Little-known facts, amusing anecdotes, and miscellaneous wisdom, in honor of the 175th anniversary of this parish, presented weekly.

March 15, 2020

Bishop William Stevens Parry (18321898) wrote The History of the American Episcopal Church, 15871883, published in 1885 by J. R. Osgood in Boston. Volume II of this magnum opus includes a monograph by the Rev. Phillips Brooks (18351893), then rector of Trinity Church, entitled “A Century of Church Growth in Boston.” Speaking of the founding of the Church of the Advent, Brooks writes,

“This great movement — this Catholic revival, as its earnest disciples love to call it — was most natural. It was the protest and self-assertion of a partly neglected side of religious life; it was a re-action against some of the dominant forms of religious thought which had become narrow and exclusive; it was the effort of the Church to complete the whole sphere of her life; it was the expression of certain perpetual and ineradicable tendencies of the human soul.”

Brooks is quoted at length in King’s Handbook of Notable Episcopal Churches in the United States, by the Rev. George Wolfe Shinn (18391910), rector of Grace Church, Newton, published by Moses King Corporation, Boston, 1889. Shinn notes that with 600 communicants, the Church “has a congregation that tests its seating capacity.” He describes its design in great detail:

“The Church edifice is built of brick, with brown-stone trimmings. It is not yet entirely completed; but when the tower and other additions are made, it will be one of the most beautiful structures in the country…Upon entering the building, two things attract the attention of the visitor: the first is the great height of the nave, some ninety feet, and the great size of the chancel. The latter is thirty feet wide and forty-eight feet deep, divided into choir and sanctuary, and is separated from the nave by a rood-screen of gilded iron-work. All the interior walls are of brick, with occasional spaces of brown-stone, some of which are elaborately carved, while others await their final decoration. Their [sic] are some good specimens of stained glass already in position, but other windows will be filled later on with bright colors. The use of brick-work for the interior shows what wonderful solidity and beauty are possible by the judicious use of a material not yet well appreciated in this country.”

March 8, 2020

Fr. van Allen, c. 1915

“For the Whole State of Christ’s Church and the World”

The Rev. William Harman van Allen (rector, 1902-1929) regularly concluded his weekly message with detailed, dignified requests for intercession. A sampling of these provides a richly detailed picture of parish life in the early 20th century, and of his devotion to the people of the Church of the Advent, and beyond.

I ask your prayers for…several who are in affliction; for a sick child; for the perseverance of all new members of the congregation; for the return to her duty of a Christian girl who has lapsed into Eddyism.

I ask your prayers for a woman gravely ill; for a wayward young girl; for a college student, that he may be faithful; for our fellow-Christians of the Papal Obedience, that they may be led to reform the Latin Church from within, purging it of tyranny, superstition, and political activities; and for all who are in isolation or poverty.

Your prayers are asked for Fr. Tovey, SSJE, who is on the ocean, bound for England and India; for a couple to be married on Saturday; for several in doubt who are turning Church- ward; for all who are lonely; in thanksgiving for several recovering from illness; and for many vocations to the Priesthood.

I ask for your prayers in thanksgiving for a girl’s recovery from appendicitis; for a man ill in a foreign land; for a sick girl who has had two operations; that we all may have a repentant, pregressive [sic], and happy Lent…

I ask your prayers for the recovery from grave illness of one of our young girls and of a priest’s son; for the approaching missionary exhibition; for all who mourn, that they may be comforted; and for a blessing on our Lent.

I ask your prayers in thanksgiving for the preservation of several persons through surgical operations; or those who are seriously ill; that the Parish apportionment may be met in full, and that every member of the Parish may be enrolled as a supporter of the Church at home and abroad; for those who suffer from famine in China; and for industrial peace.

I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of Florence C. Cottle, a communicant who fell asleep April 4; in thanksgiving for an answered prayer; for the preservation of E.B.G. on the high seas; and for a blessed Easter, on which all the faithful shall receive Holy Communion devoutly and worthily.

March 1, 2020

To the Parishioners of the Church of the Advent, Boston,

My Very Dear Friends:

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.

Fr. van Allen, c. 1915

“. . . More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.”*

Men are ready enough to join in material benevolences; surely they are needed, in these days of wicked and wanton destruction, when Belgium, Poland, and Northern France are laid waste and people starve except for the bounty of others less afflicted. You have responded splendidly to appeals for them. But 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 use 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 Intercession, 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 whose silent appeal for help is most eloquent; but we must remember the others 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.

Your loving friend and Rector,

William Harman van Allen,
Ash Wednesday, 1915

*Alfred, Lord Tennyson — King Arthur to Sir Bedivere, in “The Passing of Arthur” from Idylls of the King.

February 23, 2020

How did the Church of the Advent usher in the holy season of Lent more than a century ago? In the “Rector’s Weekly Message” of February 7, 1915 (Sexagesima), the Rev. William Harman van Allen (rector, 1902-1929) wrote:

Here is a little rule of life, turned into verse by the dear Bishop of Harrisburg, Dr. [James Henry] Darlington, which I wish all knew by heart, — and practiced:

In the bookplate of Dr Darlington (Louis Rhead, 1902), two women (Theology and Science) shake hands under the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Patient with others, but strict with myself;
Loving to give, and refusing all pelf;
Doing the right, though it brings me no fame;
Honoring Christ, because signed with His Name;
Helping the downcast, and cheering the sad;
Living our creed till it makes the world glad;
Fond of our work, of our friends, of our land;
Walking by faith, daily led by God’s hand;
This is the pathway the saints all have trod
This is the life hid with Christ’s life in God.

James Otis Sargent Huntington, OHC

In the “Rector’s Weekly Message” for Quinquagesima 1915, Father van Allen encouraged parishioners to attend a parochial quiet day. The offering of a quiet day devoted to prayer and reflection is a tradition which has continued at the Church of the Advent over the years.

“On the first Friday of Lent, …Fr. Huntington is to conduct a Parochial Quiet Day, to which any church-people will be welcome. The order will be: Mass, 7:30; Matins, 9; Mass, 9:30; First address, 10; Second address, 11:30; Intermission, for lunch, 12:30; Third address, 3; Choral Litany and concluding address, 5; consultations or confessions during the intervals. I hope a great many will plan to profit by this opportunity of beginning their Lent well. Fr. Huntington is dear to all of us, and for a generation, his life has been a sermon, even more eloquent than his words.” [Father James O. S. Huntington (1854–1935) was founder of the Order of the Holy Cross.]

February 16, 2020

Significant portions of the Church of the Advent archives were taken to the Boston Athenaeum decades ago, and later transferred to the Diocesan Archives on Tremont Street. As part of the 175th anniversary observations, these records, documents, artifacts, and artwork will be returned to their rightful home at 30 Brimmer Street. The letter below is part of that collection, and dates to the parish’s 1847 move to the Green Street meeting-house (also pictured below), described in the centenary history as “a substantial structure of brick, far from ecclesiastical in appearance, but, after undergoing the needed alterations, not ill-adapted to the requirements of the parish, being capable of holding not far from six hundred persons.” It is addressed to the parish’s first rector, the Rev. William Croswell, and signed C. G. Prescott. At this writing, no connection to the later, more well-known Prescott, Oliver Sherman Prescott, has been found.

[Ed. note: Green Street, which can be seen on this map, no longer exists. The Green Street church was located approximately where the Longfellow Place apartment building now stands.]


