Honoring Companion Adelaide Teague Case

We’d like to highlight Companion Adelaide Teague Case, as today is her day in the Lectionary Calendar of the Episcopal Church.


Written by Jacqueline Schmitt, Companion-in-charge


Women like Adelaide Teague Case don’t just “happen” to become Companions. In our whole history, the SCHC has attracted women because this is a place where we can pull the different threads of our lives together. Our educational experience might do one thing, and our work offer meaning and a way to make a living. Our church provides another kind of community, and our families and neighborhoods of course shape and support us. But those who find our way here to Companions find a community where we can bring our whole selves – where all those parts of our lives are included, known and lifted up.


Adelaide Case was born in 1887 – when SCHC itself was in its infancy. She grew up in what we would today call an upper middle-class family; her father was an executive with a large corporation and the family moved to NYC when she was small. She was of an age when women’s education was firmly established. Her high school prepared her for college; she was in the Class of 1908 from Bryn Mawr, which gave women a rigorous education. She was able to choose the academy as her life’s work and earned a PhD from Columbia University in 1924. She was a professional religious educator, and a distinguished and active teacher of others who wanted to combine an understanding of child development with the teaching of religion.


“Religious teaching that touches life,” she wrote in 1941, “is religious teaching that believes that Christianity has something definite to say for our life today.” Instead of popular programs that trivialized both children and religion, Adelaide advocated an education that encouraged their curiosity and agency as Christians and as citizens.


“Children can take part in the search for truth. They can study their own communities, their schools, their neighborhoods, asking such questions as these: What is helping the common good here? What is hindering it? Is everybody having a fair chance? If not, why not? Who are in control and why, and how are they exercising authority? … The church can make sure that its young people have access to the unpalatable facts of our social life that other agencies—the schools, the radio, and the movies—do not furnish them. Hard facts such as these: three-quarters of our city families do not have enough food to eat; two-thirds of the families in the country do not have adequate and decent homes; a half of our population has no medical care at all; about a fifth of the workers of our country are out of a job. A church school cannot evade the task of showing its pupils that our country is rich and our people poor.”


Adelaide died in 1947. One of her Companions wrote this about her:


“Gifted and brilliant teacher, true scholar, superb counselor-listener and rare friend—she was all these yet her true vocation was as one who served the Lord.”


In the 1940s, she was a committed pacifist. She invited a Japanese American couple to live with her during the time of the relocation internment camps. Later she was criticized for inviting a Black family to live with her.


As her Companion wrote in this 1948 tribute:


“Ministers, priests, rabbis, lay people of all ages came to her for counsel, to learn of God from her, and she, a woman who was not ordained, gave them spiritual leadership of insight and depth.”


In the archive I found a copy of a letter Adelaide wrote to another Companion in 1918. In the letter she recommended some books on Church Unity (the aim we now call the Unity of All God’s People). (She had consulted with the President of Union Theological Seminary to find these books to recommend to Companions.) Adelaide closed the letter with these words:


“Affectionately, in the Companionship of the Cross and the fellowship of its reconciling power.”