The Rev. Paul Delafield Bowden
10th Rector of Saint James’ Church (1920-1963)
Early Years and Family (cont’d)
On taking up his ministry in 1920, Paul Bowden moved into the recently completed next door Rectory, and on his marriage in 1924, he and Mrs. Bowden resided there and made improvements to the house. However, in 1927, Mrs. Bowden purchased “Innes Hill,” a 150 acre farm near her parents and other family properties on Springs Road. The Bowdens proceeded with plans to build a Neoclassical-style mansion and outbuildings, renaming the property “The Oaks.” Paul and Margaret did not discuss relocation plans with the church until October 1931 when construction was well underway. Vestryman Harry C. Groome of “Airlie” believed that the Rector should live in the Rectory, which had been a major project and financial outlay for the church. Mr. Groome felt strongly and resigned from the Vestry over the issue. The Bowdens moved into The Oaks in January 1933, relinquished the Rectory and that portion of his salary back to the church.
Paul and Margaret Bowden lived happily at The Oaks for the rest of their lives, dedicating themselves to Saint James’ Church, their family, and beyond.
Church and Community
Those who knew Paul Bowden remembered him as “a jovial, easy-going man, warm and cheerful. He knew and cared about everyone in his congregation and in the town. He was the first person to respond at a parishioner’s home in time of trouble. He took a lively interest in a variety of community and civic activities. He walked up and down Main Street each day, talking and listening to all those he met. He was chaplain of the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Department for twenty-four years and regularly accompanied them to fires; he was a familiar figure in a large apron, cooking hamburgers for the crowd at the Firemen’s Carnival each summer.” He was a Scoutmaster and served on the library, Red Cross and hospital boards.
Beneath his joviality, Mr. Bowden was a serious man. He was an outstanding Biblical scholar, and an expert on Rubrics. He was a man of principle and conviction. Beneath his easy-going nature, he held himself and his congregation to high standards. He met monthly with members of the Chancel Guild, explaining the colors and symbolism of the altar furnishings. During Confirmation classes he took the children throughout the church, explaining the windows, altar furnishings, etc. For the Virginia diocese, he served on the executive committee and later on its standing committee.
Mr. Bowden, a dedicated and revered Rotarian, was known by fellow Rotarians as “Caleb.” In June 1931, he and Mrs. Bowden represented Rotary at its international convention in Vienna, Austria. In 1934-35, he served as District Governor of Rotary International and instituted the International Round Table of Rotary. On stepping down as District Governor, he was presented with a large silver punch bowl by donation from every Rotarian in the State of Virginia.
An example of Rotarian outreach is found in a letter to Paul Bowden dated Jan. 1, 1945 – before war’s end – in which the Canon of Hereford Cathedral in England, a fellow Rotarian, wrote that for his flourishing branch of 40 strong “it has been a joy to entertain American soldiers stationed nearby and we wish to establish as many contacts with your people as possible. We are impressed by the great friendliness of your people and by their appreciation of even our meager war-time hospitality.”
Fauquier County Ministerial Association
Mr. Bowden was president of the then Fauquier County Ministerial Association and at a dinner on his retirement in 1963, also marking the beginning of “Religion in American Life” month in Warrenton, the ministers of Warrenton and the community paid tribute to Paul Bowden by designating him “Mr. Religion-in-Warrenton-Life.”
On Easter morning 1963, Mr. Bowden suffered a heart attack at the altar and was hospitalized. He recovered and returned to Saint James’ part-time and was named Rector Emeritus when the Rev. David J. Greer became Rector in 1964. Although he was careful not to intrude on Mr. Greer’s ministry, he continued many of his pastoral duties and remained an important part of Saint James’ until his death in 1968 at age 74. The young man, who had often been Mr. Bowden’s only acolyte, Joseph Jones, returned from college to act as crucifer at Mr. Bowden’s funeral The Vestry adopted a resolution honoring Paul Bowden as a “never to be forgotten servant of our Lord.”
In his memory, the church dedicated the newly completed Education Wing. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Bowden established the Paul D. Bowden Scholarship at the School of Theology of the University of the South where his career of a lifetime began. At Saint James’, in his memory, she gave the Chapel window “I am the Good Shepherd.”
Compiled: History Committee – Richard Gookin, January 2016
Sources: “Gifts of the Generations” by Jeanne Davis; St. James’ Parish Register; The Fauquier Democrat; obituaries; family records; The Oaks nomination