Celebrating 150 years

A reflection from our chaplain for the Annual Advent Letter (2017)

Glancing at our letterhead last spring and seeing the year “1867” in our Episcopal shield, it suddenly dawned on me: 2017-2018 would be the sesquicentennial year of this chaplaincy. It took a little exploration to verify the actual founding date of this ministry, especially as there were at least three different dates given in ECP literature and various published histories––1867, 1870, and 1876. With the help of the archivist at Trinity Church and after some digging in the university archives, I was able to locate the handwritten meeting notes of the first formal gathering of Episcopal students in Princeton: indeed, October 15, 1867.

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On that date 150 years ago, students at what was then known as the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) met with the rector of Trinity to form “The Rector’s Aid Society.” The society’s aim was not only to address the education, formation, and pastoral concerns of students, but to connect Princeton students to the mission of Trinity parish in the wider community. Students partnered with The Rev’d Dr Alfred B. Baker (Class of 1861) to plant mission churches and address social needs in Princeton and beyond. Their activities included everything from teaching literacy to the children of wage laborers on the Delaware & Raritan Canal to raising money for the bricks and mortar they would use to build churches in surrounding communities. That is our legacy: one of engagement, mission, and seeking the common good.

Your support of this chaplaincy changes lives. Not only the lives of those students that gather weekly in the University Chapel and Procter House for worship, prayer, and fellowship, but also the countless lives they touch as they leave this place. We have been forming disciples of Jesus Christ for 150 years; disciples who, in turn, bear lived witness to a transformative Gospel while in Princeton and wherever they find themselves throughout the world upon graduation. With your help, we will continue this vital ministry over the next 150 years to come—sowing seeds that return a yield of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.

We are a chaplaincy on the move. We are growing, changing, adapting: increasing participation and adding staff; expanding small-group fellowships and developing new opportunities for worship, outreach, and service; examining the use of our property for mission; building on the successes of the past and casting a bold new vision for the 21st century. And we need your help. Consider giving at the “Junior” level (gifts of $101-250) or above. Increase your pledge as we expand our mission. And help us both preserve and perpetuate this legacy of ministry for the next generation.

Thank you for your sustaining gifts and prayers. May God bless you and yours this Advent and over the year to come.

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Fr Joseph Wolyniak serves as chaplain to The Episcopal Church at Princeton, encompassing students, faculty, and staff at Princeton University, Westminster Choir College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. To make a secure online donation in support of the mission and ministry at ECP, see ecpton.org/give.