The findings had a profound impact on Elaine Ellis Thomas T’21 and her community at All Saints Episcopal Parish in Hoboken
Thomas, the rector at All Saints Episcopal Parish in Hoboken, New Jersey, uncovered information about her parish while researching her DMin project, “The Church as a Community Healer.”
Her project explored the ways contemporary liturgies, storytelling, and prayer can help communities heal from traumas—new and old—by focusing on a series of arson fires in Hoboken from 1978-1982 that killed 56 people.
“Early in the program, I was researching the context in which I do ministry, and that led me to the founding of All Saints, the combining of three Episcopal churches into one back in 1983,” said Thomas.
“During the years leading up to that, All Saints joined together with other faith communities to form Communities of Faith for Housing to provide shelter and advocacy for those being displaced by gentrification by developers buying them out and by arson.”
This surprising find has had a profound impact on the All Saints community. “This work is in the DNA of my congregation,” said Thomas. “Most had no knowledge of any of this, it was a learning experience for everyone. I would say the effect has been to renew our purpose as a church for the city and not just for ourselves.”
“Since I graduated last year, I have continued to focus on issues of housing in Hoboken. Some things never change.”