CN 397 [May 31, 2000]
York, Consuella (Batchelor); 1923-1995
Papers; 1953-1989; n.d.
1 Box (DC; 1/4 cu ft); Audio Tapes, Photographs, Video Tapes
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
COMPLETE TRANSCRIPTS OF THE INTERVIEWS OF THIS COLLECTION ARE
Consuella Batchelor was born on July 26, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois. She was one of four children of John L. and Conusela Batchelor. John was a Baptist preacher and he hoped that his son would follow him into the ministry, but the son died young. Prior to her parents separation in 1931, Consuella and one of her sisters went to live with their maternal grandmother in Tennessee for the next four years. Consuella returned to Chicago in 1935 to live with her mother and her step father Nelson Jones. Also in 1935, during a church service, she committed her life to Christ. She attended Wendell Phillips high school and helped out in various ways around the home while her mother worked at Cook County Hospital to support the family. After graduating from Phillips in 1940, Consuella took a business and shorthand course in the evening. About this same time, she married for the first time to Luke Keel. In 1942, her son, Luke, was born, followed by a second son, Thomas. Consuella's mother died in Tennessee in 1942.
After the birth of her second son, Consuella's husband abandoned her and she eventually divorced him. In 1948 she married Charles York and a year later her third son, John, was born. (She later adopted two more children - Frederick Harvey and Virginia Franklin). Because she was afraid of the effect her husband's alcoholism would have on the children, she separated from him in 1950. For several years she supported herself and her children by running a small mineograph and printing business.
In 1948 she won an oratorical contest and her prize was the first year's tuition at the Chicago Baptist Institute. She took courses to improve her Bible knowledge and speaking skills and eventually completed the entire seminary course. At the same time she was continuing to run her business as well as manage a small storefront assistance program for drug addicts, alcoholics and derelicts which she had started. She went with a friend named Mrs. Oglesby in February 1952 on what was intended to be a one time visit to prisoners in the Cook County Jail. But the plight of these men deeply moved her and she felt a call from God to work with them. The next day she felt another strong call to preach. Despite opposition from her father, teachers and friends (who all were opposed to women preachers) she persevered in her dedication to her call. She graduated from CBI in 1953 and in March 1954 she was ordained by her classmate, Reverend Clay Evans of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Evans for years was virtually ostracized by other Baptist ministers because of his action in ordaining her. From 1953 to her death, York continued to work with him as assistant pastor of the church and announcer of Evan's weekly radio and television program, the What A Fellowship Hour.
From the time of her visit in 1952, Rev. York made visits to the Cook County jail three times a week to talk with the prisoners; give them small gifts such as food, soap or toothpaste; and lead Bible classes and worship services. She also visited state and federal prisons in the area. She also recruited others to work with her in jail ministry and trained them in how to act and relate to prisoners. In 1975 she was appointed chaplain of the jail and continued in her minsitry there for the rest of her life.
However, York was involved in many other activities as well. In 1954, she had begun to run a children's Sunday school started by Mrs. Charlotte B. Greener. Adults also became interested in the services and in November the congregation founded the Christ Way Baptist Church (from 1976 on at 1210 62nd Street in Woodlawn), with Rev. York as pastor, as she continued to be throughout her life. She also developed many programs to provide housing, food and job training to the needy. Mother York received over the years numerous tokens of recognition of her work, including the Salvation Army's Chaplain of the Year Award in 1983. In 1989 a documentary about her work which appeared on the ABC network was broadcast around the world.
Rev. York died on December 11, 1995, of a heart attack while working at her church.
Scope and Content
The materials in this collection consist of miscellaneous items from Rev. York's life, mostly relating to her jail work. They include newspaper and magazine clippings, volunteer manuals and forms, card from prisoners, transcripts, tapes of oral history interviews, certificates, and a video tape about her work. Most of the materials in the files, including her ordination and Chicago Baptist Institute certificates in folder 1-3, are copies. A few of these copies were made by the archives staff but most of them were among the material received about by the archives. Most of the materials in the collection date from 1976 and after. The material was organized into files by the archivist.
