History Minute 11

A History Minute
(#11 in a series)

Related to our recent articles on Rev. George W. Shinn at Grace from 1875 to 1906, Libby Gerlach asked a question: is Larry Shinn, the current President of Berea College in Kentucky, related to Grace Church's Rev. Shinn of a century ago? Libby's query seemed all-the-more-interesting because of the unusual nature of Berea College: a school for children of the poor, which charges no tuition! All Berea students perform major work study, serving as the secretaries, library and cafeteria personnel, cleaning service, buildings and grounds department, equipment operators, and security service for the college...supervised by a bare minimum of college employees. Further, students engage in heavy-duty community service, and fund-raising for their college. Berea College is exactly what George Shinn would have invented were he alive today...a do-it-yourself bootstraps college for poor kids!!! Thus we contacted President Shinn (and his brother, who is the family historian). Yes, they are related to Grace Church's Rev. Shinn! The modern day Shinns had heard of their clergy-ancestor, yet knew no details of the life of Rev. George Shinn. President Shinn writes: "...What a delight it was to read the brief biography of George W. Shinn. I am proud to call him a relative! You are correct that Rev. Shinn was a man both ahead of his time and a man of his time. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story. Cordially, Larry D. Shinn". Libby, thanks for the "heads up"!

After a year of fill-in preachers (following Rev. Shinn), the Grace Vestry selected Dr. Laurens MacLure, a Rector in Oakmont, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) as Grace's Rector #6. Rev. MacLure served Grace Church from 1907 to 1929...thus he was known by Elizabeth and Martha Bell who first came to Grace Church with their parents in 1921 because their older brother Bill had friends in Grace Church's Boy Scout Troop. It has been reported that in 1908 electricity was brought to our gas-lit church, yet the full story is more complex. In the final years of Rev. Shinn's leadership, the Vestry began to discuss whether electric lighting would be beneficial at Grace. Rector Shinn did not request electric lights, and a majority of the Vestry believed that other matters were more pressing...as the church was used primarily during daylight hours. No one was talking about electrical outlets for the walls, only electric lighting. Discussion continued among the Vestry members, with no decision to take action. Then in 1907, the new rector, Dr. MacLure, asked for electric lighting in the sanctuary worship-space only. More discussion but still no action through spring, 1908. Yet by fall, electric lighting had been installed in the sanctuary. However electricity does not appear as an item in the budget...was never voted, nor is it listed as an expense in the paid bills of the church! The oral history which has been passed down is that one member of the Vestry's Committee on Church Property, frustrated with the endless debate, personally arranged for an electrician in June to perform the work during the summertime. This ardent advocate of electric lighting himself paid the electrician's bill! The five suspects are Wardens John Shapleigh and Edward Cutler, and Vestrymen J. Sellman, Welles Holmes, and William Jones. Thus, electric lights were a fait accompli when worship resumed in September...and the Vestry returned to their other ongoing debate: where to locate a telephone! Wall sockets, and electric lights in the remainder of the church, were added years later. Learn in the next History Minute how the "Spanish Flu" at the conclusion of World War I caused a change in Grace Church's worship procedure which still is evident in 2007!   

Don Kennedy, 
Parish Historian