February 9, 2020

A selection of six antiquarian books is on display in the lobby. These range from one of the earliest editions of the American Book of Common Prayer (1806), to a 1941 Book of Remembrance, documenting memorial gifts to fund furnishing the All Souls Room, now known as the Frisby Room. A copy of the 1806 Prayer Book, from the same publisher, in similar condition, is listed on AbeBooks for $750.

The books reflect facets of church, family, and national history, for example:

  • The final sacramental act of the Rev. William Croswell, on November 9, 1851, was to baptize Emily Otis Salter, daughter of Richard and Abbie Salter. “The holy hand which applied the consecrated element to the brow of this precious infant became motionless in death before it had time to record this its last sacramental act.” (#4 in the display)
  • Captain Thomas L. Sullivan, US Army, made a donation in memory of William G. Thompson, Esq., a parishioner at the Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, member of the Massachusetts Bar, “friend of the oppressed and helpless, an uncompromising foe of entrenched political corruption, from his grateful and unknown friend.” Thompson was a defense lawyer at the controversial trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Venzetti, Italian immigrants convicted of first-degree murder during an armed robbery, and executed in Boston in 1927. (#3 in the display)
  • A Prayer-Book designed by Charles Robert Ashbee―architect, designer, social reformer, and a major force behind the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. He was one of the most significant figures in British artistic and cultural life at the turn of the century. (#5 in the display)

A binder containing sample pages from these books, together with supporting material, is on top of the display case.

January 26, 2020

Many people are familiar with the historic relationship between the Church of the Advent and the Society of St. Margaret, formerly housed in their convent in Louisburg Square, now in Duxbury.

Far fewer (this writer suspects) have heard of the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, or are aware of the order’s connection with the parish. From the archives, here are selections from an unfinished manuscript by Kathleen Reeves, used with her gracious permission:

Sr. Ruth Margaret SHN
(see below).

When the Society of St. Margaret learned of Grafton’s release [from the Society of St. John the Evangelist in 1882], they immediately requested his resignation as their chaplain. …At the convent, pandemonium reigned…the sisters were anything but neutral about Grafton. Dismissing him had polarized them into two camps. There began to be talk of a new order of sisters, to be founded by Fr. Grafton. In the end, three of the sixteen professed sisters and seven of the fourteen novices elected to follow their former chaplain. Sister Katherine, then a novice, recorded their convictions succinctly: “I would go to any house Father started.” The turmoil and anguish on both sides was desolating. There were wounds such could be healed only by time and prayer and much love. Thus, as the heartbroken Grafton said, “amidst much suffering” did the Sisters of the Holy Nativity have their beginning. […]

Undergirding the [members of the new order] were the enthusiastic women who would become the first Associates. It is not too much to say that these Associates were co-founders of the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, for from the first tumultuous days Mesdames Codman, Bertram, Minot (Fr. Grafton’s sister), Cobb, and Davis as well as Miss Andrews and the daughters of Mrs. Codman and Mrs. Minot took an active role in the financial and physical welfare of the fledgling order, even loaning the Sisters suitable clothing until new habits could be devised, since, of course, they had no clothing except their St. Margaret habits. A relationship of mutual love and support was thus initiated.

To be continued …

Pictured above: Ruth Margaret Vose (23 January 1826–26 May 1910). In 1881, at the age of 56, she made her life profession in the Society of St. Margaret. “She was not…an idealistic young girl,” writes Mrs. Reeves, “but a mature, realistic woman when she decided to cast her lot as well as a substantial inheritance with Charles Grafton.” After Fr Grafton was dismissed as chaplain to the Society of St. Margaret, Sister Ruth Margaret left that order and became the “mother foundress” of the Sisters of the Holy Nativity.

January 19, 2020

How long will you keep us in suspense?

Title page from “The Practice of Piety, directing a Christian how to walk that he may please God” by Lewis Bayly (d. 1631), bears the name Mary Flagg – she who in 1774 became Mary Wilder. The book and Mary’s journal are part of the Advent Archives.

This plaintive question from John’s Gospel (10:24) marks the conclusion of our History/Mystery series, although not the end of either history or mystery. We will begin, perhaps counterintuitively, at the end: Many people have noticed and commented that Mary Wilder was the name of our former rector’s wife, known to us as Polly. Is there a connection? Yes, indeed. Allan Warren’s wife, Polly, was the third-great-granddaughter of the Mary Wilder who in 1799 wrote her name in the journal. Painstakingly delving into the Wilder family tree does establish some hitherto unknown connections, while leaving some questions unanswered.

  • Who are the “Mr. White” and “Hannah” referred to in the letter found with the book? (“After Mary’s death [in 1811], Mr. White gave the book to Hannah to treasure.”) This must be Mary’s husband, Daniel Appleton White (1776-1861), and Mary’s cousin, Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1865), a well-known poet of the nineteenth century.
  • Who is the “Mr. Foote” to whom the letter is addressed (“[the book] seems closer to your family than to mine”)? The most likely candidate is Henry Wilder Foote (1875-1964), named after his father, who was the minister of King’s Chapel and the son of Mary Wilder White (1810-1857), daughter of the Mary Wilder of the journal, and Caleb Foote (1803-1894).
  • Who is the Albert Thorndike who wrote the note accompanying the journal? Albert Thorndike (1860-1935) was a financial agent in Boston who married Mary Quincy Gould (1872-1927), the first cousin twice removed of the Mary Wilder of the journal.
  • How, and when, did the book come to be at the Church of the Advent? At this writing, those questions must remain open, as connections between the Advent and Thorndikes, Footes, Whites, and others continue to be sought.
  • Finally, Thorndike’s letter to “My dear Mr. Foote” appears to be dated 1935, not 1925 as stated earlier. This means it was written just three months before Thorndike’s death.

How fitting, then to conclude with this excerpt (below) from “Daily Strength for Daily Needs,” first published in 1884, compiled by Mary Wilder Tileston, a great-granddaughter of Mary Wilder. She died in 1950 in Pima, Arizona, aged 84; her occupation is listed as “Deaconess.”

Long though my task may be,
Cometh the end.
God ‘tis that helpeth me,
His is the work, and He
new strength will lend.

January 5-12, 2020

(January 5) Mystery leads to history leads to mystery: Part I

Mystery: Why does the Advent have a petite, slender 18th century journal, accompanied by a letter dated May 12, 1925, tucked into its pages, addressed to a Mr. Foote, from Albert Thorndike? He writes:

I have a little blank book signed, twice, by Mary Wilder with date May 2, 1799 & also signed by Hannah F. Gould. It is partially filled by notes, & copies of bits of literature. First entries by Mary, probably. Later ones, from the handwriting, by Hannah. A fair guess is that the young ladies – Hannah was about nine years the younger – related and quite likely already knowing each other, became very close friends in Newburyport. That after Mary’s death, Mr. White gave the book to Hannah to treasure. Its interest is only one of family memento [sic], & it seems closer to your family than to mine. So I am taking it to my office (Room 658, 10, P. O. Square) that you may, if you wish, call at convenience – no hurry – to see it. If you care to carry it away, do so.

