Little-known facts, amusing anecdotes, and miscellaneous wisdom, in honor of the 175th anniversary of this parish, presented weekly.
July 28, 2019
"Bell ringing is the poetry of steeples,” said Ben Jonson. The poetry that emanates from the Advent’s steeple on Sundays and for funerals (for the traditional Tolling of the Tailors) and festivities (such as the Fourth of July) dates to 1900, when Robert Codman (1823-1901) gave a ring of eight bells in memory of his wife, Catherine Hurd Codman (1829-1892). Gifts from Dr. Arthur Nichols and others secured the hanging apparatus.
Dr. Nichols taught his intrepid daughter, Margaret, to ring, and on a visit to the Whitechapel Foundry she witnessed the casting of the bells for the Church of the Advent. Margaret – now Mrs. Shurcliff – was one of the ringers at the installation and blessing of the bells in 1900. Practice had been only with the clappers tied, because bells should not sound until after the blessing. The original sounds that day, therefore, were a clash of “sweet bells jangling,” for the ringers had never heard the voice of their own bells. – Parenthetically, Mrs. Shurcliff, while still Miss Nichols, in 1902, rang in four full peals in four days, the first citizen of the United States to ring a peal, the second woman to do so; and her first peal on handbells was the difficult Stedman Triples method.
--Adapted from A History of the Church of the Advent by Betty Hughes Morris (1995)
July 21, 2019
A memorial plaque installed in 2015 honors Jonathan Myrick Daniels (1939-1965), martyr of the Civil Rights Movement. At the time of his murder in Selma, Alabama, Jonathan was a seminarian at the Episcopal Theological School, preparing for ordination as a priest. In advance of his feast day – August 14 – we offer this look at Jonathan (back row, second from left) as a young camper, together with a poem written after Jonathan’s death in 1965 by his counselor at Camp Takodah, Jack Whitcomb.
See also this sermon preached in August 2015 by Fr. Allan Warren for a fuller account of Jonathan Daniels' life.
Knobby knees, grimy nails, ears that show
Sneakers knotted instead of a bow
A kid with a notion in perpetual motion
That is the Jonathan I know
Through day’s travail to evensong
Hard right bettered easy wrong
Untried youth learned the truth
That differences make us strong
To climb a mountain and watch the dawn
Leading the pack would likely be Jon
He led the way that shameful day
Human rights were trampled on
Though he lived and died
For a cause that bigotry denied
His chippy face
Has a special place
The darkness cannot hide.
July 14, 2019
From the "Weekly Message" of William Harman van Allen (rector, 1902-1929):
Repeating here what I said last Sunday about the Orphelinat des Armées [Army Orphanage], we have the splendid opportunity of coming to the aid of glorious France at once, in a way effective, gracious, and gratifying to ourselves. There will be three hundred thousand little half-orphans, children of French soldiers killed in the war for freedom, whose mothers must be helped to support them. Under the patronage of the President of France, local committees will supervise the education of these children, and assure them the training for careers to which they show most aptitude. To this end, we are asked to assume a certain responsibility for individual children. Ten cents a day for two years, $74 in all, measures that responsibility in money; and those guaranteeing this sum are brought into relations with the children, learn their names and addresses, can have their photographs, and are informed as to their progress. Above all, we shall feel that we are helping France to build up the next generation as a worthy successor to this which is serving civilization and the very principle of freedom by its incalculable sacrifices. Those who are willing to undertake the "adoption" of one or more children on this basis will please communicate direct with me. I hope that our parish societies may also take each one or two orphans. So far, thirty have been "adopted." Vive la France!
July 7, 2019
Born in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in 1869, parish historian Ann Maria Mitchell graduated from Wellesley College in 1890. She wrote articles on such varied topics as "A Novel Garden Party" (Good Housekeeping, 1896), "Old Days and New in Northfield" (New England Magazine, 1897), and "The White Blackberry" (Rhodora, 1899).
Her article, "The Advent Parish, Boston - Pioneer of the Catholic Revival," was published in The Living Church in December 1935, by which time she was serving as parish historian. The Advent Archives have typescripts of her notes on Charles Chapman Grafton; Martha Sever, the Civil War nurse whose bequest made possible the South Porch (Mt. Vernon Street entrance); and an unfinished work, "Annals of the Advent Parish, Boston."
By the 1930s, she was living near the Advent at 81 Revere Street. She later moved to Morville House, 273 Clarendon Street, a "home for aged women" owned by the Diocese of Massachusetts. She died in April 1942; the Rev. Whitney Hale presided at her funeral.
June 30, 2019
In his "Weekly Message" of late June 1911, the Rev. William Harman van Allen (rector, 1902-1929; shown here ca. 1913) included this cautionary note:
May I say something to our friends, especially among the students, who are just commencing to know the Advent, about our ideals? This church is free; i.e., it is the House of God, open freely to all God's children, not parcelled out into rented or owned pews set apart for persons specially favored. (This does not mean, of course, that worshippers are denied the opportunity of paying their debt to God through regular offerings at all services and in the poor-boxes. It is Catholic: it derives its Priesthood, the Sacraments they minister and the doctrines they preach, from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, which our Lord founded upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. But is it also American, and is subject to the American Episcopate, acknowledging no alien authority whatever in things spiritual. Its worship is according to Catholic tradition as received through the Church of England. No law of the Prayer-book is violated, and all laws of the Prayer-book are observed here. If you see anything unfamiliar, come to the clergy, who will gladly explain it to you.
In addition to demographic information, occasional editorial notes are included, such as “drinks – suspended...left for Yokohama Japan 1881...Baptized and admitted to Holy Communion at City Hospital...now in Mexico on railroad work, do not know when he will return...received at St. Margaret's as Sister Maria....” and finally (in ink) "Popish recusant," which sparked a reprimand from a different writer (in pencil): "This entry -- an improper one."
Also notable are the number of people who listed hospitals, hotels, institutional homes, and schools as their home: Cambridge Theological School, City Hospital, Coolidge House, Fort Independence, Good Samaritan House, Home for Colored Women, Hotel Anderson, Hotel Berkeley, Hotel Comfort, Hotel Falmouth, Hotel Lafayette, Hotel Pembroke, McLean Asylum, Mission House (Society of Saint John the Evangelist), Massachusetts General Hospital, New Haven Hospital, Parker House, St. John’s School, St. Luke’s Home, St. Margaret’s School.
June 2, 1019
The soaring lines of the Advent have inspired artists and photographers from its earliest days. On Sunday, June 2, a new display case located in the foyer will debut postcards, photographs, and other images of the building’s exterior. Included in the exhibit: one of the earliest drawings of “The New Church of the Advent” from King’s handbook of Boston, 1889; the original of familiar image by Jack Frost, used on the cover of our service bulletins; an assortment of postcards and note cards, including the earliest color postcard (circa 1915) of the church; an Epiphany-themed depiction by Robert Turner Walker; a watercolor by Diane Cermak, a member of the Bell Ringers Guild; and a pen-and-ink sketch by Jean Holloway, used on the cover of the Anglican Digest.
The Parish Register includes this record of her funeral:
Tuesday 17th November 1864 was buried Miss Martha Sever of Kingston: she died of typhoid, Sunday 13th November at Beverly, N. J., aged 23 years; after a few weeks of earnest and laborious devotion to the comfort and restoration of sick and wounded soldiers with the military hospital, in which charitable work she was accompanied by her eldest sister, Miss Anna Sever. Service at the House 94 Chestnut St by R & A [Rector and Associate] the Rev Dr Bolles & the Rev Mr Stickney, and at the Cemetery in Kingston by the Rev. Mr. Locke. -- M[oses] P Stickney
The tablet honoring her and her gift, located on the wall inside the Mt. Vernon Street entrance, reads:
Article from the Boston Globe, April 6, 1885 (Easter Sunday)
At the Church of the Advent yesterday there was a very large attendance, filling the spacious building completely. The decorations were very beautiful and in fine taste. On the altar steps were two beautiful azaleas, in full bloom, at least eight feet high, while on the altar were a dozen vases filled with choice cut flowers. In front of the reredos were five tall vases of cut flowers and 200 to 300 pots of rare specimens of the floral world. The pulpit was very beautiful, being adorned with passion flowers and vines. The screen was decorated with Southern moss and laurel. The regular music was augmented by five stringed instruments. S. B. Whitney presided at the organ, and the soprano soloists were Masters Warren, Imling and Nichols.