There is a little in the collection about York's non-prison activities. Folder 1-3 has not only her CBI diploma and ordination certificate but also an anniversary booklet from the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church which contains some information on her work there as assistant pastor and radio announcer. The book describes the growth of the church between 1950 and 1970 under the leadership of Rev. Clay Evans. There is a little bit in the volume about Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was an associate minister of the church, as well as a paragraph on Evans work in Operation Push. Folder 1-3 also has the transcript of a brief oral history interview done of Rev. York in 1984 by Chicago Theological Seminary student Margaret Neal. In that transcript York talks about her call to preach, the attacks she has received as a woman preacher, the influence of Agatha Avery on her life, her jail ministry, and the activities of the Christ Way Baptist Church. Some of the newspaper clippings in folder 1-2 include brief biographical data on York, although all are mostly concerned with her jail ministry. She talks a good deal about her early years on the oral history tapes in this collection, as described below. Tape T5 contains one of her sermons, preached in 1979.
The rest of the paper records in the collection are exclusively with her work as jail and prison chaplain. The clippings in folder 1-2 are from newspapers, magazines and prison newsletters. The information in the articles is generally repetitive, although in some case there are fresh facts and more detailed descriptions. Folder 1-1 contains handmade cards given to York on different occasions, including the death of her son in 1988. File 1-4 contains different documents related to jail ministry such as the forms volunteers have to fill out at the Cook County Jail, the orientation manual of the Fundamental Evangelical Christian Jail Workers (called the Fundamental Christian Jail Workers on the cover) and the form that new members fill out, a handbook for volunteers put out by the American Correctional Association, a questionnaire prisoners fill out for the chaplain describing their religious background and their needs, a handout intended for potential volunteers on the necessity of jail ministry; and some sheets prepared by York on how to counsel prisoners. Folder 1-3 has an undated transcript, apparently of a talk by York in which she describes the relevance of the Bible passages Matthew 25 and Hebrews 13:1-2 to jail ministry, the needs of men in prison, and how she came involved in helping alcoholics and drug addicts in her neighborhood. Video number V1 shows several scenes of Rev. York at work in jail.
Reverend York was interviewed by Robert Shuster on July 19 and November 21, 1988. The first interview took place at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, the second at the Christ Way Baptist Church in Chicago. The time period covered by the interviews was approximately 1923 to 1989. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded in the left hand column below, topics discussed in the right hand column. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not the reel-to-reel original.
Tape T1 (51 minutes) (Click for
link to audio recording and transcript).
Family background; Christian home and lifelong involvement in the church; memories of her father's preaching and her imitation of him; death of her brother in 1937; strict discipline at home; her father's education and preaching style; favorite sermon topics; Reasons for her father's disapproval of women preachers; Consuella's call to preach and her father's reaction to it; reaction of Dean Mitchell at the Chicago Baptist Institute where she was going to school; example of Dr. Mary Evans; Reaction of other faculty and students at CBI to York's call to preach; "It's a personal matter between the Lord and me;" helping other classmates with their work; assisting Rev. Clay Evans; receiving her license to preach in 1953; hostile reaction of Baptist ministers, including some of her classmates; "All souls have equal access to God"; Opposition to women taking seminary courses; opposition from ministers whose sermons York had written; persecution of Evans because of his ordaining York in 1954; people coming to the church to see the female pastor; continued cooperation with Evans; Charlotte B. Greenup and the afternoon Sunday school she started, which York took over, which eventually became the Christ Way Church; Learning from her father about being a pastor; "Stand still, rise high, catch fire, and sit down;" memories of her mother; her mother's death in 1942 and her last advice; assistance with schoolwork; poverty in Chicago; the very quiet nature of her mother; learning to express feelings; Work as a church secretary and bringing her children to church; clothes and other gifts from the church members; hurt by the abandonment of her husband and other sorrows; learning from suffering; her mother's low profile in the church; her parents' separation in 1931; living with her grandmother in Tennessee from 1931-1935; her mother's reaction to the separation; The example set by her mother; memories of living with her mother in Chicago during York's high school days; her mother's work at Cook County Hospital; the responsibilities York had to take on to help her mother; "Love is a thing that will holds everything together.
Tape T2 (103 minutes) (Click to link for audio recording and transcript).