History: To tackle the mystery, some history was needed. First, who were the two young ladies? Mary Wilder was elusive (at least initially) but Hannah Flagg Gould (1786-1865) was quickly identified as a nineteenth-century poet of some renown; she never married and lived in Newburyport. Additional genealogical research revealed Hannah’s lineage: Her father was Captain Benjamin Gould (1751-1841), a veteran of the Revolutionary War battles at Lexington, Bunker Hill, and West Point, among others. At Lexington, it is reported, “he received a bullet wound, the scar of which was conspicuous on his cheek throughout his long life, and formed the subject of a poem by his daughter…” Hannah’s mother was Griselda Apthorp Flagg (1753-1827), whose sister, Mary (Polly) Flagg (1750-1811), married Josiah Wilder (1744-1788). So the Flagg connection links Mary and Hannah as cousins. Yet even after establishing this, a mystery remains: what are the relationships between Hannah, Mary, Mr. Foote, Mr. Thorndike, and Mr. White? Will they explain how the journal came to be at the Church of the Advent, and why?

(January12) Mystery leads to history leads to mystery: Continued

The initial quest was to discover why the Advent has a petite journal, dated 1799, with the names Mary Wilder and Hannah F. Gould inscribed. In Part I, we determined that Mary and Hannah were cousins; their mothers were sisters. Searching for a link to the Advent led to an exploration of their genealogy. As the investigation deepened, links to some unexpected people emerged. Below is a genealogical chart with the Mary Wilder who wrote her name in the journal at the center, flanked by some of her nearly identically named relatives. Images from the journal are also included.

The following text is an excerpt from “Memorials Of Mary Wilder White,” by Elizabeth Amelia White, edited by Mary Wilder Tileston, published in 1903:

When only seventeen years old she became engaged to Antoine Van Schalkwyck, a young West Indian planter, who was exiled from his home in Guadeloupe during the years following the French Revolution. After many vicissitudes and anxieties they were married in 1801, when she was twenty years old, and not long after sailed for Guadeloupe. They arrived at an unfortunate moment: the island was in a state of insurrection, a mulatto having just been put in the place of the French Commandant, and there was general distrust and terror. Yellow fever was raging violently, and in three weeks from the day they landed her idolized brother, who had accompanied her on account of her husband’s ill-health, died of the fever. Three weeks later her husband died, leaving her alone in a foreign land. A few days after this a plot of the negroes to massacre all the white inhabitants was discovered, only a few hours before it was to take place and she had to fly to a neighbouring island. There she stayed for many months, until troops arrived from France after a hard struggle, put down the insurrection and restored order. She was desperately ill herself with yellow fever and a succession of other illnesses, and it was a year before she could return to her friends.

December 22, 2019

The centennial of the Oxford Movement was celebrated in the Diocese of Massachusetts from October 15 to 22, 1933. The opening service was held at the Church of the Advent, with the Right Rev. Henry B. Washburn, Dean of the Episcopal Theological School, preaching. The following week, the Rev. Julian D. Hamlin, rector of the Church of the Advent, preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Rev. C. Winfred Davis, Mus. D., Hon. Canon of Fond du Lac, gave the sermon at the Advent. Hamlin wrote, “It is deeply significant that the Diocese of Massachusetts, which for many years has been known as the center of liberalism in the Church, should be officially commemorating the Centenary of the Oxford Movement. The party divisions of twenty-five years ago do not fit into the picture of the Church to-day. It is time that we all began to absorb the lasting contributions which various groups have made to the life of the Church.”

At the close of the centennial observations, he wrote, “What shall we do in the next hundred years? To me the Anglican Communion has one reason for its existence apart from Rome. That reason is the ideal of a liberal Catholicism, speaking to every age with the voice of authority in the name of Christ, and with a social conscience enabling it to interpret historical Christianity to the great social movements which in these latter days are sweeping though the world. The fulfillment of this vocation implies a free Church in a free State.”

December 8, 2019

What goes into the Advent archives? Some documents, books, and artifacts may languish for decades or longer before being uncovered, or discovered, and added to the historical files of the parish. Then there are documents on which the ink is barely dry before they are duly catalogued to be treasured by future parishioners, historians, or researchers. For example, the certificate of congratulations from our bishop, the Right Rev. Alan M. Gates, on the occasion of the parish’s 175th anniversary, which was proclaimed on December 1, 2019, and is reproduced here (click image to enlarge):

December 1, 2019

175 Years in One Liturgy

In honor of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Church of the Advent, we offer an historic tour of some of the Advent’s treasures used in this service.

Crystal Crucifix. This processional cross is crafted of silver, crystal, and cut glass. It was given by the Sunday School sometime between 1885 and 1902.

Verger’s Staff (Virge). See full description below.

White Vestments. These are worn during the opening procession which celebrates the Parish’s Feast of Title and Dedication. Made for the parish’s 1944 centennial, their design traces the doctrine of the Incarnation from the Creation to the early years of the Church:

  • The tunicle worn by the subdeacon displays the symbols of prophets Isaiah and Malachi, who foretold the birth of the Messiah; and of Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden; and the Star of David.
  • The dalmatic and stole worn by the deacon contain symbols associated with the birth of Christ: St. Mary, St. Joseph, Gabriel, and the Star of Bethlehem.
  • The priest’s vestments fulfill the symbolism: the stole bears symbols of the Blessed Virgin (MR, Maria Regina), the front panels of the cope honor four theologians who defended and developed the doctrine of the incarnation at the first four ecumenical councils: St. Athanasius; St Gregory Nazianzus; St Cyril; St Leo the Great. The back shows Jesus reigning in glory.

Blue Vestments. Both blue and the more familiar purple are traditional colors for the season of Advent. Blue is also associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary; the embroidered roses on these vestments and on the frontal refer to Mary as the “Mystic Rose” who was to bear the Babe of Bethlehem. The frontal bears two large red shields mounted on crosses of gold. On one shield is IHS, a Latinized abbreviation of the Greek Iesous, for Jesus. On the other, the Latinized abbreviation, XRS, for the Greek Xristos, which means Christ. The vestments were designed in 2017 by Davis d’Ambly, who supervised their execution.

Silver Thurible. The thurible, with its companion boat and spoon, were given in 1913 by the Guild of St. Vincent in memory of Cecil Moreton Barlow, a “reverent, devoted, and faithful member of the Guild and Acolyte.” He was born in 1890, lived in Somerville, where he graduated from the English High School in 1910, and was employed as an electric meter reader. On August 7, 1912, he was killed by “an accidental shock of electricity.” The pieces were designed by Robert Turner Walker (1867–1931), an MIT-trained architect, faithful parishioner, and Vestry member, who instituted the Guild of St. Vincent in the parish. The silversmith is George Joseph Hunt (1866–1947), an Englishman who immigrated to the United States at age 20, became a member of the Society of Arts and Crafts in 1903, and established the “metalry” department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. These are typically used at the Gospel procession and offertory.

Jeweled Silver Tankard. This large tankard is used on major feasts and was a gift from the congregation at large in memory of Fr. Henry A. Metcalf (1845–1911), who served as rector of five parishes in Massachusetts before becoming Curate at the Advent. The tankard was designed by Charles Carden Coveney (1894–1945), a church architect and member of the Advent’s governing Corporation, who was a principal at Brigham, Coveney & Bisbee. The tankard, of sterling silver with a hammered gold wash, was made by Gorham. The inscription reads Caro enim Mea vere est Cibus, et Sanguinis Meus vere est pontus (For my Flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed; John 6:55). 

Jeweled Chalice and Ciborium. In 1905 the congregation made this gift in memory of the Rev. George Frederick Daniels (1858–1897), who had served as a curate at this Parish; he died of pneumonia at St. Margaret’s Hospital on West Cedar Street. The vessels were designed by Brother Bernard, O.S.B., of Painsthorpe Abbey, Yorkshire, England, which was established in 1902 by Aelred Carlyle, a friend of Charles Chapman Grafton, rector of the Advent from 1872 to 1888. The chalice is inscribed: Calicem salutaris accopiam, et nomen Domini invocabo (I will receive the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord; Ps. 116:12).

