HISTORY

All Saints Church is now more than 185 years old and has marked many milestones. All Saints began as a small Episcopal congregation that first met in December 1835 at what was then the town hall. By 1843 this group had adopted the name “All Saints Church”.

Our Church Home

All Saints opened its first church in 1846 and over time has had a sequence of three church homes, all near the center of Worcester:

  • 1846-1874       Pearl Street (destroyed by fire)
  • 1877-1932       Irving and Pleasant Streets (another fire) 
  • 1934-present   Irving and Pleasant Streets 

(designed by Froehman, Robb, and Little, architects of Washington’s National Cathedral)                                                            

This window survived the fire at the second church; the building is All Saints today.

The current building has been beautified, expanded, and updated to meet the needs of the congregation and the community we serve. (See the “Resources” section of this profile.) 

The people of All Saints

Over time membership at All Saints has changed with the demographics of the area and as the Episcopal Church nationwide has evolved. All Saints is focused on becoming an ever more inclusive community and one that is of greater service to our neighbors. 

Clergy leaders                       

All Saints has had many esteemed rectors, including some who are well known in Episcopal church history. Some have become bishops, or had exceptionally long service as rector. We name a few examples.

  •    The Rev. William Reed Huntington 

Established the All Saints Choirs (1868 and 1878) and wrote the “Essay Toward Unity” (1870) that underpinned the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, a basis for ecumenical discussions. After leaving All Saints, he helped edit the 1892 Standard Book of Common Prayer.

  • The Rev. Alexander Vinton was elected the first bishop of the Western Diocese of Massachusetts (1902).
  • The Rev. Thomas Davies also became bishop of Western Massachusetts (1911).
  • The Rev. Henry Hobson became bishop of Southern Ohio (1929). 
  • The Rev. Richard Preston served for 26 years, the longest term of any rector to date.
  • The Rev. William Bradford Hastings Turner later became suffragan bishop of Connecticut.
  • The Rev. Mark Beckwith became bishop for Newark (NJ, 2007)

Notable visitors to All Saints                       

1996, 2003 Bishop Desmond Tutu preached here and baptized his granddaughter. His daughter Mpho worked at All Saints as a seminarian.

2010 Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori celebrated All Saints’ 175th anniversary with us.

All Saints’ most recent history

Between 2014 and 2021 All Saints has faced three rapid changes in clergy leadership, plus one pandemic. These have been major challenges, met with resilience and faith for the road ahead.

2014  The Rev. Kevin Bean retired after six years as rector, and the Rev. Lindsay Hills, Associate Rector, returned to the west coast, her home. A novel Interim Team was established, comprised of three retired clergy who were members of All Saints.  We had the blessing of clergy and parishioners who already knew one another.

2015  The RevGregory Lisby was called as rector. The Rev. Jose Reyes was Assistant Rector with special focus on Hispanic ministry and outreach—a project of the Diocese that was based at All Saints. The church conducted worship in both English and Spanish at separate or joint services. This ministry has now matured to the point that it is housed at another Episcopal church in Worcester.

2017 The tenure of the new rector was a troubled one and the diocese offered Rev. Lisby direction and the option of medical leave. Coincidentally, Rev. Reyes was called by the bishop to serve as Canon for Latino Ministries beginning in February 2018 after time for parental leave.

2018

  • The Diocese imposed a Pastoral Direction “prohibiting [Lisby’s] functioning in any priestly or pastoral role” pending a Title IV investigation based on information brought to the diocesan leadership.  Rev. Lisby was suspended and ultimately resigned as rector. Canon Rich Simpson worked closely with All Saints during this turbulent time. The lay leadership also carried a heavy burden while all parish functions were maintained.
  • The Rev. Bernard Poppe was installed as Priest-in-Charge and he has helped the parish move forward in healthy ways. With his leadership and the work of steadfast lay leaders, All Saints has expanded outreach ministries and updated parish operations. 

2019 Stabilization at All Saints was disrupted when after his departure, Gregory Lisby was arrested on charges related to electronic images of child pornography. There also was evidence of an inappropriate online relationship with a teenager (not a minor).  These events did not involve individuals at All Saints. In 2020 Gregory Lisby received a federal prison sentence with regard to these matters. He has been removed from the Episcopal priesthood.

The events of 2017-2019 were a period of great stress for the parish family. A small number of members left All Saints and joined other churches. 

2020   The Covid pandemic affected All Saints, as it did all churches. Pastoral care continued under Rev. Poppe and parish communications were sustained using phone, print and electronic means. A rich on-line presence for worship was created, accompanied by music from our choir developed with the expertise of staff and volunteers. The online worship service was very popular and it expanded our outreach. Now that pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, All Saints plans to maintain an online presence, probably through livestreaming. 

This image comes from our on-line Pentecost service in 2021 that featured parishioners reading in some of the several languages spoken by our diverse membership.

2021 A new chapter at All Saints. The search for a new rector is underway and we are planning for a smooth transition. A new Director of Music also has been called. Kevin Neel began his work at All Saints in August 2021, starting a new chapter in our extraordinary music ministry

We embrace the work ahead with faith— welcoming a new rector, re-energizing existing ministries, and growing new ones.

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