Description of her conversion in 1935; the influence of Christ upon her life; God kept her from drinking; bad taste of alcohol; reasons for not smoking; the way God works in her life; Fasting; the meaning of God being the lord of your life; memories of her conversion; how her conversion affected her attitudes toward her parents and stepfather; prisoners assume she has served a prison sentence; signing for the bills for her church; pastoring thirty-three years without a salary; Relying on the Lord for funds and support; confidence of the local bank in York's reliability; relying on the Lord day by day; Memories of her maternal grandmother; attending church at the Church of Christ in Tennessee; competing for Sunday school prizes; grandmotherly discipline; York's mother sending material to her mother; York's mother going home to Tennessee to die; her mother's attendance at college and meeting York's father; Poverty of the Chicago black neighborhoods in the 1920s and 1930s; too poor to be bothered by gangsters; types of jobs held by the members of her father's congregation in the 1930s; cost of rent and coal when York began her church; her coal man advising her against helping convicts then he became addicted to drugs and went to jail; the uncertainty of life except for Jesus; Reason for York's avoidance of all politics; memories of Chicago politics; relying on God rather than her alderman; unexpected help from the Dreyfus Foundation; acquiring a tax-exempt status; avoiding administration costs; gifts from merchants and churches for the prisoners because of newspaper and television stories about York; stories about some of the people who send money for the ministry; Description of her visits to the Cook County Jail; refusal of gifts from gangs and drug dealers and her relations with them; gifts for everyone she visits: black, white and Latino; relations with Muslims; preaching about Jesus; Jesus' example in preaching and feeding; Meeting her future husband in high school; attending business classes at night; starting a copying business in 1950; alcoholism of her second husband and the strain it put on their family; leaving with the children to stay with her sister; Reason for divorcing her first husband; starting her business; copying 600 Catholic catechisms; Work with alcoholics; enrollment at the Chicago Baptist Institute; speaking to women and youth groups; winning tuition to CBI in an oratory contest; taking her children with her to school; the ways men treat women preachers and the results; relying on God to open the doors through which he calls you; relating to men as a preacher and teacher; attitude toward women in the congregation; response to complaints about women preachers; Her first involvement in prison ministry in 1952; responding to God's will; speaking bluntly about sin; Saint Paul as an example of conversion and the grace of God; necessary for discipline and love in prison ministry; the necessity for Christians in prison to show their faith.
Tape T3 (76 minutes) (Click to
link to link to audio recording and transcript).
Introduction to jail ministry in 1952 by Mother Oglesby; reason for entering jail ministry; texts of sermons she preaches in jail on repentance and acceptance; reactions to her sermons; ways of reaching prisoners with her message; chastise with love; Rebuttals that prisoners make to her arguments; adapting her arguments to each person; examples of arguments; witnessing to Muslims; use of arguments from Muslim culture; careful observation of Muslim dietary laws; Ways that churches have failed prisoners; good and bad reasons for being in jail ministry; preconceived ideas of right and wrong many prisoners have; suspicion of prisoners toward people in jail ministry; reactions of the guards and prison officials to York; relations with guards; a mistake for people in prison ministry to hassle guards; some ulterior motives for jail ministry; working with the system, not against it; Story about relating to one difficult officer; the toughest part of jail ministry; difficulty for ex-prisoners to go straight without support; the way our beliefs affect our life; the necessity of reading the Bible; "the Bible is so cold-blooded, it will tear you up"; Story about a professional killer who found the Lord and his difficulties after his release; York's continual assistance to help him adjust; his completion of a dentistry course; his return to sin and pleas for help and prayer; Need for being truthful; refusal to give up on a person; always asking herself questions about her witness; The best thing about prison ministry; stories about ex-prisoners who have stayed true to the Lord and put their lives back together; "late dues"; Reverses in her ministry; differences between male and female prisoners; dealing with the individual rather than the issues; prostitution; pregnant women in jail; special problems of women in jail; Improvements in the Cook County Jail system since the early 1950s; ways the jail administration supports York's work; giving bread and watermelons to the prisoners; improvements in the treatment of prisoners; the difference God can make; Contacts with gangs in prisons; King David and Saint Paul as a gang leaders; the message York gives to gang members; reasons why young men join gangs; York's refusing to let gangs use her services as a meeting place; the importance of treating everyone the same; "Everything you put out you're going to get back;" theft of York's car; fighting hypocrisy among prisoners and free people; the beginnings of the Fundamental Evangelical Christian Jail Workers; York's responsibilities as chaplain of the group; interdenominational cooperation among jail workers; The personality requirements for someone in jail ministry; the grim realities of jail work; the need to humble yourself.
Tape T4 (17 minutes) (Click to link to audio recording and transcript).