Silver Chalices. From a set of English Communion ware bearing the hallmark of John James Keith, given by an unknown donor at Easter 1849. Keith produced large amounts of Gothic Revival church plate based on designs by William Butterfield, the leading architect/designer of the ecclesiological movement. Both chalices are inscribed, at the base, Calicem salutaris accipitam (I will receive the cup of salvation; Ps 116:2). One carries the legend Vere est potus sanguis meus (My blood is drink indeed; John 6:55); the other, Omnes eundem potum spiritualem biberunt (All did drink the same spiritual drink; I Cor 10:4).

The Anniversary Virge

Our new Anniversary Virge was designed by Tom Sopko and master silversmith and artist Vincent Wil Hawley, who also fabricated and engraved it. Hailing from Newburyport, MA, Vincent received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2006 and attended the Advent regularly while living in Boston. He went on to study and apprentice in Florence, Italy, and currently resides in Staten Island, NY. His other ecclesiastical commissions include sacred vessels for churches, sculptural elements for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and numerous wearable liturgical pieces.A virge (< Latin virga, a branch or rod) was originally a bundle of branches used as a switch or riding crop; it later became a symbol of civil office. In modern times it is best known as the ceremonial staff of the lay officers in Anglican churches known as vergers (originally virgers), who once used it as a weapon to make way for outdoor processions, but now use it as a pointer to guide processions and escort people around the sanctuary.

The virge is hand-crafted, with a sterling silver finial and fittings on a shaft of American walnut. The obverse shows the shield from the parish seal. The trumpet refers to the trumpets that announce the Second Advent, when “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The three coronets allude to the seal of the Diocese of Massachusetts, which in turn took them from the arms of the city of Boston in Lincolnshire, England. In the upper left quadrant is the red cross of St George, symbol of England, surmounted by a circle of wavy blue and white lines, an heraldic device which represents a well or spring. This may allude to our roots in the Church of England, but cross + well is also a rebus for [William] Croswell, our first Rector. The text around the rim reads “Church of the Advent, Boston, 1844–2019.”The virge is given in honor of Kenn Stephens, former member of the Vestry and numerous parish committees, chairman of the 1998 Search Committee that called Fr. Warren, as well as the Liturgical Arts, Gifts & Memorials, and Advent 2000 committees, and founder, director, and mentor of the parish Flower Guild from 1992 until 2007.

The reverse features a plain golden cross and the parish motto “Lo, I come.” Both refer back to the earliest days of the parish in 1845, when the simple gilded wood cross that is now enshrined in the reredos of All Saints’ Chapel hung above the altar, with the motto above it. Author, lawyer, and abolitionist Richard Henry Dana Jr., one of the most prominent founding members, later wrote to his son, “[Dr. Croswell] held the first service on Advent Sunday. That led to its being called the Church of the Advent. I proposed the name, and suggested the cross over the altar, and the words ‘Lo I Come’ for the motto.”

The 1944 parish history states that “In the earlier years the duties of verger – or sexton – were undertaken by no less a personage than one of the wardens; but it is not to be wondered that after a time he found the burden of attending to the opening and closing of the church for services twice daily to be too great. About 1852 Hugh Taylor was appointed Verger, and held the position for nearly 40 years.” Ray Porter’s predecessor Marc Michelini (1927-2014) became verger at the age of 22 and served faithfully for 56 years. Since 1852 the Advent has had 14 rectors, but only 6 vergers!

November 24, 2019

The 1944 Centennial Celebration of the Church of the Advent commenced on The Feast of Christ the King and ran through Easter. A very partial, extremely impressive list of events includes Solemn Evensong and Benediction; Solemn Evensong and Te Deum; Youth Rally; sermons from The Right Reverend Wallace E. Conckling, Bishop of Chicago; the Right Reverend Henry Knox Sherrill, Bishop of Massachusetts; and the Right Reverend Raymond A. Heron, Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts; a Parish Banquet at the Copley Plaza; Historical Exhibit and Display of Sacred Vessels and Vestments; Acolyte Festival Commemorating the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Order of St. Vincent; Confirmation; Anglican Choir Festival; Solemn Requiem Mass for those Killed in War; Service Commemorating the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Formal Restoration of the Religious Life in the Anglican Communion; Gregorian Choir Festival; a four-day Parochial Mission — all this in addition to the regular round of daily services. Below is a Foreword from the Centennial Celebration program (click to enlarge).

November 17, 2019

No sooner was the restoration of the 1844 Parish Register completed, thanks to personal gifts from members of the Vestry, than a new generous donation to the Conservation Fund was received. In keeping with the donor’s wishes, these funds will be used to conserve the Parish’s Record of Baptisms, which stretches from 1844 to 1923.

Why is it important to preserve these record books? Here is one story to illustrate – a letter received in February 2006, slightly condensed, with initials used in lieu of full names to protect privacy.

  …As Executor for my Father’s estate, I have been progressively sorting through items in our parent’s home. My mother, C., passed away in 1983 and my father in 2004. Today, I discovered part of a letter written by my Grandmother, N., photocopied on the attached sheet. I have been able to transcribe most of what Grandma had written. She passed away in 1953.

I have very little knowledge of my Grandmother’s parents or her family. What is most remarkable is her reference to the Church of the Advent which adds another positive link to my search for family information. What I have been able to learn is that she had at least one brother, J., who may have been a few years younger. He died in an Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado, about 1904 as a result of serving in the Spanish American War in the Philippines.

I believe that my grandmother was born in 1874, I do not know where but her letter implies it may have been Fitchburg; she writes “my two brothers was at the same time…”; by this she may have meant that she and her brothers were baptized at the same time. She went on to write …all dead. She possibly implied that at the time of writing her letter that her brothers were dead.

Would it be possible for me to request a photocopy of my Grandmother’s October 24, 1886 Baptism record, and associated information if other members of her family were also baptized at that time? Enclosed is a donation for searching your historical records. I very much appreciate your kindness.

The record of baptism of grandmother and brothers was found and the information sent to the writer. Reading her letter — a copy and transcription are below; click on the image to see it full size — the importance of preserving and appreciating these old books becomes clear.

November 10, 2019

The exquisite watercolors and drawings of Robert Turner Walker  (1867-1931) are the centerpiece of the display in the lobby. Founder of the Order of St. Vincent, Advent parishioner and member of the Corporation, Walker left evidence of his fine artistic talents throughout the Church of the Advent.

The grandson of a New Hampshire farmer, and the son of Augustus Chapman Walker, a Harvard-educated physician who served as an Army surgeon, and Maria Churchill Grant, Walker was the eldest of three sons. Born in rural Greenfield, Mass., two years after Dr. Walker mustered out of the military, he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1884 and MIT in 1890. He initially lived on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square (in the building now occupied by H-Mart), then later on Frost Street, then Acacia Street.

In time, his parents joined him in Cambridge. His mother died at his home in August 1917, at the age of 78. His father, 84, died the following April. Both are buried in New Hampshire.

From perusing our own Archives and those of the Diocese (where some of the Advent’s materials are stored), it appears that Walker created an annual Christmas card. Two of these (from 1914 and 1916) have been reproduced as postcards – they are the actual size of his original artwork, which is petite and finely detailed, as shown in the display. In 1918, his theme was “Peace in Our Time,” showing a Christus Rex; in 1920, “Ave verum corpus” (pictured here); and in 1925, a nativity scene, “Ecce Agnus Dei.”

Robert Turner Walker died on Christmas Eve, 1931. His funeral was held at the Advent, with Father Hamlin presiding; he is buried, like his parents, in New Hampshire. Members of the Guild of St. Vincent gave the Madonna over the altar in the Lady Chapel in his honor.

November 3, 2019

The rarely seen back of the newly gilded cross in the All Saints Chapel has its own story to tell. It carries the names of each person who has re-gilded the cross, together with date. The earliest of these is Thomas D. Morris (1813-1881), whose name is included in a list of those attending the first organizational meeting held in Grace Church on Temple Street, January 19, 1844. (The Church of the Advent, First Years. John T. Maltsberger, 1986)

Morris’s name appears on the back of the cross with the dates 1845, 1864, 1874, and 1879. An original member of the Church of the Advent, he was received on Advent Sunday, December 1, 1844, by the Rev. William Croswell. Perhaps curiously, Morris was born in Sumterville, South Carolina, but by the age of 21 was on Nantucket, where he married an 18-year-old island girl, Elizabeth C. Bunker. They moved to Boston where he is variously listed in city directories as a house, sign, and fancy painter (1859); fresco painter (1864); color manufacturer (1870); and paint manufacturer (1880). Elizabeth, 44, died in Boston of consumption February 10, 1860.

On “a rainy morning” in November 1862, Morris married Harriet (Ferrin) Prentiss, a 42-year-old widow, officiated by the Rev. Moses Stickney.

But the record of Morris’s 1844 reception to the Advent carries a mystery: In the Roll of Communicants, directly under his name, is written “Mrs. Harriet Prentiss,” who was received with him. At the time, she was married to Henry Prentiss (1801-1860). “Mr. Prentiss, in 1852, kept the well-known musical instrument store in Court Street, Boston,” according to the Prentiss genealogy. How did they know each other? Why were they admitted together?

Thomas D. Morris, then living at 16 Bulfinch with his family, died at Massachusetts General Hospital on June 22, 1881. This is his obituary from Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association:

Thomas D Morris was admitted, as a painter, in 1854. He was an old and prominent citizen of the West End of Boston. He was a native of Sumterville, S. C., but early came to Boston, where he long had the favor of leading architects and mechanics. In later years he went into the manufacture of paints, and for a while did well, but, failing to protect his specialty by a patent, larger manufacturers supplanted him, and seriously crippled his income. He was a quarter-century member of the Handel and Haydn Society, and of the Church of the Advent, and had served two terms in the Legislature. He was a pronounced anti-slavery man, with strong convictions of right and duty, and of sterling integrity. He died at the age of 69.

Sarah Luckom brings light to the gradine:
Mirabilis Deus in Sanctis Suis (God is wonderful in his Saints – Ps 67:36, Vulgate)

Timothy Neill works on St.
Vincent’s gridiron, the instrument of his martyrdom. The statue
honors the parish’s Guild of St. Vincent.

The reredos, designed by Ralph Adams Cram, won
an award in the 1907 Boston Arts and Crafts Exhibition.

October 27, 2019

In 1936, parish historian Ann Maria Mitchell mounted an exhibition of “Adventiana” that attracted hundreds of viewers over three days. Among the visitors were members of the Diocesan Library Committee, who remarked to Ann Maria that they “had not seen in the Diocese a church which had so many beautiful things, nor one where they were so sadly neglected.” Unfortunately this tradition of neglect continued for decades. The Advent 175 Conservation Fund was instituted to remediate and restore some of our most precious books, documents, artwork, and artifacts. The recent restorations of the cross and reredos in the All Saints chapel are “outward and visible signs” of some of what can be accomplished.

Less visible, but equally important, is the parish’s original Register, which covers the years 1844 to 1888. The oversize volume, found in very poor condition, contains nearly half a century’s worth of hand-written information — a list of communicants (941 of them), and details about baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials in the parish’s early years. Thanks to generous gifts from individual members of the Vestry, the book is in the hands of Louise Baptiste, a professional paper conservator, for restoration. She expects to have the work completed by the end of October. These images show Louise at work.


October 20, 2019

Phase one of the re-gilding of the All Saints cross and is reredos completed, thanks to generous gifts to the Advent 175 Conservation Fund. What better time to explore some of the history of the conflict that marked the parish's earliest years?

Eastburn was 42 years old when he was elected bishop by unanimous vote.

Immediately after his first episcopal visitation to the Church of the Advent, then located in an "upper room" in a building on the corner of Lowell and Causeway Streets, Bishop Manton Eastburn issued a pastoral letter which was published in The Christian Witness of December 5, 1845. He wrote:

"On Nov. 23, I visited the ch. of the Advent, for confirmation, and there observed, to my inexpressible grief and pain, various offensive innovations upon the ancient usage of our Church. In the form of the Communion Table; in the decorations of golden candlesticks, and of a large wooden cross, by which it is surmounted... I perceived with sorrow superstitious puerilities... Were these novelties nothing but childish, they would on that account be sufficiently objectionable to call forth my censure...but chiefly do I consider these innovations...because of their pointed and offensive resemblance to the usages of that Idolatrous Papal Communion against which our own Prayer Book so strongly protests."

Thus began an exchange of letters between Bishop Eastburn and William Croswell, rector of the Church of the Advent, until Croswell's death in 1851. The exchange continued with the Advent's second rector, Horatio Southgate; the collection would eventually be published in a booklet of 123 pages.

In Trinity Church in the City of Boston, 1733-1833, Bishop William Lawrence said of Eastburn's letters, "Such missives did not make for peace, and some of his closest friends, both clergy and lay, urged him to desist; but his sense of duty was clear and strong."

Despite the cross's significance and history, neither its donor (if there was one) nor its maker is mentioned in any of the parish histories.

October 13, 2019

One of the best-known origin stories about The Church of the Advent concerns the gilded wooden cross that was used in the parish’s Green Street location. It was this very cross that, together with other ornaments, so infuriated Bishop Manton Eastburn that after his initial visit to the Advent in 1845, he vowed not to return until the chancel arrangement met with his approval. And so he stayed away for 11 years.

But there is another controversy, this one internal, that is less well known. This one concerns William Croswell, the first Rector, and the altar now in All Saints Chapel beneath the infamous cross. British-born architect Frank Wills designed the altar, which was crafted in England. On arrival in December 1850, the altar stones were found to be significantly damaged, “being split through from the face backwards.” Could the altar be accepted as is? After “expressing their own views, and comparing opinions in an informal manner,” the Vestry reached an impasse. Senior Warden Theron Metcalf stated his opposition to “both the reception and the erection of the stone Altar” and left the meeting.

After further discussion, the clerk, Henry Parker, submitted attempt at compromise, moving that the altar be accepted but not installed until repaired. In response, Richard Henry Dana (the notes do not indicate Sr. or Jr.) moved an adjournment to give the group “further time for reflection”; the motion was lost and Dana left the meeting. Parker’s amendment passed.

The altar was again the subject of discussion at the next meeting; no motion was made and the meeting adjourned. In early January 1851 a meeting was called “to consider farther the question of at once erecting the stone altar” which again sparked “a long and informal discussion.” Fitch Edward Oliver’s motion “That we do concur with the views of the Rector, and are of opinion that the Stone Altar should be immediately erected in this building” sparked more discussion; the motion was rejected.

