Reshaping the Church

Hephzibah House: A home for ministry

Posted April 10, 2024

by Fernanda Nascimento

Photo by Pixabay for Pexels

Penelope Morgan has been involved with Hephzibah House since 2012 as a volunteer and board member. She became the director in May 2021. Hephzibah House began in 1893 in New York City as a missionary training school for young women. Today, they offer hospitality to local Christians and those in vocational ministry from all over the world. The house, which is 130 years old, has a rich history offering missionary training, Bible teaching, hospitality and friendship.

When was Hephzibah House founded, and what was its original purpose?

Penelope Morgan: Hephzibah House has been around since 1893 and was founded by a group of like "Gilded Age" New York Christian women, one of whom was rather wealthy and felt like she should use her wealth for something that was for God's kingdom. She bought a house to use for ministry, and it originally started as a women's missionary Training school. So over time, you know, these women would come back, and you need somewhere to stay when they were on breaks and furlough raising money, whatever they were doing back in the US.

Can you tell us about the significance of the name "Hephzibah" and its relation to the ministry?

So, Hephzibah means — it's from Isaiah 62:4 — which says you'll be called “Hephzibah” because I delight in you. So, it really means God's delight. I'm not sure why, though. I don't know why those ladies back then picked it, but for me, it's a really significant Hebrew word to a lot of people.

It's basically about His hospitality towards us, that He has made us part of His family and invited us into His home.

Photo by Clay Leconey for Unsplash

You talked about those ladies back then. Can you say a little bit about the founder Mrs. Virginia Cortlandt dePeyster Field? 

Virginia Field was the main founder. So, she had a number of other women close to her that founded it with her, but she was really the spearheading force behind it. She was kind of from an old money New York family but felt that she wasn't meant to use all her wealth for her own personal pleasure. If you've seen "Gilded Age" on HBO, it's about that era. She was part of that scene. She really cared about the nations and about missions. So, she was very close with A.B. Simpson, who founded the Christian Missionary Alliance.

I believe that Hephzibah House has changed a lot over the past 200 years. How did Hephzibah House change over time?

It started as a Bible training school, a missionary training school for women. And, over time, it had different functions. People would pay a little tuition and live in the house and be trained as missionaries then sent over to China, Africa and India. After a while, immigrants were flooding in from Europe. It became kind of an outreach program here as well for immigrant girls. I think the idea was to equip these young women so that they don't fall into a bad way. So, that was one other function of the house.

Some of our guests are here to go to a conference or meet with their donors. Hephzibah is a way that makes it affordable for them. So, for our pastors who come through, sometimes they just want someone to listen and spend a little time talking with them about ministry life and hearing what they're dealing with in life and encouraging them.

Photo by Brett Jordan for Pexels

Beyond the affordable price in space, how does the house help the Church in New York, the Christian community?

The house has been where we have our formal activities such as the guest house and sharing our space of ministries. Then, kind of the informal side of that has become this ongoing web of relationships that's forming because of the house. So, people who have met at events here meet our family and our family connects them to each other, or we try to extend hospitality to especially young adults, Gen Z.

This is a really special place for us– for our relationship. The space kind of holds their memories, almost like a museum, but that's all God. He brings people through and makes connections.

Can you give some examples of events at Hephzibah House?

We also have a recording studio on site that's open to anyone to use. So that's for podcasts, music, things like that. So, I think the way to frame it would be, if there's some way Hephzibah House could augment, you know, some project that they're doing or if there's an event they want to put together, we would welcome people to reach out. Or, of course, they can attend public reading of scripture and story nights to get involved. Follow us on Instagram @hhousenyc.

Fernanda is a Brazilian writer and filmmaker, passionate about finding beauty in everything.