Tuesday, September 17, 2013

St. John's honors the Rev. James Chisholm

The Rev. Brian Hobden, 14th rector of St. John's, and the Rev. Derek Harbin, 16th and current rector, bless a bronze plaque at the Rev. James Chisholm's grave.
In 2010, the Rev. James Chisholm was added to the Episcopal Church's calendar of saints for giving his life in service to others during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1855. His feast day is September 15. Chisholm was the first rector of St. John's, Portsmouth. Chisholm sent his family away to safety, staying behind to provide whatever care for the sick he could. Chisholm provided food, medical assistance, and pastoral care. He was even known to have dug graves for those who had died. According to "History of Portsmouth, Virginia," "During that awful summer of 1855, Mr. Chisholm labored night and day among people of every denomination." "He was, however, spared to comfort the pest-ridden sufferings until the disease had abated; then his frail body, worn out by privation and toil, succumbed to the fever." Chisholm died on September 15, 1855 in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.

St. John's honored Chisholm with series of events over the weekend, including tours of Olde Towne and the original Naval Hospital building, highlighting Chisholm's work. Sunday afternoon's event included the dedication of a new bronze plaque and the reading of a city proclamation by Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright. A collection in Chisholm's honor will pay for mosquito bed nets. A fitting tribute since Yellow Fever, although now eradicated, was a mosquito-borne disease. Today, the nets could help prevent malaria, which causes 200 million illnesses and kills 600,000 people a year.