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Elbow Grease and More: Still Honoring Our History

Lynn Hoke, ECW Historian & Diocesan Archivist

1979 Installation of new ECW officers. Mary Harris (3rd from right), Scott Evans (4th from right)ECW President Shara Partin reported to the 1995 Diocesan Convention: “Women’s involvement in hands-on efforts is the elbow grease that turns the wheels in many parts of the Diocese.” This is true now, as it was in 1995, in 1895, and ever since the Diocese was organized in 1817. We have documentary evidence of this involvement in our two Bicentennial collections on the ECW website.

“The Story Goes On” collection features more than 250 excerpts from early journals and reports that highlight the many contributions of women since 1817. “By Word & Example: Women Who Graced the Episcopal Church in North Carolina, 1817-2017” offers tributes to 92 women whose “elbow grease” turned all sorts of wheels in their churches and communities. And, let’s not forget the hundreds of women who found themselves featured on our Annual Meeting exhibit boards and collector cards during this past decade.

In addition to the women referenced above, the “history focus” for this year’s Annual Meeting will also feature the Harris-Evans Conference itself and its inspiration. In 1982 our Diocesan Trustees received the sum of $1,000 from an anonymous donor to establish the permanent “Mary Harris – Scott Evans Scholarship Fund.” Scott Tyree Evans (now Hughes) served as ECW President from 1976 to 1979, followed by Mary Varden Harris from 1979 to 1981. (Mary died in 1994; Scott celebrated her 97th birthday this July.) In their honor, the annual income from this fund was designated for use to reduce the costs (across the board) of Episcopal Church Women’s conferences, “with preference being given to the Episcopal Church Women seminar which is currently held each autumn.” In this era the “Fall Seminar” usually focused on social issues, and a spiritual retreat was offered in the spring.

Speaking of elbow grease – after Mary Harris died in January 1994, the March ECW Patchwork newsletter noted: “You may recall that Mary was President when the original money was raised to build the ECW Cottage at Browns Summit. As she traveled around the diocese, she carried bottles of plant fertilizer to sell as her contribution to the fund. Even in her death, Mary’s spirit and devotion live on. Her family requests that memorials be made to the ECW Cottage Campaign or the Harris-Evans Scholarship Fund.” In April 1994, ECW President Carolyn Darst reported: “after ten years of separation the Women’s Issues Committee and the Episcopal Church Women joined forces under the same umbrella drawing on the strengths of each group.” More elbow grease!

By fall of the next year the time was right for the first named “Harris-Evans Conference.” Held at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro, its focus was “Boundaries of Loving Care: Christian Responses to Some Medical Dilemmas” (1995). Subsequent Harris-Evans Conference titles include: “People on the Inside need friends on the Outside” (1998); “Migrant Ministry: Moving Beyond the Clothes Closet” (2002); “You Don’t Know Me: Domestic Violence and the Church’s Response” (2005); “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread: Fighting Hunger in Our Own Backyard” (2009); “Stopping Traffic: One Human at a Time” (2014). This year’s conference will be the seventh in this distinguished series. I hope to see you there.