Seabury, EDOW Celebrate a Century of Partnership

by | Mar 14, 2024

A brochure for the "Episcopal Church Home"
Not every proposal to Diocesan Convention is a keeper. But in 1923, those assembled in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington approved in concept a home for elderly Episcopalians, with Bishop Alfred Harding recommending the name “The Church Home,” and approving a Mother’s Day collection in support of it.

What happened next marked the beginning of a relationship that would prove transformative for older people in the DC Metro area. Two hundred people, each pledging $5.00 per year, signed organizing documents to incorporate The Episcopal Church Home on February 5, 1924. From that foundation grew a remarkable partnership between the Episcopal Church Home (or ECH, now Seabury Resources for Aging®) and the Diocese of Washington, one dedicated to addressing the changing needs surrounding the process of aging. At the century mark, Seabury considers this partnership worthy of both reflection and celebration.

Mark your calendar for the celebration: On May 16th, Seabury Resources for Aging® will celebrate 100 years of service to older adults and their caregivers at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. At “A Gala for the Ages,” Seabury will honor the Episcopal Diocese of Washington as its Centennial Service Partner.

The front door to the original Episcopal Church Home

On reflection, church leaders’ support for Seabury’s mission – helping older adults live with independence and dignity – was steadfast from the start. After Mrs. Cornelia Jones gave the first home, at the corner of Macomb and Wisconsin Avenues, in 1924, Episcopalians staffed the Board of Governors (the “Men’s Board”) and the Board of Managers (the “Ladies’ Board”) that oversaw the home of 31 “inmates.” By 1927 three additional homes had been purchased, thanks to additional estate gifts and fundraising by the Board of Managers, who hosted card parties and sold “bricks” for $1.00 apiece to expand the residences. Local Episcopalians staffed numerous committees associated with running the homes, gathering monthly at Epiphany, DC for business meetings and a service of Holy Communion.

Georgetown mansion bequeathed by Mrs. Ella Sevier to Episcopal Church Home
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, additional bequests of cash, properties, and valuables (Fannie H. Caldwell bequeathed the “sale of my diamonds”), made it possible for the Episcopal Church Home to expand operations, eventually consolidating them in an historic Georgetown mansion bequeathed by Mrs. Ella Sevier, a former board member. When that property presented limitations in offering expanded services, ECH in 1966 placed a sealed bid of $325,000 for property in Northwest DC owned by the Brazilian Embassy. That property is now the site of Seabury at Friendship Terrace, an 180-unit affordable senior living community located in the heart of Tenleytown.
A bedroom at the Episcopal Church Home

With growth and the addition of services, ECH changed its name twice, going first by Episcopal Senior Ministries and then by Seabury Resources for Aging®, a name chosen in recognition of its Episcopal roots (the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury was the first Episcopal bishop). Throughout it all the pattern held, with local Episcopal leaders serving on the Seabury board, volunteering on committees, and partnering to tackle changing needs on the aging landscape.

Bishop Mariann and senior volunteer at the 2023 Seabury Celebration of Service
Over the years, needs and resources shifted, but priorities never wavered and the relationship remained reciprocal. In the 1990s, ECH conducted a Diocesan-wide needs survey and a forum to assess how it might assist congregations in serving older members. An assisted living group home in Silver Spring, Maryland, and transportation service in Southern Maryland stemmed from congregational partnerships. A care management service and assistance Helpline were started. Senior Celebrations first invited congregations to recognize senior volunteers, a tradition that continues as the Seabury Celebration of Service.
Episcopal Church Home residents go positively dotty for chair exercises

What accounts for the partnership’s longevity? For Elizabeth Boyd, Director of Congregational Resources, it can be summed up in one word: mutuality. “When I look back over our history together, it becomes clear that our strength at every point was rooted in mutual respect and support,” notes Boyd. The diocese – as well as individual people and congregations within it – provided critical financial support, leadership, and service, while Seabury offered expertise, infrastructure, and programming.

The partnership continues to innovate. When in 2017 Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde realized the implications of an approaching “silver tsunami” of aging parishioners, she turned to Seabury to develop a curriculum on the spirituality of aging for use in congregations. The Path Ahead: Spirituality & Purpose in Later LifeSM now nourishes older people near and far via the School for Christian Faith and Leadership.

Marketing brochure for Episcopal Senior Ministries
Today Seabury supports more than 6,000 older adults and family caregivers annually, working to end housing and food insecurity and to mitigate the negative physical, emotional, and mental impacts of social isolation. Core programs provide affordable housing, care management, congregational resources, and nutritious meals to residents in the DC Metro region.
Friendship Terrace, designed by famed local architect Clothier Woodward Smith

“We are very proud of the partnership we have maintained throughout Seabury’s long history,” shares Seabury CEO Dawn M. Quattlebaum. “Very few nonprofit organizations can claim 100 years of existence with a solid dedication to helping older adults thrive in their communities.”

Quattlebaum invites readers to join Seabury in honoring the Diocese of Washington at “A Gala for the Ages” on May 16th.

By Elizabeth B. Boyd, Ph.D.
Director of Congregational Resources
Seabury Resources for Aging®