History Minute 5

A History Minute
(#5 in a series)

After the departure of its second rector, Grace Church languished without a permanent priest for almost eighteen months. The Vestry invited five priests to preach a sermon, yet none was inspiring; Vestry members visited the churches of other prospects to no avail. A priest from Montreal with a doctor of divinity degree was called to be the third rector; he asked for a higher salary, was offered the amount he requested, then he declined the offer. Three more persons were checked out, without result. Meanwhile, pickup teams of parishioners covered the weekly services, with the Wardens sometimes reading Morning Prayer. Nonetheless, in October, 1870, Grace purchased a large plot of land extending from Church St. to Vernon St. in order to have a site for our present stone church; a brand new road was cut through and named "Eldredge Street"; the excess house lots were sold off by the Vestry (Carole Carter's home is on one of these lots). Strong lay leadership, in part due to clergy turnover, was a hallmark of Grace Church. (Why buy land...why not build on the large lawn of the Grace Church's existing wooden chapel? 

1. The trains near Grace's chapel on Washington St. were noisy and smoky; 
2. the Baptists built a church (now the site of Clay Nissan) within 35 yards of Grace's chapel; and 
3. the neighborhood was beginning to build up toward Farlow Hill).  

However Henry Christian Mayer, a 25-year old deacon in Brooklyn, NY accepted the call as our third rector, and was ordained in October at Grace by Bishop Stevens of Pennsylvania with Phillips Brooks preaching the sermon. Thus "Harry" Mayer began to serve Grace Church in November, 1870. Given the large number of experienced priests who had been checked out, why offer the job to a twenty-five year old who was not yet a priest? We do not know the answer; however, what we do know is that Mayer's wife was the daughter of Bishop Stevens (who was the brother of our "Founding Godmother", Mrs. Perry), and that Mayer's mother was Rev. Greene's sister-in-law. The Mayers had a child while at Grace; then the couple left in delicate health after less than two years at Grace Church... the young mother died soon after. 

The Town of Newton swelled to 12,825 residents; the Natchez beat the Robert E. Lee in a steamboat race;  Boston's Museum of Fine Arts opened, as did the world's first boardwalk...in Atlantic City. With the departure of the Mayers, the Vestry called Grace's first "high church" rector... learn about the mismatch in the next History Minute!  

Don Kennedy, Parish Historian