishop of Pennsylvania, an uncompromising protestant and low churchman, denounced Dr. Batterson publicly. However, he was nationally known for being one of the first rectors to abolish pew rents and reserved pews. For this the bishop, William Bacon Stevens, dissolved the pastoral relationship. Broken in health by the long continued and bitter controversies, Dr. Batterson resigned St. Clement's rectorship in 1872. It was priests like Dr. Batterson who suffered for the Anglican Catholic faith which we enjoy today. Let us not forget their sacrifices.

During the 1870s help came from Bishop Clarkson, Trinity Cathedral's (Church) treasurer, and a Mrs. Barney, who held the mortgage on the property. She generously threw off all the interest then due her and accepted the face value of the vestry's note in full discharge of the indebtedness.

It was during these critical times that several calls were made to the Rev. John Williams to come to, or at least visit, the parish. Finally, after much correspondence, Father Williams accepted the rectorship of St. Barnabas Church and entered on his duties July 29th, 1876. Shortly after Father Williams' arrival, Bishop Clarkson informed him, confidentially, that the Trinity Church vestry was not well pleased that he should have lent St. Barnabas Church $4,000 of the fund he held for the building of the proposed new cathedral, and that he wished him to recall the loan. The loan that St. Barnabas' vestry made passed into the hands of Mr. C.W. Meade, an Omaha businessman who was also a member of the vestry and a tower of strength to the whole parish. Subsequently he laid one of the $1,000 notes he held on the alter as an Easter offering. This, together with other gifts, reduced the mortgage indebtedness to $2,500.00. In 1878 an additional building was erected on the half lot east of the church property by Mrs. Meade at a cost of $3,500.00 for a permanent school building. The subsequent loss of that property was a great sorrow to the rector, and the parish lost a most effective agency for spiritual work.

Mr. C.W. Lyman, another Omaha businessman and also a member of the vestry, offered to give one-fourth of any sum raised by the entire congregation. By this generous offer the parish debt was reduced another $1,000.00 so that there still remained $1,500.00 of the debt contracted 33 years previously.

All during these difficult years, St. Barnabas never received a dollar of missionary aid from the diocese or the national headquarters of the church. With the exception of gifts from members of the parish and other well wishers, it always maintained itself in honorable independence. The church has always been free and has eschewed fairs, festivals, dinners, suppers, and every small, mean device for obtaining that which is the plain duty of Christian people to give directly to Almighty God, as His honest due, for His work in the world.

These were troubled, stormy years, and for a time the extinction of the parish was threatened. Along with ceremonial problems with the bishop, financial problems constantly plagued the parish. The vestry was hard pressed to pay the rector and the day-to-day expenses of the church and the interest on the loan. During Father Hammond's pastorate, a rectory was built by a curious sort of joint stock arrangement, at a cost of $2,000.00. The subscriptions to this stock were, nearly all of it, ultimately presented to the parish as a gift. The rectory became, in the end, an efficient means, under God, of preserving the parish. The rental from it paid the interest on the church debt for many years.

It will be noted that 19th century parishes were on a sink-or-swim financial basis. Few, if any, parishes were financially aided by the other churches throughout the diocesan structure. As a chick must break the egg if it is to live, possibly the "life struggle" is what strengthened the churches which seem strong today.

Born in County Kerry, Ireland, June 21, 1835, John Williams arrived in America at the age of 16. For the first ten years in Massachusetts he was a machinist. At the age of 28 he entered the Seabury Divinity School in Faribault, Minnesota, where he stayed five years. Ordained to the priesthood in 1868, he served as priest in charge of a church in Hastings, Minnesota, until his call to St. Barnabas Church in 1877, which at that time numbered only thirty communicants.

For thirty-seven years he labored as rector in the "little frame church" at Nineteenth and California Streets. In four years "catholic ceremonial had been instituted". In 1878 the St. Barnabas School was established, the only private school in the city of Omaha except Brownell Hall. For seven years Father Williams was the sole instructor. Its highest enrollment was eighty students.

An exciting moment in his life was when, in 1888, single-handedly he stopped a riot which had developed at the smelter. The employees had been striking for an eight hour shift. They had been employed in twelve hour shifts. The men were offered the eight hour day, but at reduced rates. The workers, however, preferred the long hours to the reduced pay, and the twelve hour workday continued at the smelter. For years Father Williams was identified with the Knights of Labor and always had sympathy for the laboring man's problems.

At age 79, Father Williams resigned as rector on June 11, 1914.

