St. John's Church in the Wilderness: A History of St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, 1860-2000

By Spofford, William Benjamin | Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2004 | Go to article overview

St. John's Church in the Wilderness: A History of St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, 1860-2000


Spofford, William Benjamin, Anglican and Episcopal History


ROBERT IRVING WOODWARD. St. John's Church in the Wilderness: A History of St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, 1860-2000. Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada: Prairie Publishers, 2001. Pp. x + 244, illustrations, glossary, appendices, indices. $25.00.

There are not too many congregational histories that could be classified as "Coffee-Table" books. But this is certainly one. Its design is rich with pictures and identification of the persons and buildings in them. And the written text has been comprehensively researched by the editor and his aides. Both a reader or a browser is guided through the history of St. John's Church in the Wilderness, into its life as St. John's Cathedral and its ongoing witness and mission in Denver on the Rocky Mountains front.

Brilliantly, the frontespiece and the backend piece correlate St. John's Church, the diocese of Colorado, and the current events in the city, state, and nation from 1860 through 2000. One doesn't lose track of what is going on, from the pioneering efforts of Episcopal lay persons, whose families were often back on the Eastern Seaboard. The spiritual and community development of this congregation before there was any diocese or congregation west of Kansas City is a strong tale of determined laity and mostly courageous clergy and early bishops who covered several western states. Thankfully, we get to know most of them.

In fact, through the decades, St. John's and Colorado have called and developed strong leaders as bishops and deans. The first one being the "Great Dean," H. Martyn Hart from England, who could do much for the community and the congregation, but had ongoing conflict with bishops' authority. Others who come to prominence were Irving Peake Johnson (who in the field of journalism was this reviewer's father's boss and who was often considered the wittiest man in the House of Bishops); Dean Benjamin Dagwell, who became bishop of Oregon; and the dean for Humanity, Paul Roberts, who reached out to all the disinherited of the earth and particularly in the communities of Denver. …

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