Finally, in mid-February, Croswell called the Vestry together and offered a resolution that was adopted without debate: “That on the Rector’s request the Wardens & Vestry consent that the question of the erection of the stone altar be left entirely to his discretion.”

As part of the Advent 175 restoration efforts, the cross above the stone altar will be re-gilded thanks to a gift to the Conservation Fund. Also in need of regilding are the lettering on the altar and on the carved wooden saints, presenting another opportunity for a gift to the Conservation Fund.

October 6, 2019

Sometimes a few hours spent in the archives leads to stories one never could have imagined. Such is this week’s installment, which began with the aim of focusing on Robert Turner Walker, but changed direction.

Robert Turner Walker (1867-1931), an MIT-trained architect and faithful parishioner, instituted the Order of St Vincent in the parish. As head of the St Vincent Guild, he trained servers and made assignments for each liturgy, a daunting task that could involve more than 20 servers for three Sunday Masses. A meticulous record-keeper, he recorded the names of 48 members of the Guild and 35 candidates in a log book that covers 1909 to 1913.

Turner also served as the Guild’s treasurer for many years, dutifully recording expenses: 50 postcards for a penny each; St Vincent pins for $2.75; train fare for meetings. Income came from members’ dues, mite boxes, and minstrel shows, which were held intermittently from 1897 to 1915. During this time, the shows were one of the most significant sources of income, yielding as much as $96.50 for one show held in May 1908.

A separate page lists “Memorial Censer Fund”; donations range from $35 (for an incense boat) to several of $1. The censer referred to is the silver thurible which is used at special liturgies from time to time. A close examination of the thurible shows a faint inscription: Cecil Moreton Barlow. The boat carries the personal colophon of Robert Turner Walker, who designed it. The set is in fact a memorial to a young member of the Guild of St Vincent.

Who was this Cecil Barlow? He was born in 1890, lived in Somerville, and served regularly at the altar. However a stark notation by his name on the membership roll states in uppercase letters, “Died.” The City of Boston death certificate tells the story: in 1912, he was employed as a “meter tester,” and on August 7 was killed by an “accidental shock of electricity.” Guild funds were used for a “Cross of Asters in Memoriam Cecil M. Barlow” at his funeral. His gravestone at Woodlawn Cemetery is an elaborately carved Celtic cross.

Both Robert Turner Walker and Cecil Moreton Barlow rest from their labors now, and through faith have left us with treasures seen and unseen: a gleaming thurible whence “prayers arise like incense” and fragile record books containing infinite stories. In the words of St. John, “if every one of them were written down, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

September 29, 2019

William Croswell (1844-1851)

The first rector of the Church of the Advent, William Croswell (1804-1851), previously served as Minister of Christ Church (Old North). When he arrived in Boston in 1829, he was not yet 25 years old, still in Deacon’s orders, unmarried. He is described as “poet, scholar, and keen observer of life and things about him, …modest and untiring as a priest and pastor, characterized by Phillips Brooks as ‘a man of most attractive character and beautiful purity of life … one of the most interesting men who have ever filled Episcopal pulpits in Boston.’”(Mary Kent Davey Babcock, “William Croswell and Christ Church Boston,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 1933).*

After 11 years at Christ Church, Croswell preached his farewell sermon on July 5, 1840; he had accepted a position at St Peter’s in Auburn, New York. Before leaving Boston, however, he married Miss Amanda Mary Tarbell (1808-1880), who had been organist at Christ Church; the officiant was Alexander Viets Griswold, Fifth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States and Bishop of the Eastern Diocese, which included all of New England with the exception of Connecticut. Within four years, they would return to Boston.

Croswell was a prolific author; during his lifetime, he composed nearly 35 sonnets and seventy poems. We present today two that are especially appropriate: “Michael” and an excerpt from “Baptism.”

*Also from Babcock:…another biographer with equal truthfulness wrote, “Croswell’s poetry was the crowning expression of a consecrated life,” and one critic likened his poems to “beautiful carvings, the string courses, corbels, pendants, brackets, niches and tabernacle work of a Christian cathedral, adorning and strengthening the solid fabric, while placing the ornamental in due subordination to the useful.”

September 22, 2019

Throughout his 27-year rectorate, William Harman van Allen repeatedly emphasized both the American and the Catholic nature of the Church of the Advent, all the while connecting the Advent's unique personality with the Book of Common Prayer. From an informational brochure, 1913.

September 15, 2019

John Hubbard Sturgis (1834-1888) is remembered as the architect of our church building. But his memory lives on in more than the structure and its shape. Sturgis himself gave a window in the east end of the Lady Chapel in memory of his young daughter, Julia Overing Sturgis (1859-1861). He also designed the lower portion of the reredos at the High Altar (1883). In 1891, his son-in-law, Francis W. Hunnewell (1838-1917), donated funds for the West Porch and Gallery in Sturgis’s memory. His widow, Frances Anne (Codman) Sturgis (1847-1910), honored him with three lancets in the South Transept (1888). These windows portray the twelve Apostles, each shown with his symbol; they carry the words of the Creed on scrolls. She also made a gift of the Nativity/Epiphany window in the West End of the North Aisle in memory of their daughter, Gertrude Gouverneur (Sturgis) Hunnewell (1862-1890), wife of Francis Hunnewell. They lived at 203 Beacon Street (278 Clarendon), a brownstone designed for Hunnewell by Sturgis’s partner Charles Brigham and completed in 1870. Gertrude was just 28 years old when she died of “premature labor,” her system compromised by Bright’s disease.

The “Misses Sturgis,” that is, the daughters of John and Frances – Frances Anne Codman Sturgis, Mabel Russell Sturgis, Alice Maud Russell Sturgis, and Evelyn Russell Sturgis — made two musically oriented gifts in 1912: The organ console, in memory of their brother, Charles Russell Sturgis (1871-1909), who died of a blood infection, and the choir stalls, in memory of their parents. From Betty Hughes Morris’s 1995 history: “The choir stalls were designed by Charles Coveney, a splendid artist and architect and a member of the Advent Corporation…. The design of the choir stalls illustrates ‘Creation Blessing the Ever Blessed Trinity,’ and features verses from the canticle Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, ‘Oh, all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord’” (see pages 47-48 in the Book of Common Prayer for the text of the canticle). When the opportunity arises, take a look at the endearing selection of flora and fauna that grace the choir stalls.

September 8, 2019

In 1874, John Hubbard Sturgis was unanimously chosen as architect of the Church of the Advent’s new building to be erected on the corner of Mount Vernon and Brimmer Streets. A devoted parishioner of the Advent, he married Frances Ann Codman (1837-1910), whose family were also members of the Parish — she was the first cousin of Robert Codman (1823-1901), who gave the bells in memory of his wife, Catherine E. Codman Hurd (1829-1892).  Sturgis was a member of the Corporation from 1874 until his death in 1888.

An early drawing of the Church of the Advent by Brigham & Sturgis.