In the fall of 1914, the Rev. Lloyd D. Holsapple was called as rector. It was Father Holsapple who supervised the construction of the present church at 40th and Davenport Streets. It is this writer's understanding that his parents lived in Hereford, Wales, and Father Holsapple's basic design for St. Barnabas Church was found in a parish church in Hereford. British "war brides" have commented that St. Barnabas Church looks just "like the churches back home". Imagine… and in the center of the United States! The site for the church was acquired after a tornado swept through Omaha on Easter Day, 3:00 p.m., 1913, and cleared the corner where the church now stands. Several ton rocks from the Joslyn Castle, which is across the street from St. Barnabas, were carried several hundred feet by the tornado.

In 1920, renovations extending the sanctuary were made, together with other changes in the basic structure. Disappointed that he did not receive a call to the deanship of Nashotah House seminary, Father Holsapple "swam the Tiber" (or, went to Rome) and spent the remaining years as a Latin teacher in a Roman Catholic boys' school in Massachusetts. Father Holsapple, in his eleven years as rector, was a builder, a scholar, and popular priest of St. Barnabas Church.

Little is known about the Rev. Bertam L. Smith, who was called to rectorship December 15, 1925. After leaving St. Barnabas Church, Father Smith had a most successful career in the diocese of Dallas, Texas. The bulletins of this period show that Father Smith maintained the Anglican Catholic faith and practice.

The next rector, the Rev. Robert Dean Crawford, arrived December 1, 1928. Born in South Dakota, he attended General Theological Seminary in New York City, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1925. After being vicar of the church in Spearfish, South Dakota, he was rector of St. Barnabas Church for the next nineteen years. It will be immediately noticed that Father Crawford was rector during the difficult years known as the Great Depression; yet under his leadership St. Barnabas Church thrived and prospered. In 1938 the mortgage was finally paid. Many appropriate and beautiful memorials were added to St. Barnabas Church, including the imported English stained glass windows, the statues, the della Robbias, the vestments, the high altar. Mr. Milton Darling, warden, was instrumental in finding and securing many of these appointments.

In 1947 Father Crawford left St. Barnabas Church for the deanship of St. Paul's Cathedral in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. From 1952 to 1965 Father Crawford was chaplain to the Episcopal students attending the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, and vicar of St. Paul's Church.

The next rector, the Rev. Henry L. Ewan, served as rector for two years, 1947-1948. His term was that of the postwar readjustment period. Following St. Barnabas, he had a most successful priesthood in California, including work at The Episcopal Home for the Aged of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

On June 1, 1949, the Rev. Theodore Yardley became rector. A New Englander by birth, Father Yardley had been curate at the well-known Anglo-Catholic parish church of St. Clement in Philadelphia, when he received the call to come to Omaha. During his five year pastorate, the congregation grew in numbers and in the deepening of the faith. Besides being a gifted preacher, Father Yardley was a most interesting conversationalist.

Father Yardley went on to be rector of St. Andrew's Church, New London, New Hampshire.

On October 1, 1954, the Rev. James Brice Clark assumed the office. The first year presented a most difficult question: whether to relocate St. Barnabas Church. In November of 1955 it was finally decided--by the resignation of twelve of the fourteen vestrymen--that the church would remain at its present location. In the next ten years, almost fifty thousand dollars worth of improvements and renovations were made to the church and rectory.

Father Clark's avocation was the weekly edition of the St. Barnabas Newsletter which during the late 1960's had a circulation of 700 copies weekly.

In October 1968, the rector and his family purchased a home at 759 North 58th Street, a mile and a half from the church, for their new residence. The former rectory at 129 North 40th Street then served for a time as parish house and church offices.


III. The conclusion of this parish history, compiled by Mr. Lewis Jasper Crouse, covers the period from 1969 to the present.

In the late 1960's and 1970's innovations began creeping into the Episcopal Church and other parts of the Anglican Communion. St. Barnabas continued to adhere to the traditional Prayer Book texts, while adopting the three year lectionary cycle in the readings advocated in the new Prayer Book.

As with most inner city churches, the parish experienced gradual decline of members due to changes in the neighborhood and flight to the western suburbs throughout the 1970's and 1980's. From 215 communicant members recorded in the 1975 annual report, the 2001 annual report records about 100 communicants in good standing.

One interesting story from this period concerns some vandalism to the church, which had historically always been unlocked at all times. On 6 April, 1975 vandals entered the church and set fire to the High Altar. While the fire did not spread any further than this, much damage was done to the Altar and Tabernacle. In addition two statues were stolen from the chapel and the four statues of the evangelists on the pulpit were broken off and stolen. Happily these statues were anonymously returned to the church in November of the same year. But from this time forth it was felt that the church could no longer be left unattended.

After being Rector for 20 years, Father Clark left the parish on 30 April, 1975 to become rector of a St. Luke's Church in Woodland Park, California. Father Xavier C. Mauffrey took up his duties as the 10th rector on 1 July, 1975, having previously been the rector of the Church of the Nativity in Maysville, Kentucky. Fr. Mauffrey and four parishioners represented the parish at the Congress of St. Louis in September 1976, a gathering of Anglo Catholics and other traditional Anglicans to try to organize resistance to the innovations being introduced in the Episcopal Church. The congress unfortunately failed to unify the Faithful into one voice, and thus resulted the organization of the first of several Continuing Anglican churches. Discouraged by the what he felt was the seeming failure of Anglo-Catholics to stop the revisionist trends, Fr. Mauffrey left the parish at the end of March 1978 to become an Antiochian Orthodox priest.

Father Rodney Moore, formerly rector of St. Elizabeth's Church, Holdrege, NE became the 11th rector on August 1, 1978, and was formally installed on Michaelmas, 29 September, 1978. A native of Osceola, NE, Father Moore was the first native Nebraskan to be called to serve the parish. He also served as the Chaplain of Brownell-Talbot School in Omaha while serving the parish. Wishing to return to a "less urban situation", his time at the parish was cut short when he accepted a call to become rector of St. Alban's Church, McCook, leaving the parish on 3 October, 1979.

On 17 December, 1979 the parish called Fr. T. Raynor Morton SSC as its 12th rector. Father Morton arrived from having been curate at St. Clement's Church, Philadelphia, once again renewing the happy and historic connections with that parish. Prior to that he had served as curate at St. Mary's Church, Denver (the founding parish of the Anglican Catholic Church). Father Morton was a graduate of Nashotah House and had also been an officer in the United States Air Force. Fr. Morton was a rather colourful character who inspired both "holy fear" and fond amusement amongst church members. His somewhat stern outward demeanor and piercing eyes disguised a gentle, loving nature. Father Morton's rectorship was a peaceful and happy time within the parish. Due to illness, Fr. Morton was forced to leave the parish abruptly, his last Mass being Annunciation Day, 25 March, 1987.

In October, 1987, Fr. Thomas Brouillard, SSC arrived as the 13th Rector of the parish, being formally installed on January 12, 1988. While the parish was united in its Catholic positions, it was still not yet united in how to respond to the continuing innovations within ECUSA. During this time a substantial number of parishioners left the parish for a variety of reasons. At the end of 1989, Fr. Brouillard left the parish and become an Antiochian Orthodox priest, starting a local congregation comprised of a number of former St. Barnabas parishioners.

From 1 January, 1990, the faithful remnant of the Church struggled to maintain and rebuild the parish, much like those difficult years back in the 1870's. Besides the loss of members, the parish also had been left with a major debt on redecorations instituted by Fr. Brouillard. This was not paid off until 1999. During the next 4 years, the parish secured the services of several "priests in charge". These included Fr. George Barger and Dean Gary Young of Trinity Cathedral, The Rt. Rev. James Warner, retired Bishop of Nebraska, Father Orville Spencer, and Fr. Vincent Marshall Minister. It might also be mentioned here that the parish records show that all the "interregnum" periods from 1975 on were served by Father Minister. The parish owes a great debt to Father Minister's faithful service and availability. He also served as Priest-Associate during Father Morton's rectorship.

On 2 June 1994 the Parish was finally able to call and install the recently ordained and bi-vocational Father Robert Frank Scheiblhofer as the 14th Rector. The parish has continued to slowly but steadily gain strength and members since then. An extraordinary choir and the revival of the Society of Mary and the Guild of All Souls are counted major successes, as well as the maintenance of a small Church School, a healthy Daughters of the King chapter, and a robust Saint Vincent's Guild. In January 2002 a new "lifetime" roof was installed on the church building, demonstrating the parish's commitment to maintain its place within the wider church as well as planning confidently for the future. The parish continues its traditional worship and Catholic witness by active membership in Forward in Faith, North America - the Anglo-Catholic alliance both in and outside of the Episcopal Church USA.

Page content last revised February 12, 2006.

 

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St. Barnabas Parish

129 N. 40th St.
Omaha, NE 68131 U.S.A.
(402) 558-4633