A History Minute
(#8 in a series)
Why does Grace Church celebrate St. Andrew's Day as our anniversary/birthday? On St. Andrew's Day in 1873, the first service was held in our present stone church; 14 years later, again on St. Andrew's Day, Grace Church was consecrated in 1887 by Bishop Paddock...consecration required that the mortgage had been paid off. Thus a tradition became established in relation to the church building. There is no record from the days prior to the construction of the stone church that any anniversaries were celebrated (Grace's first service was held on the rented second floor of Union Hall, May 20, 1855). On Sunday we have been in our stone church for 134 years, and have been a parish for 152 years.
Who was St. Andrew? We think of Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland, yet he is also Patron Saint of Russia, Greece, Romania, and a number of European cities including Kiev, Ukraine...as well as the Patron Saint of fishermen, singers (and sore throats), unmarried women, and missionaries. Andrew, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, was the brother of Simon Peter (St. Peter). Both brothers were among Jesus' apostles...although Andrew was the first to leave his occupation in order to follow Jesus. Andrew brought to Jesus' attention the loaves and fishes which Jesus used to feed the crowd. After Jesus' death, Andrew continued his missionary work...by legend in Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, and Greece. About 60 AD Andrew was crucified at Patras, Greece, on an "X"-shaped cross (saltire). The Romans found that a cross was less likely to fall over if they attached a person to two logs which had been fastened in an "X"-shape, digging two holes in the ground instead of a single hole. Legend has it that Andrew (not nailed, but bound to the cross, in order to prolong the suffering) was able to preach from his cross for two days before expiring. "Andrew" appears as a name in several languages: French="Andre"; Russian="Andrei"; German="Andreas"; Scandinavian languages="Anders"; Spanish="Andres"; as well as the Italian="Andrea". The Scots flag and the flag of the Russian Navy both bear the "Cross of St. Andrew". Andrew never visited Scotland but a Medieval pope asked that, in recognition of St. Andrew's missionary outreach, some of his relics be taken from Amalfi and "spread to the ends of the earth" thus some relics were carried to Scotland (to the town now called "St. Andrews"). In Grace Church, Revs. George Shinn and Tom Lehman both emphasized community service and outreach...and liked to celebrate St. Andrews Day.
Post Script: St. Andrew's Day in 1873 coincided with the First Sunday in Advent, ie. the beginning of the church year. There is no written record regarding which of these two events in the church year was uppermost in the minds of folks when our stone church opened in 1873, yet it was the connection with St. Andrew that was picked up in later years. Those of Scottish descent within our parish have appreciated the opportunity to celebrate. In the next "History Minute" we will return to the 31 years of The Rev. George Shinn within Grace Church, and his family tragedies.
Don Kennedy, Parish Historian