In 1986 the founding of B+E+S+T began with a dream, a wish and an inquiry by Marlene Elacqua, Albany. She noted the Episcopal Church has an organization for almost every group of persons associated with the Episcopal Church except Bishops’ Secretaries.
Shortly after Bishop Browning was elected Presiding Bishop, Marlene contacted his assistant, the Reverend Richard S. O. Chang, about the possibility of forming a network of Bishops’ Secretaries. Much to her surprise, he called back saying the Presiding Bishop liked the idea and if Marlene would be willing to form a committee to explore the possibility of forming such a group, Bishop Browning would fund the exploratory meetings. Bishop Ball, Albany, offered encouragement and a large grant to assist the organization in its formative stages.
Marlene began going through the “Red Book” (Church Annual) and randomly called bishops’ secretaries in several dioceses to invite them to an exploratory meeting. Sheila Lange (Central New York), Jerri Mead (New York), Cheryl Daves (Washington), Wanda Hollanbeck (Newark) and Karen Glover (Virginia) joined Marlene for an initial meeting which proved positive and reaffirmed Marlene’s belief that there was a need for such a group. Bishop Browning asked to be present at the first annual conference and, to accommodate his schedule, the first conference was held in San Francisco in 1988. Binnie Graham (San Francisco) served as the on site contact person and helped to ensure the success of the conference.
The first annual meeting set the agenda and tone for future gatherings by offering a time to gather, network, discuss shared concerns and hear speakers address items of mutual interest. That agenda and tone remain the driving force of the annual meetings.
The Browning Fellowship Award was founded by the Board of Directors of B+E+S+T as a way of honoring the Founding Bishop of B+E+S+T, The Most Rev. Edmund Browning. It will be presented annually to active B+E+S+T members in good standing who have attended 20 or more annual conferences.
The 2019 Browning Fellow is Mary Ann Rhoads (New Jersey) was honored as a Browning Fellow. Past President Barb Martin (ME) and President Michele King (Ft. Worth) presented Mary Ann with her certificate and charm BEST pendant at the at the 32nd Annual Conference held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The inaugural Browning Fellows (2017) are: Cheryl Davis Wilburn (Wash), Bobbi Hoff (San Diego) and Beth Matthews (AR). Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold (res) presented certificates and a special charm (for their BEST pendant necklaces) at the at the 30th Annual Conference held in Philadelphia, PA.