The need to be a stern, loving disciplinarian as a parent and a minister; the need to live what you preach; learning from prisoners; Rev. Jesse Jackson's annual preaching of a Christmas sermon at Cook County Jail; talking over prisoners' problems with the prison authorities; Comments on the Institute for Prison Ministry at the Billy Graham Center; Donald Smarto; the need for recording information about prison ministry for other people to educate other people; plans for a documentary about Reverend York; advice York got from her spiritual mother about persevering in the Lord's work; the need for a servant's attitude.
The material in this collection was received by the archives from Rev. York in October 1987; May, July, August, and November 1988; and January 1989.
Accession 87-129, 88-60
88-82, 88-85, 88-129, 89-8
June 21, 1989
December 18, 1995, Revised
Type of material: Artifacts
The following items have been given to the CENTER MUSEUM:
One white linen banner, 4' 1" wide and 20' 10" long. Written on the banner, probably an ink
marker, on three slogans in block, hollow letters. On the left: [Red letters] THERE IS
NOTHING [Purple letters] as [Red letters] POWER AS THE TRUTH; in the middle: [Orange
letters] THE CHAMPION OF LOVE, TRUTH & GOODWILL\ [Purple] MOTHER YORK; and
on the right: [Turquoise letters] YOU ARE A CHAMPION OF TRUTH\ WE LOVE YOU
DEARLY!! There is a red flower on the left, a pink flower in the center, and a yellow flower on
the right. the banner has several stains on it.
Accession 88-82, 88-129
Type of Material: Audio Tapes
The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:
T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3 3/4 ips, 51 minutes. Interview with Consuella York by Robert Shuster. Discussion of York's family, her call to preach, her ordination; July 19, 1988. One side.
T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3 3/4 ips, 61 minutes. Continuation of T1. Discussion of York's conversion, life in Chicago, her jail ministry, attitudes toward women ministers; July 19, 1988. One side.
T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3 3/4 ips, 70 minutes. Interview with Consuella York by Robert Shuster. Discussion of York's relationship with different groups of prisoners and the requirements of jail ministry; November 21, 1988. One side.
T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3 3/4 ips, 15 minutes. Continuation of T3. Concluding comments; November 21, 1988. One side.
T5 - Reel-to-reel, 3 3/4 ips, 75 minutes. A sermon preached by Rev. Consuella York in June
1985 at the Monument of Faith Evangelistic Church annual convention. Before the
sermon there is an introduction of York, apparently by Reverend Richard Henton, as well
as some music by a church choir. York then preaches a sermon on "The Necessity of
Knowing God," based on Jeremiah 9:23-24 and Isaiah 43: 10-11. After the sermon there
is an evangelistic invitation. This material was original on a cassette tape, which was
later copied onto reel tape. Some material at the very beginning and end was lost on the
reel, but none of York's sermon. One side.
Type of material: Photographs
The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE:
PRISONS--MISSIONS AND CHARITIES. Scenes of Rev. York leading Bible classes and talking with individuals at Cook County Jail and Logan State Prison. A few photos of prisoner classes do not include York. 1977, n.d. B&w and color. (22)
YORK, CONSUELLA. Portrait photo of Rev. Consuella York. B&w. N.d. (1)
Type of material: Videotape
The following items are located in the VIDEOTAPE FILE:
V1 - One VHS cassette containing the program Mother York: A Life Sentence. This program
was produced by the Beverly Price Company and is narrated by Bill Campbell. It
describes York's work at the Cook County Jail and has numerous scenes of her
counseling, visiting and preaching. There are also interviews about her with Spencer
Leak, the executive director of the jail; Reverend Clay Evans; Elder Ernest Grace of the
Open Door Drug Ministry and an ex-offender; Hal Baskin, an ex-offender; Thomas
Wochowski, a jail guard; Abdul Rasheed Akbar, an ex-offender; and Shirley Rhone, a
guard. Also on the video are scenes of York preaching at the Christ Way Baptist Church.
There are some blank spaces on the tape for the insertion of commercials. Approximately
30 minutes. Color. 1989.
|1||1||Cards from prisoners; 1988; n.d.|
|1||2||Newspaper and magazine clippings; 1976-1988; n.d.|
|1||3||Personal records; 1953-1984; n.d.|
|1||4||Prison ministry forms and handbooks; 1978; n.d.|