Episcopal Campus Ministry in Raleigh began in 1958. Visa and American Express were just start-up companies. The US had just launched its first satellite into space, called Explorer I. A restaurant called Pizza Hut opened in Kansas City. Hitchcock’s Vertigo hit the silver screen and Elvis dominated the radio. The average yearly income was around $5,000, a gallon of gas cost $0.24, and you could go to Harvard for a whopping $1,250 per year. Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone, Alec Baldwin, Drew Carey, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Bacon, Michael Jackson, Jeff Foxworthy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Madonna were all newly born. A company called Wham-O introduced the Hula Hoop. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.
Society and church looked rather differently than they do today. Segregation and Jim Crow laws still defined the racial contours of the South. In the Episcopal Church, only males could serve as clergy and Morning Prayer was the principle service of worship on Sundays. And when it came to Sundays, church was the only social show in town.
The Rev. Rod Reinecke, newly ordained, was the first Episcopal college chaplain in Raleigh, starting out as Chaplain to Episcopal Students in 1958 and renting a room in the YMCA for office space. Feeling the title was too limiting, he broadened his ministerial title (and ministerial scope) to Episcopal Chaplain to NC State College, encompassing the whole of the NC State academic community as well as Peace College, Meredith College, and St. Mary’s Junior College.
The Rev. Philip Cato continued with this broader trajectory of ministry when he took the helm in 1963, noting in the NC Churchman: “We look upon ourselves as the Episcopal Church’s ministers to the entire university community.” He described the university community as “a largely post-Christian community” and saw ECM’s role as one of “study, worship, and dialogue” where people could “talk and listen to each other, and to others, and talk about their ultimate concern wherever they find themselves.”
NC State College, like all other universities in Raleigh and most across the South, was an all-White school until the mid-1950s when a US Supreme Court ruling paved the way for racial equality. NC State enrolled its first four African-American students in 1956, integrated its public facilities in 1960, welcomed its first African-American faculty member in 1962, and witnessed the integration of the first restaurant on Hillsborough Street (Baxley’s) in 1963. Raleigh was changing.
In 1964, the Episcopal Church began to examine its liturgy and, with the adoption of a newly revised Book of Common Prayer in 1979, began to adopt a Eucharist-centered worship with more leadership roles for laity. These changes laid the foundation for a more integrated and Eucharistic-centered ECM.
In 1994, Chaplain Phil Wiehe acquired the present 2208 Hope Street location, naming it The Cheshire House after Ms. Sarah Cheshire, who faithfully taught college-aged students Sunday school at Church of the Good Shepherd for years. In 2003, The Rev. Deborah Fox arrived as the Interim Episcopal Chaplain of ECM-Raleigh on the heels of the consecration of Rt. Rev. Michael Curry as the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.
Under The Rev. Fox’s leadership and with diocesan support, Raleigh Episcopal Campus Ministries at the Cheshire House (as it is now called) has grown in its breadth and depth. The chaplaincy is now centered on a Sunday afternoon Eucharist followed by lunch and a Wednesday evening discussion group. It also encompasses a social justice focus, and features opportunities for immersion experiences in the fall and spring during college breaks. Committed to living out the baptismal covenant through worship, community, and justice, ECM is fostering the growth of future leaders in church and society by nurturing soul, mind, and body alike.
This history is poised to give way to a new chapter: one that includes you.
Contact us to see how you could get involved as we build on our history and reach for the future.
Adapted from ‘Reflecting on the History of Episcopal Campus Ministry at North Carolina State University, Peace College, Meredith College’ (April 6, 2008) by The Rev. Canon Marie M. Fleischer