History Minute 21

A History Minute
(#21 in a series)

In 1955, the celebration of Grace Church's centennial included a banquet attended by the mayor at Newton High School (Newton South had not yet been built). In honor of Grace's 100 years as a parish, the interior of the sanctuarywas redecorated, and the "Parish House" wasexpanded (added werethe eastern-third of the Small Hall, the Copy Room, and Church Service League closet). Grace began to support St. Margaret's Church in Brighton as a missionary project,byproviding Grace'sCurate (Assistant)as St. Margaret's only clergy. Blanche Church (listed, of course, as "Mrs. Elliott Church") became the first female elected by Grace to any office: as a delegate to the Diocesan Convention. In February, 1956 Eliot Congregational Church burned flat due to an electrical fire; Eliot worshipped at Grace through June, and Grace contributed $2,400 to Eliot's re-building fund.Grace's Vestry "...with sober reflection and mindful of the disaster [at Eliot] instituted a study of the wiring and heating at Grace"...and greatly increased our insurance.The following year, two of Grace's three furnaces were converted from coal to gas; and in 1958, the last furnace was converted (a gift of the senior warden)...permanently ridding Grace of its coal fires. Grace continued to celebrate Reformation Sunday in October, joining each year with Eliot Church and Newton Methodist Church, the three congregations which shared a summerVacation Bible School for children. The newspapers were reporting Southern bus boycotts and sit-ins. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite; the United States countered with the first submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles. 

The clergy of Newton were aware of the societal changes taking place, thus a "Religious Census of Newton" was undertaken to determine the affiliations of Newton residents. Grace Church contributed 75 callers to the door-to-door canvass of over 20,000 Newton households.The religious preference expressed by 40% of the households was Roman Catholic; 36%identified their household as Protestant; 20% Jewish; 2% "other religions"; and 2% responded"no preference".The percentages expressed in Newton Corner roughly mirrored the city-wide tally. "The subsequent attempt of churchesto visit and to enlist the 'no preference' families, and ofthe far greater number of religiously-inactivehouseholds, was not successful. Our parish gained only one new family by this process...[the churches and synagogues learned] that the door-to-door form of evangelism is not effective at the present time" wrote Rev. Woodroofe. Meanwhile, Grace awaited the results of a Diocesan Survey of all Episcopal parishes; what would the Diocese have to say about the future prospects for Grace Church?

In spring 1959, Grace began anadult study group, a tradition now in its 49th year...currently meeting at 10 AM in the Small Hall. In June, Rev. Woodroofe resigned after 14 years "of happy and faithful service" at Grace,to accept a position as Rector of St. Luke's Church in Minneapolis. ThusGrace awaited its new Rector: Rev. Thomas Lehman, minister of a parish on Martha's Vineyard who was to arrive in November. In a musical changing-of-the-guard, the organist-choirmaster resigned, and was replaced early in the fall by Bradford Wright, who would remain at Grace in that position for 43 years. Integrated schools opened in Little Rock; rebels led by Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista government in Cuba; Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states; "Climb Every Mountain"; "Everything's Comin' Up Roses"; Congress investigated rigged TV quiz shows. How would Rev. Lehman and Grace Church respond to the Diocesan Survey,  and to the transitions in American society in the 1960's and '70's?  Learn about these changesin the next "History Minute".
Don Kennedy, 
Parish Historian