Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross
The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross is a diverse group of more than 800 women, both laywomen and clergy, single and partnered. Founded in 1884 by Emily Malbone Morgan in the United States, the Society welcomes women from any church with whom the Episcopal Church is in communion: the Anglican Communion, the Moravian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA).
Companions are called to live under a rule of intercessory prayer, thanksgiving, and simplicity of life, seeking to live a life of obedience to Christ in the company of others. Connected to one another by the Companion Prayer Chain and the Intercession Paper sent to all Companions monthly, we focus our prayers on the needs of individuals and families known to Companions around the world as well as on our concerns for the unity of all God’s people, God’s mission in the world, social justice, and peace and reconciliation.
The life of the Society revolves around 35 chapters in the United States and India, as well as the Society’s retreat and conference center, Adelynrood, in Byfield, Massachusetts. Companions organize regional and national conferences on an array of topics from spiritual direction to interfaith collaboration for peace and social justice. The Society broke new ground in engaging women of diverse nations and contexts through the 2014 Anglican Women at Prayer conference. Companions are now exploring ways to use the Internet to foster prayer and friendship across the world. Many women have first come to know about the Society through reading about the lives and work of two of our early leaders, Emily Malbone Morgan and Vida Dutton Scudder who are part of the Episcopal calendar of saints in Holy Women, Holy Men.
In 1884, Emily Malbone Morgan, inspired by her invalid friend, Adelyn Howard, drew up rules and aims for daily use by a group of women envisioned as Companions of the Holy Cross. Later that year, seven women under the leadership of Miss Morgan organized themselves as the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. Drawn to monastic practice like many Episcopal women of their time, the Companions developed a unique vocation for active lives in the secular world, grounding their work for social justice in daily prayer. Early Companions included several leaders in the settlement house movement. Renowned Christian socialist Vida Dutton Scudder helped to shape the ministries of generations of Companions as Companion-in-Charge of Probationers for thirty-five years.
The Society expanded as Companions founded chapters throughout the United States. Chapter meetings and SCHC conferences created vital opportunities for prayer, discernment and mutual support as Companions aided each other to deepen their faith in Christ and apply it to enduring problems such as labor and race relations. Companions soon developed and continue to share a monthly Intercession Paper (or IP) organized around a daily cycle of prayers on the Aims of the Society. Chapters take turns providing the intercessions for each day of the week. Many of the prayers are written by contemporary Companions on current events.
By 1915, the Companions completed the construction of Adelynrood, a shingled house in Byfield, Massachusetts, with libraries and places to pray nestled throughout its three floors and quiet gardens. Adelynrood is the Society’s center for conferences and retreats [link to current program list], many of them open to the public. Companions design and lead many programs and also draw speakers such as the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Although the Society does not take a corporate stance on issues of peace and justice, individual Companions work to eradicate poverty, to bring justice to immigrants, to abolish the death penalty, and to bring attention to environmental concerns.
Each summer at Adelynrood, the Society offers men and women silent retreats, quiet days, and study programs on spiritual, religious, educational, and social justice topics. Adelynrood also has private rooms available for individuals and small groups seeking a peaceful respite from daily responsibilities. The Society provides outreach programs to a range of organizations as part of its commitment to social justice. Homeless people, health caregivers, youth ministries, and families of deployed members of the military are among the groups served by this ministry. In addition, religious and educational groups may rent conference space for retreats or workshops year-round. Adelynrood is largely volunteer-run and Companions support the Society’s corporate ministry as celebrants, sacristans, hostesses, librarians, gardeners, musicians, and program coordinators.
Organization and leadership
An elected Companion-in-Charge and elected or appointed officers and committees oversee the operations, programs and outreach of the Society and Adelynrood with support from a small professional staff.
Both Emily Morgan and Vida Scudder are honored in the Episcopal Church Calendar:
- February 26: Emily Malbone Morgan, Prophetic Witness
- October 10: Vida Dutton Scudder, Educator and Witness for Peace