Father [Charles Chapman] Grafton was the preacher. He took for his text the words of our Lord when he met Mary at the tomb: “Touch me not, for I have not yet arisen.” The speaker then in very touching language showed that while Christ had not risen at the time He spoke with Mary He was risen today, and that all could draw near to Him and He would comfort and cheer them.
May 12, 2019
Transportation woes are not new to the Advent and her parishioners, as evidenced by these excerpts from the Rev’d William Van Allen’s Weekly Message:
“Wednesday, June 12, at 10:30 A.M., there will be a hearing at the office of the Massachusetts Railroad Commission on the question of an elevated station at the corner of Charles and Cambridge Streets. This would be a great convenience for all who worship here, or who live in this quarter of the city, so long deprived of adequate street-car service. I hope many of you will make a point of being present and speaking in favor of the station.” (1912)
“Who will assist us by lending carriages or motor-cars to the clergy for parish calling?” (1914)
And from the Rev’d Julian Hamlin:
“The new Charles Street Station should be a great help to parishioners living in Cambridge and beyond. Already many people have told us how much shorter it has made their trip to the Church. It goes a long way toward the solution of the transportation difficulties of many of our people.” (1932)
May 5, 2019
From the Rector’s "Weekly Message,” the Rev’d William Harman Van Allen:
October 4, 1914: “It is good to greet you all once more in this familiar fashion, even though I write the message three thousand miles away, in a hospitable English garden. When you read it, I shall be a day nearer you, God willing; for I expect to sail October 3, on the Lusitania, due in New York, October 8. Pray for our safe passage.”
Just seven months later—May 7, 1915—A German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania 11 miles off the Southern coast of Ireland, sending her to the seabed in 18 minutes, resulting in the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew.
May 23, 1915: “The offering for Belgian relief at the Lusitania Memorial Service, May 14, was $134.11. So many demands have been made for the for the sermon preached at the Lusitania service, that I have written it out in full, and hope to have it printed in pamphlet form soon. Copies may then be had of the sexton; and I shall be glad of gifts towards the expense of publication.”
The sermon was printed and available just one week later. The amount given is equivalent to $3,401.12 in 2019.
On June 5, 1911, The Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser published an article about the chalice that is used on Christmas and Easter, made from gold and jewels contributed by the congregation.
That fashionable women of the Church of the Advent, Back Bay, Mass., in contributing ornaments and gems toward the casting of a chalice had parted with ornaments “merely plated with gold or of brass and supposedly precious stones consisting of glass and paste” was the charge made by Rev. William Harman Van Allen, rector of the church, in a sermon this morning. Although the rector did not accuse the women of having made the contributions with the intention of deceiving him, the intimation that they had been displaying at grand operas and social functions sham gems cruised a visible flutter of excitement among the congregation. The chalice was completed a few years ago and was intended as a memorial to Father George S. Daniels, a former curate of the church.
Is this an example of “fake news”? Here is Father Van Allen’s irate response, from his "Weekly Message" of June 18:
We have recently had an example of the absurd unreliability of some newspaper reports. At Pentecost, preaching about “the Touchstone of Truth,” I used … the illustration of the expert who determined what was gold and what gold-plate, what were jewels and what paste, in the collection of ornaments, etc., given here … for the great gold chalice. Whereupon, a reporter, ignoring all else, published a flaming account of how I “accused the congregation” of having offered imitation jewels to God; and the Associated Press represented me as having declared that “the larger part of the offering” were base! Reading these articles, one would suppose that my sermon was only a reproach to ungenerous or deceitful people: but nothing could be farther from the truth. In those gifts of jewels, a certain small proportion (offered in all good faith) was imitation, as is always the case. But the generosity and devotion of the congregation, in making their oblations with great gladness, were beyond all praise; and that is characteristic of you.