Although his name may not be as familiar as that of other architects of the period — Ralph Adams Cram, H. H. Richardson — he was a leading architect of the 19th century. Pinebank, the house he designed for fellow Corporation member Edward Perkins in 1870, was “impressive, built of polychrome brick and stone, beautifully situated on a small knoll jutting into Jamaica Pond.” It was the first building in the United States to be built using ornamental terra-cotta. Sturgis designed the original Museum of Fine Arts, on the site where the Copley Plaza now stands. “The museum building was a tour de force of Ruskinian gothic clothed in terra-cotta. The materials … were unusual, and the connotation of the style evoked both Ruskin and the Victoria and Albert Museum. From his art student days in London to the end of his life John Hubbard Sturgis was spiritually at home in England, and for the Anglophiles who conducted the affairs of the Parish of the Advent, he was a perfect choice to fashion their new Anglo-Catholic building.” (A History of the Church of the Advent by Betty Hughes Morris, 1995)

September 1, 2019

The "Fond du Lac Circus" - November 8, 1900. Seated: The Rt. Rev. Isaac Lea Nicholson, Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee; the Rt. Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton, Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac; the Rt. Rev. Charles P. Anderson, Episcopal Bishop Coadjutor of Chicago. Standing: the Rt. Rev. Anthony Kozłowski of the Polish National Catholic Church; the Rt. Rev. G. M. Williams, Episcopal Bishop of Marquette; the Rt. Rev. Reginald Weller; the Rt. Rev. Joseph M. Francis, Episcopal Bishop of Indianapolis, the Rt. Rev. William E. McLaren, Episcopal Bishop of Chicago; the Rt. Rev. Arthur L. Williams, Episcopal Bishop Coadjutor of Nebraska; St. John Kochurov, Russian Orthodox protomartyr of the Bolshevik Revolution; St. Sebastian (Dabovich); St. Bishop Tikhon (Bellavin) of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.

Charles Chapman Grafton (1830-1912) is commemorated in the calendar on August 30. He was a member of the Church of the Advent when he was confirmed in 1851 and was greatly influenced by the Rev. William Croswell (1804-1851), the first rector. Grafton graduated from Harvard Law School in 1853 but felt called to ordained ministry and was priested in 1858. After the Civil War, he went to Britain and while there was a co-founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE). He returned to the United States in 1872 and became fourth rector of the Advent (1872-1888).

He invited the Russian Orthodox bishop Tikhon and the Old Catholic Bishop Anthony Kozlowski to participate in the ordination of Reginald Heller, his eventual successor as bishop co-adjutor, in 1900. The service stirred up a furor across the country with the publication of this photograph (called derisively “The Fond du Lac Circus”) showing all eight Episcopal bishops and the two visiting bishops in cope and mitre.

Even after leaving Boston, Bishop Grafton made local headlines. From the Boston Globe, April 18, 1891:

"Too High For Them. - Opposition to Bishop of Fond du Lac. - His People in Wisconsin Object to His Burning Incense. - Grafton was Once a Well-Known Boston Clergyman."

The Church of the Advent has a marble bust of Bishop Grafton. Can you find it?

August 25, 2019

Engraving showing a view of the peal of bells in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, 1878. Image from Tales from the Archive.
In 1916, the Rev. William Harman van Allen (rector, 1902-1929) announced "a program of unusual interest...Arthur H. Nichols, the well-known authority on matters relating to church bells, will be present with members of his famous band of ringers, and Mrs. Arthur A. Shurcliff, who has for many years made a thorough study of the subject, and who is herself a bell-ringer of note, is to speak about bells and bellringing..."
Perhaps in his talk, Mr. Nichols recited some of the memorable rhymes about bells, included in A History of the Church of the Advent (Betty Hughes Morris, 1995):
To call the folk to church in time, WE CHIME.
When joy and pleasure are on the wing, WE RING.
When the body parts the soul, WE TOLL.
Or this medieval warning:
When I ring God's prayses sing.
When I toule -- Pray, heart and soule.

August 18, 2019

From The Boston Globe of December 31, 1890: "A person strolling by the Church of the Advent would notice that great changes are being made in the edifice. The vacant lot at the corner of Brimmer and Mt. Vernon sts., which for several years has been filled with building stones, and has served as a playground for boys in the neighborhood, is being filled by a beautiful addition to the church edifice." A feature of the addition was the bell tower, the Globe reported, "about 30 feet of which is to built by the widow, sons, and daughters of the late Horatio Bigelow [1814-1888], who was for a long tie a prominent member of the parish of the Advent." Rising an impressive 172 feet to the top of the cross, the bell tower contains a heavy oak frame to support the eight bells--the heaviest, the tenor, weighs more than a ton. The Church of the Advent - Boston Guidebook (1975) declares "This is a true bell tower, which houses one of the few peals of change-ringing bells in the United States."

August 11, 2019

The bells in the Church of the Advent tower made news at their installation and blessing in October 1900, and again just over six months later, when this piece appeared in The Boston Globe, May 14, 1901:

"Complain of the Bells - Neighbors of the Church of the Advent Say They Are Annoyed by Their Ringing
"A formal petition against the ringing of the bells in the tower of the church of the Advent, corner of Brimmer and Mt. Vernon sts., is being circulated in the neighborhood. The bells are eight in number. The remonstrants claim that they are hung too low, and the the sound strikes the sides of the houses, with a disagreeable effect on sensitive nerves..."

Who knows what behind-the-scenes negotiations took place that resulted in this announcement in the Globe of February 12, 1902:

"Bells of the Advent - They Will be Heard Again As a Full Peal; Had Ceased to Ring, With One Exception, Because of Protest
"That the music of bells does not affect all persons alike has been demonstrated by the brief career of the chimes that were hung in the belfry of the church of the Advent a little more than a year ago. For a short time these bells rang out their sounds with a vigor that was startling to ears untrained to the clamor of church chimes. Then, suddenly, the bells ceased to ring, all save one, whose clear tones continued to call the congregation to divine worship on Sunday mornings."

Isaac P. Griffies lived at 35 Mt. Vernon Street.

The piece describes how 20 minutes before the Sunday service, "the bells sent forth on the quiet air the notes of the stirring hymn, 'The Church has One Foundation [sic].' The tune is a familiar one to Episcopalians. Its brisk measure sounded mellow and clear as the bells pealed its cadence." Additional hymns followed: "Oft is Danger, Oft is Woe," and "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus" in the morning; "Lead, Kindly Light" and "Onward, Christian Soldiers" were among the evening's offerings.
For Easter 1902 (March 30), The Globe reported that the bells will ring out a program that Isaac P. Griffies (or Griffiths), Sexton and Chime Ringer of the Advent, "has prepared with considerable care."

The bell brouhaha took place during the rectorship of the Rev. William Barroll Frisby (1888-1902); sadly the same bells soon would toll at his funeral on June 10, 1902.

August 4, 2019

An article in the Boston Globe of October 8, 1900, is headlined "Blessing of the Chimes - Special Services at the Church of the Advent, Brimmer Street - Names of the Bells."
The piece continues, "Special services were held yesterday morning at the Church of the Advent, Brimmer St., in connection with the blessing of a set of chimes of eight bells. The service took place at 10.15, in order to permit the bells to be pealed, not chimed, in time for the regular service at 10.30. The service of the blessing was very short, conducted by Fr. W. B. Frisby, consisting of the Lord's prayer, versicles and responses, the 150th psalm, and a prayer.
This was followed by the pealing by the Old Colony guild of bell ringers, represented by Henry Astor, master, with Miss Margaret Nichols, Dr. Nichols, Wm. Shipp, Joseph Mallian, Frank Staples, Frank Skinner, and S. F. Baldwin.
Following the blessing of the bells, the vested choir of 40 male voices sang Havergal's 'Raised Between Earth and Heaven.'
The bells are inscribed as follows:
No. 1 - "Glory be to God on High; on Earth Peace, Goodwill to men."
No. 2 - "We Praise Thee."
No. 3 - "We Bless Thee."
No. 4 - "We Worship Thee."
No. 5 - "We Glorify Thee."
No. 6 - "We Give Thanks to Thee."
No. 7 - "Day by Day We Magnify Thee."
No. 8 - "Lift Up Your Hearts"
Following this service, but in connection with the blessing of the bells, was the service of holy eucharist in C. by Tours. The celebrant was Fr. Joseph W. Hill of Trinity church, New York. Fr. Frisby was the preacher."
The bells were given in memory of Catherine Codman (1829-1892) by Robert Codman (1823-1901), who died just a few months later. Among his bequests was $7,000 given to the Church of the Advent — a generous gift, equivalent to about $210,000 today. Codman was one of the young men who founded of the Church of the Advent, being the 21-year-old lawyer who issued the warrant calling for "a legal meeting for the purposes of organization." That meeting was held September 14, 1844. He was a member of the Corporation from 1844 to 1854 and 1873 to 1901, twice served on the Vestry  (1879-1884 and 1886-1889), was added to the building committee for the Brimmer Street church (1877) and was junior warden (1891-1892) senior warden from 1893 until his death in 1901. Two of his sons entered holy orders: Archibald (1862-1891) and Robert (1859-1915).

