The Church Periodical Club was founded in 1888 by Mary Ann Fargo and a small group of women in the Parish Church of the Holy Communion in New York City. They began by sending bundles of church periodicals, prayer books, and Bibles via the Wells Fargo Stagecoach Line to clergy and laity, missionaries, and indigenous people in the Dakotas, and the then “Far West”. Much of the early growth of the Church Periodical Club was due to the fostering care of the Women’s Auxiliary, now known as the Episcopal Church Women. This close relationship has continued through the years. By 1892, the Church Periodical Club was active in 48 dioceses providing many kinds of written materials and a national office was established. In 1920, the national church recognized the Church Periodical Club’s great missionary work, and it became a cooperating agency.
In the 1940’s, the National Books Fund Committee was established to meet the rapidly growing book needs of the many overseas mission programs.
Since 1970, the Church Periodical Club has been a self-supporting affiliated organization of the Episcopal Church with its office located in the homes of the officers of the organization.
The Miles of Pennies Fund was established in 1988 on the 100th anniversary of The Church Periodical Club. The Miles of Pennies Fund Committee awarded its first grants in 1991. The maximum grant given by Miles of Pennies is $844.80 which represents one mile of pennies. A third-grade student calculated the number of pennies per mile. The grants serve children from kindergarten through high school wherever there is a need.
As an independent organization affiliated with the Episcopal Church, the Church Periodical Club relies on its volunteers, clergy, and friends to promote its Ministry of the Written Word.
The commitment to supply theological and educational materials in currently available formats has continued for over 100 years to promote religious and secular needs throughout the Anglican Communion. From the number of grant applications submitted each year to the Church Periodical Club National Books Fund and to the Miles of Pennies Fund and the rising cost of seminarian textbooks, The Church Periodical Club is answering the needs of a worldwide ministry.
Each year a local church or institution selects a CPC Sunday (often the Sunday closest to Mary Ann Drake Fargo’s birthday in February) for the observance of the work of spreading the Christian message through the written word. The date might also be set for an entire diocese or province. Churches are asked to include special prayers for the Church Periodical Club ministry and an offering is taken for the support of the Church Periodical Club National Books Fund.
The National president wears a gold nugget, a gift from an Alaskan miner who appreciated the magazines he had received from the Church Periodical Club. The nugget hangs from a pin bearing the Church Periodical Club shield, made by Tiffany and Company, New York City.