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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A History of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer 

By Elizabeth Grover, Contributor

[Editor’s Note: The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer was among the Hyde Park churches featured in November’s “Around the Neighborhood” column, however details on its rich history were not included.  We thank Elizabeth Grover for taking the time to write the following article to share with our readers.]

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer was founded in 1908 when a missionary named Max Long began holding Episcopal services in the Hyde Park Town Hall in Hyde Park Square. (Long would go on to be rector of Redeemer until 1952.) By 1917 the congregation was able to purchase land on Edwards Road. A Parish Hall was built right away and by 1928, when the “new” Prayer Book came out, average Sunday attendance was up to 97.

Hopes for a new church building were dashed by the Great Depression, however, and the congregation continued to meet in the Parish Hall. After surviving the war with a victory garden at the corner of Erie and Paxton, Redeemer was able to buy that land, and in 1952 the current church building was built. An education wing was added in 1958, and the Cornerstone wing with offices, a chapel and more added 50% more space in 2005.

The Rev. Henry Sherrill led Redeemer from 1952 to 1966, and the Rev. Alfred Vail was rector from 1966 to 1978 - a turbulent time in the church as a whole as well as in our nation.

In addition to being a trial parish for the 1979 Prayer Book, Redeemer was a pioneer parish in other ways as well.  The ordination of women in the Episcopal Church became a reality in 1977, and Redeemer hired its first female priest in 1980. There has been at least one woman on the clergy staff ever since. 

The fourth rector, the Rev. James A. Hanisian, was called in 1979 and was at Redeemer for 22 years. Then the parish was blessed with the Rt. Rev. Martin Townsend as interim. Martin’s love of Celtic spirituality introduced our parish to a whole new style.

When the Rev. Bruce Freeman arrived as our fifth rector in 2003, he continued the focus on lay leadership and initiated a study of worship options leading to the introduction of the Banquet as our alternative service on Sunday mornings and the Celtic Eucharist on Sunday evenings.

We celebrated our centennial in 2008 with a host of events including a worship service that replicated the liturgy of 1908, as well as a visit from the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop. With our sixth rector - the Rev. Philip DeVaul, who began his service in 2016 - Redeemer continues its tradition of being a vibrant and welcoming parish which shares the love of Jesus beyond our walls.

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