July 28, 2019

August 21, 1902: The successful ringers. Miss Margaret Nichols, front; her father, Dr. Arthur H. NIchols, right rear. From Lively Days: Some Memories of Margaret Homer Shurcliff.

"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.

Jonathan Daniels and other campers at Camp Takodah, undated
Jonathan Daniels and other campers at Camp Takodah, undated

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

Ann Maria Mitchell's piece in The Living Church.

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:

The Rev'd William Harman Van Allen.
Once again, a word of warning about neglecting religious duties during the summer. All the Commandments of God, the Fourth included, hold all through the year; and we are as much bound in August as in Lent to be in the Lord's House, at the Lord's Service on the Lord's Day. Do not choose for your vacation a place where there is no church, nor say, with the little girl, "Good-bye, God, we're going into the country"! But in hot weather you are free to come to an early service, if you prefer, and then go into the country or down to the beach later, so long as you remember that Sunday is to be hallowed, wherever you are. Remember, too, to keep up your church pledges, even though out of town: the expenses of the Parish go on always. And, whether at home or traveling, pray daily for the blessed Advent, for its clergy, and for all your brethren of the Household of Faith, that we may walk worthy of our vocation and be kept from all things that may hurt us.

June 23, 2019

On June 18, 1911, the first Sunday after Trinity, the Advent held a Solemn High Eucharist to mark the upcoming coronation of George V. The rector, William Harman van Allen, wrote, "It is a joy this morning to unite ourselves with our brethren of the British Empire in their solemn national festival of the King's Coronation. Republicans as we are, loving our own political institution, we recognize under the British flag the same ideals of freedom and order which our fathers cherished; and we are conscious of a spiritual and intellectual unity with all who speak the English tongue and guard the common traditions. Wherefore we do no dishonour to the Great Republic when we say from full hearts, 'God save King George.'"

June 16, 2019

The term Anglo-Catholic, commonly used to describe the Church of the Advent and popularly used to denote the "smells and bells" style of worship, is said to have come into use circa 1830-1840. However, in the Advent's earliest histories, the phrase is not used. The Reverend William Harman van Allen (rector, 1902-1929) regularly and emphatically identified the church as American Catholic. The description below, or a variation of it, appeared frequently in various printed materials.
Descriptive brochure, Summer 1918

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.

June 9, 2019

Communicants Roll, 1879.
The Parish Profile published on June 4, 2019, describes the length of parishioners’ commutes — ranging from 20 minutes to 90 minutes or more. While we cannot provide the amount of time parishioners spent getting to church in the late nineteenth century, it is clear from the available data that the Church of the Advent has long attracted people from near and far, as shown by their places of residence recorded in the  Communicants Roll, 1879: Auburndale, Belmont, Boston including South Boston, East Boston, Brookline, Cambridge including Cambridgeport, Charlestown, Chelsea, Canton, Dorchester including Fields Corner, Everett, Jamaica Plain, Revere, Roxbury, Rutland, Somerville including West Somerville, Watertown, Wellesley including Wellesley Hills, Winthrop.
Communicants Roll, 1879.

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 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, 2019

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.

May 26, 2019 – Memorial Day Weekend

The holiday we know as Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day in the years following the Civil War when an organization of Union veterans -- the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) -- designated a day in late May as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers, as we have done today on the plaque honoring Martha Sever outside the library.

Martha Sever (1839-1865) was baptized at the Advent by the Rt. Rev. Horatio Southgate (rector, 1851-1858) on March 8, 1855, when she was 16 years old. Her father had died a month earlier. Southgate noted that Martha was "of sufficient age to answer for herself."

During the Civil War, Martha was a nurse serving at Beverly, New Jersey, where she died of typhoid fever, age 25, in 1864. Before departing for New Jersey, she wrote her will: "Nov. 6, 1859. I give to the Church of the Advent for the building of a new church, ten shares in the Western Road, the interest to be used for the poor of the Parish till the time of the building of the new church. All this is provided it shall remain a free church; if not, one half shall be given to the Church Home for Orphans and the other half for a free bed (or beds) in the Massachusetts General Hospital."

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:

The plaque honoring Martha Sever with Memorial Day flowers.
To the glory of God and in memory of Martha Sever,
who died in the service of her Lord and country,
at Beverly Hospital, New Jersey, Nov. 13, 1864, aged 25 years.
This porch was built by money bequeathed by her, a member of this parish,
who had the building of a new church much at heart.

May 19, 2019

Article from the Boston Globe, April 6,  1885 (Easter Sunday)

The earliest known photograph of the High Altar, some time before 1890, when the present reredos was installed. Photo from Advent Archives.
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

When parking was easy: circa 1930.
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.

April 28, 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.

Gave Sham Gems for Chalice

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.


April 21, 2019 – Easter

The Sacrament House was given by Mrs. and Mrs. Walter Gaskill in 1933, in memory of “their little daughter Ruth.” The rector, The Rev’d Julian D. Hamlin, noted, “You will all be happy, I know, to realize that the Centenary [of the Oxford Movement] is being marked in this Parish by the addition of this beautiful Memorial to the Church.”
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.

April 14, 2019 – Palm Sunday

The Rev. Julian Hamlin gave an address on "The Responsibility of the Community" at the Sixth Catholic Conference of the Episcopal Church in 1933. Image: Project Canterbury.

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.

Sunday Mass, circa 1930.
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

Surpliced choristers, with choirmaster.
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.”

March 24, 2019

The first home of the Church of the Advent: an "upper room" in this building on Merrimac Street.
“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).

March 17, 2019

Announcement of the opening of the Brimmer Street church
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 10, 2019

“…There is probably no single parish in our whole country which has exerted a greater influence upon other parts of the church in raising the standard of churchmanship; nor one which has shared or does now share more largely in the sympathies and affections of bishops, clergy and laity. For these reasons I am especially anxious that we shall be loyal and true, as well as to our own Diocese as to the church at large; that the American Book of Common Prayer shall be our standard; that all our services shall be conducted in accordance with the spirit of this standard, and the simplest-hearted churchman would understand its directions in the most distant Parish of the West; and thus that our influence may not be lost, and that our example may be everywhere felt, and everywhere respected and safely followed.” — “A Salutatory Sermon,” First Sunday in Advent, 1859. The Rev. James A. Bolles, DD, Rector, Church of the Advent, 1859-1870

March 3, 2019

The original address for the Advent’s web site was 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.