This undated Eastertide photo of the Sacrament House or aumbry is by Arthur Haskell (1890-1968), one of the major architectural photographers in New England. Born in 1890 in Salem, Massachusetts, Haskell made the transition from high school student to draftsman, working for various Boston architectural firms over a ten-year period. As he became familiar with the practices of other architectural photographers, he experimented with the camera on his own. In the late 1920s Haskell started to take photographs for many of the leading architectural firms of the day including Ralph Adams Cram; Perry, Shaw & Hepburn; and Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott. In the 1930s, he photographed sites in New England for the Works Progress Administration’s Historic American Buildings Survey and later took pictures for historical and preservation societies. Haskell used an 8×10 inch view camera and printed black-and-white silver gelatin prints in a darkroom he constructed himself.
The Rev’d Julian D. Hamlin (formerly rector of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, Rhode Island) entered his duties as seventh rector of the Church of the Advent on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, 1929, and was installed by Bishop Slattery on Advent Sunday. His tenure was brief; he resigned at the Easter meeting of the Corporation in April 1934. In the "Weekly Message" for March 29, 1931, he wrote:
“The singing of the lessons and of the Passion, and a part of the Palm Sunday Rite, will be omitted this year, because of the crippled condition of the clergy staff. Immediately after the Blessing of the Palms, the Choir will sing the ancient Antiphons during the Distribution, and as the palms are being distributed to the congregation, the people may be seated until the beginning of the Processions. The Palm Sunday Procession symbolizes our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The knocking at the main doors of the church is an ancient reminder of the knocking at the gates of Jerusalem.”
Following the sermon at Solemn Evensong for Palm Sunday, Mr Frederick Johnson, Organist and Master of the Choristers, led the choir in the anthem “Richard de Castre’s Prayer to Jesus.”
Jhesu, Lord, that maddest me, / And with Thy blessyd blood hast bought,
Forgive that I have grieved Thee / With word and wil, and eek with thought.
Jhesu, in whom is all my trust / That died upon the roode tree,
Withdraw myn herte from fleshly lust, / And from all worldly vanyte.
Jhesu, for thy wounds smerte, / On feet and on thyn hands two,
O make me meeke and low of herte, / And Thee to love as I schulde do.
Jhesu, keepe them that are good, / Amend them that han grieved Thee,
And send them fruites of earthli food / As each man needeth in his degree.
Organist and choirmaster Mark Dwyer comments: This simple setting of “Richard de Castre’s Prayer to Jesus” was new music in the 1930s. It is in a modal and carol-like style which perfectly suits the 15th century text written by Richard de Castre, who was the vicar of St. Stephen’s Church in Norwich, England. It was composed by the Tudor-music pioneer, Richard Terry, who for the first quarter of the twentieth century was the director of music at Westminster Cathedral in London, where he established a magnificent choral tradition with repertoire comprised of Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, and new works written especially for the cathedral choir by such composers as Howells, Holst and Vaughan Williams. It remains in the repertoire of the Advent Choir and occasionally appears on both the summer and 9:00 mass repertoire lists.
April 7, 2019
In 1865, the average daily weekday attendance was twenty-six persons, but during Lent the average daily attendance rose to 126. Here, the Lenten reflections of three rectors.
This, please God, will be our thirteenth Lent together, as Rector and people. What note shall sound most clearly in the harmony of our observance? In 1910, we praised God because of His Word; in 1911, we strove for greater charity; in 1912, we desired to know ourselves better; in 1913, we consecrated our intellects to loving God with all our minds; and in 1914 we begged for more of the spirit of Worship and Praise. Every Lent shows us the need of all these: but this year, when the whole world echoes with the groans and lamentations of such anguish as has seldom been known before, I bid you undertake even more earnestly than your wont the fruitful labor of intercession... Men are ready enough to join in material benevolences; and surely they are needed, in these days of wicked and wanton destruction, when Belgium, Poland, and Northern France are laid waste and their people starve except for the bounty of others less afflicted. You have responded splendidly to our appeals for them. Bur their cause is with the Most High, and our intercessions for those who suffer accomplish far more than our gifts, if they accompany the giving. All the other needs of mankind call to us for succour; and though we may be unable to help much in what are called “practical” ways by those who do not remember the power of prayer, we can intercede with the Giver of every good and perfect gift, confident that He will hear and answer... Let us have, then, a Lent of Intercessions,with our self-denial turned into helpful channels. The Belgian flag flying above the alms-chest will remind you of those who are in greatest need and those whose silent appeal is most eloquent; but we must remember the other who hunger and freeze and wander desolate. Give up altogether for the holy season such luxuries as you may perhaps lawfully use at other times, and turn over what you save to God’s Cause and God’s Poor. Find your way daily to the Habitation of God’s House; and come at least once a week to the Table of the Lord. Above all, love much: love God, love your friends, love your enemies; love God’s Church and all that pertains to her; love the Truth and Peace. And the very God of Peace be with you through the Forty Days and ever.
— The Rev’d William Harman van Allen, rector, 1902-1929; “A Lent Letter,” 1915
Words cannot contain the mystery of the cross. They serve their purpose when they bring us to our knees. Only in worship will we discover the depth of God’s love. Attend the Holy Week services, therefore, including Saturday, please. By worship, meditation, and fasting, you will be prepared to sing with joy the joy of the first Christians on Easter morning.
— The Rev’d Samuel J. Wiley, rector, 1960–1966; “The Message,” 1962. (The Saturday service consisted of Blessing of the Paschal Candle; Solemn Evensong, and Holy Baptism.)
Lent calls us to greater devotion and self-discipline. Most of us are too busy or disorganized to fit many spiritual exercises into our regular routine. The Church wisely recognizes our frailty and says, “Why not try to put a little more effort into the devotional life for six weeks? When Easter comes, you can relax gratefully into your former indifference. Why not give us some time for this short period?”
— The Rev’d Richard Holloway, rector, 1980–1984; The Beacon, February 1981.
March 31, 2019
The Rev. Dr. James A. Bolles, rector from 1859 to 1870, initiated both daily Mass and, more controversially, a vested choir--not only controversial but novel at the time. Some people objected to the vested choir, declaring they would leave the parish if Bolles carried out this intent. Undeterred, he announced in print that on the next All Saints Day the choir would be surpliced. In “The Beginnings of a Parish: A Paper read before the Men's Guild of the Church of the Advent, December 31, 1925,” George O. G. Coale reminisces, “The choir first appeared in surplices in Dr. Bolles’ day, and wonderful they were — very full circular capes of linen reaching to the ankles or below and open in the front, with a large black Oxford tie at the neck. They had no sleeves, but the sides were folded up upon the outstretched arms of the wearer and therefore he was obliged to hold his fore-arms horizontally in front of him for fear he would become sleeveless and his arms become helpless for the rest of the service. This was a cause of constant anxiety. Cassocks were not worn.”
“Our place of worship was thronged, the music was delightful, the congregation manifesting that engagedness in the worship which is contagious, and distinguishes us from any congregation in the city” — William Croswell, rector, 1844–1851, describing service of November 23, 1845. From A History of the Church of the Advent by Betty Hughes Morris (1995).
In 1911, the parish published “Parish of the Advent — Gifts and Memorials”, a slim booklet available for 25 cents. From the Preface: “The ground [for the Brimmer Street church] was broken March 21, 1878, sufficient money being in hand for driving the piles for the whole contemplated structure and for building the chancel…[which was] completed and walled off temporarily so that it could be used as a chapel until the completion of the rest of the church. The first service held therein was on Easter morning, 1879.”
March 3, 2019
The original address for the Advent’s web site was http://www.chebucto.ne.ca/~ai072. From the 1997 Annual Report: “Initially set up on a volunteer basis, the site became official after being given the formal blessing of the Vestry in 1996. Access to the site has steadily increased. At the beginning of 1997, about 400 accesses per month were recorded to the main page, the months of November and December 1997 saw 624 and 629 access respectively.” In 2018, the site averaged 9,000 views per month.