Parishfield records, 1948-1971
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- A semi-independent agency of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, 1948 to 1967, with a mission of establishing a lay ministry and connect religion to the daily activities of life. Records include correspondence, administrative files, publications and photographs.
- 2.5 linear feet
- Call Number:
- 9765 Ba 2
- Finding aid prepared by Diane Silva and Susan Stekel, April, 1997
- Scope and Content:
The Parishfield record group, divided into ten series, documents one attempt within the Episcopal Church "to develop and promote the lay ministry through Christian experience." (Background series). The record group, in sum, concerns Parishfield as a training center for those who wanted to increase their effectiveness as Christians in understanding the issues of the day and the role that they as Christians should have in resolving societal problems. The series within the record group and the materials themselves - correspondence, meeting minutes, published matter, photographs, and other materials - document each of the four phases of the community's life. The grouping of materials into series largely reflects the Parishfield staff's concern to preserve the record of what they had accomplished.
- Biographical / Historical:
The Parishfield community, a semi-independent agency of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, was in existence from 1948 to 1967. Established to create a lay ministry to further the mission of the church in society, its stated purpose was to "explore, help define, and encourage the role of Christian laymen in all aspects of life." In sum, Parishfield hoped to revitalize the church by providing it with a new awareness of the critical issues facing society. Renewal was necessary, the community believed, because of the perception that faith was losing its importance in the lives of most Americans. The community sought to reconnect religion to life's daily activities to create a stronger, more aware, church. The members of the community believed that the development of a lay ministry would provide the church with such a reconnection.
From 1948 to 1967, the community management was comprised of three clergy (Rev. Francis O. Ayres, Rev. Roger Barney, and Rev. James Guinan), their families, and a deaconess (Olive Robinson). These individuals operated a lay training center in Brighton, Michigan (about 40 miles from Detroit). Parishfield considered itself a ministry of families with the assistance of advisory groups, such as the Partners for Renewal and the Advisory Committee. The group received financial support from the Episcopal Church and from solicited and unsolicited donations.
The Brighton center hosted meetings for a variety of groups ranging from members of local churches to industrial workers and professional people. In 1962, however, the community found itself moving away from an isolated concern for social and political institutions. With a desire for a more active involvement, Parishfield-Detroit was opened as a means of becoming closer to the urban society. In 1966, the church was moved completely to the Detroit office and the Brighton meeting site was closed.
During its 18 years of existence, Parishfield went through four distinct phases. The first phase lasted from 1948 to 1952 and was called the Initial Period. During this time, the community was largely introspective and spend the bulk of its time in worship, Bible study, and in discussions of the need for a lay ministry. The conclusions that resulted from these examinations were two-fold. First, the community determined that the institutional church was too isolated to affect peoples' lives in the workplace and in the political arena. Second, worship and Bible study alone will not induce Christian layman to reconnect their religious beliefs to the problems of daily life. More decisive action was needed, and this conviction led the community into the second phase of its existence.
Lasting from 1953 to 1956, this phase was entitled Industrial Groups. During this three-year period, Parishfield concentrated on the relationship between one's Christian faith and industry. Meetings focused on the growing chasm between the teachings of the church and the ethics and values of American businesses. Parishfield hoped to provide industrial employees of any level with a forum to discuss how religious values could be brought into the work place to act as a springboard for improved industrial ethics and practices. It was during this phase that Parishfield recognized the need to have a base closer to the center of Detroit. Under this premise, a former member of Parishfield opened the Detroit Industrial Mission in 1956.
The third phase, called the Christian Style of Life, lasted from 1957 to 1961. As its name implied, this phase involved discussions of what it meant for someone to be a Christian in the coming decade of the 1960s. Complementing the work begun with industrial groups, the members of Parishfield began identifying other areas where their Christian faith could be put into practice. The results, they hoped, would be a lay clergy who would reconnect the church with the daily struggles of life.
Parishfield's need to spread into new arenas led to the fourth and final phase, the Public Realm: Metropolis, beginning in 1962 with the opening of Parishfield-Detroit and ending in 1967 with the closure of the community. Parishfield-Detroit was founded on the assumption that the urban environment was the main battleground in the fight to "expand the possibilities for human life in our society." The community developed four areas in which they hoped to become "involved observers:" education, the war on poverty, community organizing, and the freedom movement. As "involved observers" Parishfield sought to become involved in community groups, without becoming captive to any idea or institution. With this goal, Parishfield hoped to act as a center of thought with a Christian orientation. It was the aim of Parishfield to understand the role of religion in life by studying the activities of laymen working in the world. During this phase, Parishfield worked closely with such groups as the Detroit Industrial Mission and People Against Racism.
From 1962 to 1966, Parishfield constantly re-evaluated the need to move the entire operation to Detroit. Meetings continued to be held in Brighton until the facility closed in 1966. Detroit became the sole home to the community until Parishfield itself disbanded in June 1, 1967. The closing came about for a couple of reasons. As the community evolved it became interested in many radical views of religion. For instance, Parishfield developed a close relationship with Paul van Buren, who often offered seminars at Parishfield. Van Buren, however, openly doubted the "supernatural" aspects of religion, and felt that these teachings acted as hindrances to the acceptance of religious life. Unsurprisingly, Parishfield's embrace of such theories led the institutional Episcopal Church to question the value of the project. As a result, the community lost essential financial and advisory support. Parishfield explains the decision to close as a recognition that the project had a shrinking influence on healing the disunification of daily life and religion.
- Acquisition Information:
- This record group was transferred from the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts (donor no. 8533 ) in November 1996.
The parishfield records are arranged in ten series:
- Background Series
- Publication Series
- Photograph Series
- Staff Series
- Administrative Records Series
- Correspondence Series
- Groups Series
- Meetings Series
- Programs Series
- Miscellaneous Series
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Civil rights demonstrations -- United States.
Lay ministry -- Michigan.
Religious communities -- Michigan -- Brighton.
Religious communities -- Michigan -- Detroit.
Religious facilities -- Michigan -- Brighton.
Religious communities -- Michigan -- Brighton.
Religious retreats -- Michigan -- Brighton.
Episcopal Church. Diocese of Michigan.
Detroit Industrial Mission.
Ayres, Francis O.
Van Buren, Paul Matthews, 1924-
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
item, folder title, box no., Parishfield: Records, 1948-1971, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan