The history of Grace Church is described in the posts below. The entries are in reverse chronological order, with the earliest at the bottom of the list.
We owe Don Kennedy a huge debt of gratitude for collecting and curating the information below.
Grace Church mystery... Perhaps you have noticed the "Missing Rector"
sign on the passageway into the Sanctuary. On Sunday, November 11, a
Rector who has not been seen in over 80 years, will be seen at the Grace
Discussion Group on our 157th "birthday". The first service in our 1873
stone church, and the consecration of the building fourteen years
later, both occurred on St. Andrew's Day, thus it has become traditional
to celebrate this as our birthday. As St. Andrew, the fisherman who was
the first to join Jesus, is the patron saint of Scotland, the bagpipes
have been a part of the celebration since 1969. Revealing the photograph
of this rector on our birthday is especially appropriate, as it was
during his tenure the parish purchased the land to build our stone
church. Now, the mystery...
Grace has no known photo of the 1870's rector, Henry Christian Mayer,
Jr. Thus Ken Carpenter and Bruce MacDonald and others long ago tried to
locate photos from Kenyon and Harvard, from which Mayer had earned
degrees. No luck.
...We located and hung photos of others, making Rev. "Harry" Mayer
the only “missing rector”. Again tried Harvard and Kenyon, both their
Alumni Office and their Archives. No photos.
...Figured out Mayer’s total career: assistant in St. Ann’s in the
Heights, Brooklyn, NY; followed by Grace Church, Newton Corner, MA; at a
mission in Puerto Rico; Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian,
Mississippi where Mayer opened a “female seminary”; and mission work as
an assistant in the Anglican Cathedral in Mexico City.
...Letters and emails to Brooklyn and the Diocese of NY turned up no
photos: the parish long ago had merged with another church, and no
records still exist of St. Ann’s Church, Brooklyn Heights. The mission
in Puerto Rico no longer exists. Iglesia Episcopal Puertorriqueria has
no photos, and only scant diocesan records.
...Modest luck in Pass Christian, MS. Rev. Christopher Colby became a
great correspondent. Yes, they had a written record of Mayer’s dates
and the good work of his “female seminary”. The bad news was that in
August, 1969 Hurricane Camille wiped out many of Trinity’s records… but
only flooded the church building. Worst of all, in August, 2005
Hurricane Katrina did totally flatten the church building and most
remaining records were lost. They now have moved into their new church
building, 56 months after being wiped out. No old photos remain.
...At the Anglican cathedral in Mexico City, the (very pleasant)
organist is also the archivist. They have kept photos of some former
Deans of the cathedral but no assistants or other staff. No photo of
...Mrs. Mayer was the former Nina Coppee Stevens, daughter of Bishop
William Bacon Stevens, thus we tried the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Yes,
they have many photos of the bishop, including some with Mrs. Stevens;
no photos including Mayer in any Stevens family groupings.
...Discovered about 2006 on the internet that a “Henry Christian
Mayer IV” had died in 1991, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1945.
Through the Alumni Office, tried to locate “Harry’s” surviving family
members. All addresses which Princeton had were out-of-date. No luck.
...When Miriam departed for EDS, we were aware that in the eaves of
her office were boxes of dusty records. One box of 1920’s-30’s
financial records contained a photo of Mayer. He had never left, hiding
unseen for 75+ years!
Don Kennedy, Parish Historian
Last week we noted that for Mothers' Day, May 13, Barbara Stock is donating altar flowers in honor of the many years of social action projects accomplished by Grace Church women of the Church Service League...also called "the Tuesday Morning Group". As we began to discover last week, the history of the Church Service League offers some surprises.
The Grace Yearbook for 1918-19 described the "Social Service Department (civic work)" of Grace Church including: Church Welfare Organizations, the Missionary Department, Nation & World, Girls Friendly Society, Choir Helpers, Mothers' Club, Women's Choir, and Church Periodical Club (ordered magazine subscriptions for overseas missionaries, and missionaries to the Indians in the Western U.S.). In 1919, a year after the end of WWI, Bishop William Lawrence asked that all parishes within the diocese reorganize their outreach efforts into chapters of a new movement within the national church: the "Church Service League". Thus, by 1920, the "Ladies Missionary Society" had evolved into the new "Grace Church Chapter of the Church Service League", the business meetings of which were changed to the first Tuesday morning of each month. From 1855 to 1921, the women had saved almost $50,000 (deposited in the Endowment) "the interest of which will be used to give missionaries on furlough the sort of rest and recreation which they most need". From the 1920's until the 1960's, some of the activities were undertaken in cooperation with the "Newton Federation of Women's Church Activities", which had six member churches: Eliot Church (Congregational); Grace Church (Episcopal); Immanuel Church (Baptist...located across from Eliot, now the Newton Corner Worship Center); Channing Church (Unitarian...now in West Newton); Methodist Church (in Auburndale); and North Congregational. This group of churches often was referred to as "The Federation".
By the 1930's, Grace's "Church Service League" had increased to well over 100 active members. The (all-female) "Day Group" of the Church Service League met on Tuesdays, with its work including sewing (for missionaries plus clothing for the rector's wife and daughters), surgical dressings for hospitals, a Work Room Luncheon, Missionary Department (had speakers and distributed funds), Church Home Society, United Thank Offering (ecumenical with The Federation), Church Periodical Club, Choir Mothers, and College Secretary (church newsletters for Grace's young adults away at college). The "Evening Group" of the Church Service League did sewing, knitting, and tray painting; the Evening Group also included men, who helped the women with hospitality (visiting and delivering altar flowers to shut-ins), as well as arranging for a series of speakers, and organizing committees for the annual Church Fair. On the third Wednesday afternoon of the month, the Day and Evening Groups met for a business meeting during which work agendas were planned, "...and to hear of our mission work throughout the world". By the 1950's, CSL names included Mrs. Elliott B. Church, Miss Mabel Riley, and Bernice and Charlie Olton; 25 all-day sewing meetings could attract up to 45 participants. In 1963 the Day Group (18 members) was led by Mary Perkins, and the Evening Group (45 members) by Jean Crosby and Libby Gerlach "...to carry on with the missionary assignments sent to us from the Church's Headquarters at 1 Joy Street". Isabel Coleman was the sole cross-over member of both the CSL Day Group and the new "Monday Morning Group" of women.
By Thanksgiving, 1959, the new rector, Tom Lehman had arrived. Before long, the "Evening Group" of the CSL had morphed into the new "Social Action Committee" of men and women. In May 1960, the Diocese changed the name "Church Service League" to "Episcopal Church Women" (ECW), in response to a request from the Triennial meeting of the women of the diocese. ECW lives on; a recent President was Elizabeth Murray of St. Paul's in Newton. Several parishes, Grace included, continued to use the name "Church Service League". From 1969-2009, Grace's Church Service League was ably led by Ida Ellsbree whose 40 years of leadership were the longest tenure within Grace Church.
"When did our 'Tuesday Morning Group' begin?": in 1855 in Mrs. Perry's parlor. Over the years, these socially-active women have been called the " Ladies Sewing Circle", the "Ladies Missionary Society", and since 1920, the "Church Service League". Their continuing direct descendants are the "Social Action Committee" and the "Women of Grace".
Don Kennedy, Parish Historian
Mothers' Day, May 13, Barbara Stock plans to donate altar flowers in
honor of the many years of outreach work accomplished by the Grace
Church women of the Church Service League (also called "the Tuesday
Morning Group"). This week and next, we will relate some details of
Barbara's area of interest. If we ask "When did the Church Service
League first begin its charitable work?", the story of Grace Church
offers some surprises.
We have a carefully handwritten Constitution establishing a "Ladies
Sewing Circle of Grace Church Newton", adopted on October 10, 1855 by a
group of women meeting "in Mrs. Perry's parlor" on the Watertown-Newton
line, at the corner of Galen and Williams Streets. The date is notable
because "Grace Church" did not yet exist! Yes, a small group of
neighbors had been gathering for several months to worship informally in
the Perry's home, and a Vestry had been chosen three weeks before, yet
there was no rector and no church building (or even a rented space).
For several years, the Ladies Sewing Circle held "Ladies' Sales" of
"useful and fancy articles"; the sales eventually grew into "church
fairs". The monies raised were invested, with the interest donated to
missionaries and to needy parishioners, or other charitable causes
within the community or abroad. By 1875, Rev. George Shinn (Rector #5)
reorganized all non-worship activities into "The Parish Guild" including
an "Altar Guild"; the "Ladies Missionary Society" (the new name for the
"Ladies Sewing Circle"); the "Helping Hand Chapter"; the "Girls
Friendly Society"; and the "Mothers Meeting"...by 1890 there was a
"Choir Guild". For a short time there was an outreach group called "The
Busy Bees". Thus over the years, the names evolved, yet the "Ladies'
Missionary Society" were the direct descendants of Mrs. Perry's 1855
"Ladies Sewing Circle". The Missionary Society's purposes were "To sew
for the poor, and to aid missionaries and their families". Some
recipients served overseas, others were missionaries to Indian tribes in
the American West. The "Helping Hand" group sewed items for the Newton
Cottage Hospital (now Newton-Wellesley Hospital) which was started by
Rev. Shinn and others from Grace Church; many members of Helping Hand
also sewed for the Ladies Missionary Society. Grace yearbooks describe
clothing being shipped in barrels to missionaries in the West and
overseas, containing new clothing sewed by the women, or used clothing
collected, mended, and shipped. A Mrs. Warren reported that
"...overcoats had been given away, also several suits of underwear by
the Needlework Guild". Some of the sewing included making robes for the
In 1873 our present stone church opened, yet included only the
sanctuary...ending at the foyer which leads to the children's swing set
(the drinking fountain area had not yet been added). By 1883, the women
of the church, led by the not-to-be-denied Matilda Linder, sent to the
Vestry a petition asking for the new church to be expanded because
"...you [men] may not realize the extent to which the burdens of the
parish fall upon women". At this point, the church could not be
consecrated because the mortgage had not been paid. What would the
bishop think if the church was enlarged before paying off the mortgage,
thereby further postponing consecration? To the surprise of many, Rev.
Shinn sided with the women! Within weeks, the money was raised to pay
for the addition. One year after the petition, the Chapel (now the Small
Hall and coat rack area) and Parish House (now the Church Office and
entrance area by the driveway) were opened on Christmas Day, 1884. More
of "the work" of which the women spoke, is described next
week...including the further re-naming of the "Ladies' Missionary
Society" to be...
(you guessed it).
Don Kennedy, Parish Historian
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 sanctuary was redecorated, and the "Parish House"
was expanded (added were the 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,by providing
Grace's Curate (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 summer Vacation 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 churches to visit and to enlist the 'no preference' families,
and of the far greater number of religiously-inactive households, 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 an adult 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. Thus Grace 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 changes in the next "History
Three months following the war's end, on Thanksgiving Sunday in
1945, Rev. Robert Woodroofe, Jr. (straight from an Army chaplaincy in
Europe) preached his first sermon at Grace, beginning fourteen years as
Rector #10. In another changing of the guard, Charles Sladen retired
after almost 58 years at Grace Church... this English immigrant had been
tenor soloist from 1887 to 1902,then Choirmaster from 1902-1946. Perhaps
we should not be surprised that at a time the Vestry was writing
"...this year has found the World faltering and confused" that two
consecutive programs of the newly organized Men's Club addressed the
(quite opposite) topics of: "Causes of the English Reformation" and "The
Effects of Atomic Radiation". George Larsen re-started Grace's Boy Scout
Troop which had lapsed for several years. The Red Sox of Ted Williams
and Johnny Pesky cooperated by reaching the World Series for the first
time since 1918...although the Soxlost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the
As America and the Soviet Union
squared off in the Cold War, Rector Woodroofe asked "How long can the
knowledge [of atomic weapons] be kept out of the hands of irresponsible
men?...Has Christianity an answer to the problems that trouble the
world? And if it has, have you and I got hold of it? How can we, who
happen to be out of the main stream of trouble, help our brothers who
are in the middle of it?" The Diocesan Convention, in this heyday of
Sen. Joseph McCarthy, voted to support the Bishop's stand against the
intimidation of independent thought by members of Congressional
In the spirit of ecumenism, Grace
organized a successful summer school with the participation of the Eliot
Congregational and Newton Methodist Churches. Rector Woodroofe
described five characteristics of life in Newton: "1. [Burial records
show] people are living about 15 years longer, yet occupation and
support of the aged is a problem not yet solved; 2. Younger men of the
parish are either in military service or subject to the draft, thus
marriage plans are upset or delayed, and careers cannot be started
without fear of interruption; 3. We are all conscious of the possibility
of war with Russia, the threat of atomic weapons and the presence of
Communist agents at work in our country; 4. Changes in parish membership
indicate the frequency with which people are moving in and out...brief
residence and lack of community roots hinder the effectiveness and
continuity of the church program; 5. This is a period of uncertainty in
educational philosophy...we are somewhat unsure of the proper proportion
of discipline and self-expression...many parents, school teachers, and
churches therefore proceed with some doubt and hesitancy. Will these
conditions seem quaint to Grace Church parishioners in the year 2000?
Time will tell."
This time of transition
was evident in the popular culture: the U.S. atomic bomb tests at Bikini
Atoll were reflected in the invention of the Bikini bathing suit; Bill
Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock"and Elvis' "Blue Suede
Shoes", "Love Me Tender", and "Don't Be Cruel" rocked America; TV began
to thrive, thus radio broadcasting switched to music; "Peyton Place"
and"My Fair Lady" reflected cultural opposites; and Philadelphia's Grace
Kelly married Prince Ranier of Monaco.
final five years of Rev. Woodroofe's time at Grace, events in Newton and
in Grace Church made clear that even more changes were coming... all in
the next "History Minute".
These "History Minutes" have caused parishioners to recall stories
of their experiences at Grace. Last week Connie Conn shared her vivid
(and charming) memories of that "different time". Before proceeding to
the events of Rev. Robert Woodruffe's rectorship in 1945 after World War
II, we have remembrances from John Halfrey who was born into Grace
Church, where his grandfather had served as the Sexton:
my grandfather died, I was about four years old and will never forget
seeing his body being waked in the living room. This was common
practice in those days, among both Protestants and Catholics. How
marvelous the human brain is...when you can not only remember events but
picture them as well, more than seventy years later. It outperforms any
computer hard drive by leaps and bounds.
can never forget the kindness of Grace Church when we had no coal to
heat our house. One time my Dad had to tear down the cellar stairs to
burn in our furnace, so that we wouldn't freeze. After that we had to climb
down a ladder to use the only toilet, which was located in the basement.
Grace Church sent several tons of coal to help us out. Saturday night
was bath night, so that we would be clean going to church the next
morning. Newspapers were spread on the kitchen floor under the
galvanized steelt ub, filled with a mixture of hot water heated on the
stove and cold water from the sink. It was a science to get the blend
just right. On other occasions Grace sent us a complete Thanksgiving
dinner from S.S. Pierce, from soup to nuts. What a special treat, and
something I shall never forget. We had no telephone and no automobile.
This is the way life was for many people during and after the Great
Depression. We didn't have much of anything except our Christian faith
and trust in God. In tough times you lean more heavily on that, and that
we did, thanks to my parents and Grace Church.
was exclusively devoted to church, Sunday dinner, and family, far
different from many today. I was baptized by the RectorH. Robert Smith in
1937...when Rev. Smith was coming to our house to visit, my mother
would clean the entire house as much as if it was the President of the
United States. Later, I was confirmed by Rector Robert Woodroofe in 1946.
We looked forward to church on Sunday; it was a ritual. I remember
walking to Grace Church from West Newton, a two-mile walk each way, and
almost never missed attendance. In ten or twelve years of Sunday School,
I missed a total of about two Sundays. We had no car and no money for
the bus, which cost five cents.What terrific church and Sunday School
teachers I had! So many really great people to set fine examples of
inspiration and life values. I can never forget Bernice and Charlie
Olton, Mary and Fitz Perkins, and Mother Teresa, Isabel Coleman. Many
"All the important events in my life
are connected with Grace Church...my baptism, confirmation, wedding, and
family funerals. I used to think that having one's health was the most
important quality; now I realize that the love with which my family and
Grace Church surrounded me, has been the most important factor in my
life. My faith in God and Jesus Christ have been a special blessing, and
thanks to my church upbringing have allowed me to live the American
Dream. For that I always will be grateful. In 1952, when I served in the
Army during the Korean War as a Forward Observer, I always carried my
Soldiers and Sailors Prayerbook and Episcopal Service Cross, both of
which Grace Church gave to me. I still have and cherish them. They
carried me safely through dangerous times."
Grace Church and American society were changing. In the next "History Minute" we will learn how Elvis began to rock America.
World War II ended, yet the comfortable "good old days" did not
return. Just three months after the war's end, Rector #10 Rev. Robert
Woodruffe began his fourteen years at Grace Church on Thanksgiving Sunday
in 1945. Within a few years, Rev. Woodroofe wrote: "...we are all
conscious of the possibility of war with Russia, the threat of atomic
weapons and the presence of Communist agents at work in our
country...changes in our parish membership list indicate the frequency
with which people are moving in and out of Newton...brief residence in
the parish and lack of community roots hinder the continuity and
effectiveness of the church program". A Vestryman of those
times, Theodore Jewell, Jr., was nicknamed "Skinny"; we were curious
whether folks in those formal days would have used the nickname to his
face? Thus we asked Connie Conn, who grew up in the parish with the
Woodroofe children, to recall Grace Church at that time. Here isConnie's
"Hard to believe that the events in my
early lifetime are now "history"! My feeling is that Bob Woodruffe was
the right man for the time at Grace, but what a different society it was
-- and probably a quite different concept of what ministry and parish
were all about....Grace was very committed (it seemed to me) to being
"low" church, back when those labels meant something. The parish was
pretty militant about not doing things that "high" Episcopal churches,
like Advent in Boston, or even Good Shepherd in Waban, might do -- like
using incense, priests wearing eucharistic vestments, even calling
priests "priest." I think that "minister" or "rector" was the preferred
nomenclature. Certainly not "Father." There was, of course, "Holy
Communion" (not referred to as "Eucharist") only once a month, with
Morning Prayer the norm on most Sundays. My sense is that the parish at
that timereally wanted to identify itself with "Protestant"
affiliations, not with"Roman Catholic" ones.
memories of the '40s and '50s (from a child's perspective) were that
the social structure at Grace was pretty stratified. There were the
"parish leaders" who were in large part the Farlow Hill blue bloods, and
I think they socialized together, but not necessarily with the whole
parish -- although they were the ones likely to be on the Vestry. But
there was certainly a large of number of parish families who were
ordinary, working class folk, and some who certainly seemed to be
economically struggling. I'm thinking of kids in my Sunday School
classes, who represented a pretty broad range of circumstances, as I
One thing that was true for all kids: children were to seen and not heard (as
my father would say, frequently) - unless they were choir boys. Children
had their own chapel services and Sunday School on Sunday morning, and
were not really welcomed into the "main" church until after they had
been confirmed at age 12 or 13 .Certainly they couldn't take Communion
until they were confirmed. Girls wore hats and gloves, at all ages. No
female of any age would go into church without a hat on. And certainly
sneakers, jeans,or even pants on females were never done. "Big kids" --
only boys -- were acolytes, and I don't think there were missal bearers,
or torches. Probably only a crucifer and perhaps flags.
[Rector Woodruffe] quote about "the lack of community roots hinder the
continuity and effectiveness of the church program" was interesting --
some things perhaps are always thus! I remember the church as being very
vibrant, lots of people coming and going, a large Sunday school
(overflow classes held in the bowling alley at the Hunnewell Club, now
the Pomeroy House, across the street from the Small Hall). There seemed
to be lots of parish-wide social events -- square dances, plays put on
by the Couples Club, fairs (at least that famous one mentioned in the
"History Minute"), men and boys choir, occasional concerts, holiday
parties, boy scout troop (thanks to George Larsen, Sally McAlpine's
father), etc. The kitchen looked the same then as it does now, and
produced church dinners on occasion.
changes in churchmanship and social consciousness came in the '60s under
Tom Lehman when many of the uppercrust of Grace's society left to go to
Redeemer to escape the changes. From my perspective, things were pretty
stable under Bob Woodruffe in the '50s, with the good post-war feeling
prevailing in the parish. It was stratified and rigid,I think, but one
didn't much question that then -- it's just the way life was. Children
always called people by their titles of Mr. or Mrs. I cannot imagine
calling my formidable Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Elliott B. Church,
anything but Mrs. Church. The story around was that Mrs. Church kept her
hat on when she went to bed!" Connie"
is the era which television remembers as "Happy Days"...and Elvis was
about to arrive! Learn of more changes at Grace Church in the next
During and after the war, Grace did its part on every front. Of 105 Grace
Church men and women serving in World War II, two were killed. At home, Grace supported Bundles for Britain, the English
Speaking Union, and British Relief. Although the War
ended in 1945, there was much work to be done: Grace Church made a
substantial contribution to the re-building of the bombed-out St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields in London. Two years later, “A Market Place in
Merrie England” was the theme of the Grace Fair, with animal rides, a
fortune teller, chamber of horrors, and puppet show with all profits
sent to All Saints, West Ham, London, a needy church identified for
Grace by the Archbishop of Canterbury...Grace received a scrapbook from
the Vestry of All Saints. Here at home, Grace contributed to the
re-building of Auburndale's Church of the Messiah which had burned in
1944, and Grace added the vestibule double-doors to keep cold air out
of the rear of the sanctuary.
From the departure of
Rector Robert Smith, only four months elapsed until the arrival of
Rector #10, Rev. Robert William Woodroofe, Jr. on Thanksgiving, 1945,
direct from more than three years as an Army Chaplain in North Africa and
Europe. Rev. Woodroofe, the son of an Episcopal priest, was born in
Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Michigan and ETS in
Cambridge (later EDS), and had served as Curate at Christ Church in
Cranbrook, Michigan and as Assistant Minister of the well-known St.
Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan. Thus, the tall35 year-old Rev.
Woodroofe, his wife Lindsay, and their four children (Benson, Robin,
Robert III, and Katherine) moved into Grace Church's
stone Rectory, beginning a rectorate that would last for fourteen years.
Historical coincidence: shortly
after the German surrender in 1945, Army Captain Bradford Wright
(our organmaster emeritus) discovered that the Hospital Unit of Chaplain Woodroofe, an acquaintance
from St. Bartholomew's in NYC (where Brad had sung in the St. Bart's
Boy Choir), was located nearby. Brad commandeered a jeep and briefly
visited Rev. Woodroofe. At this point in their lives, neither Bob
Woodroofe nor Brad had ever heard of Grace, Newton! Brad has loaned a
photo of their unplanned meeting in Germany.
A final note on the Woodruffes: in 2006, Rev. Woodroofe died in Concord, MA at
the age of 96; in 2007, son Rev. Robert Woodroofe, III retired as Rector
of St. Gabriel's in Marion, MA.
The war had a lasting effect on Grace's vestry - three
Vestrymen who were absent due to service in the War were not replaced.
Twenty years later in the 60's, Charles Olton proposed that Vestry
membership be rotated. Although this innovation originally had been
proposed thirty years prior, Charlie's idea still was
in a parish where the Vestrymen ushers still wore formal morning dress
During the War, the Battle of
Stalingrad won by Soviets; Italy defeated, Mussolini executed; Warsaw
Ghetto uprising against Nazis; “Praise the Lord and Pass the
Ammunition”, "Comin’ In on a Wing and a Prayer”, “As Time Goes By”,
“Stage Door Canteen”, “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”, “Pistol
Packin’ Mama”, “Oklahoma!”, “Outlaw” with Jane Russell. Also in 1945, United Nations founded;
atomic bomb dropped; dimout for U.S. to save fuel; “June is Bustin’ Out
All Over” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”. Post-war changes
were comingin Newton and in Grace Church; learn about these in the next
the illness of Rector Tage Teisenl eading to his resignation in February,
1936, Grace was back to its diet of rotating supply ministers. Yet the
substitutes this time lasted for only seven months, as the Vestry agreed
upon a suitable new person: the Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in
Malden. Rev. H. Robert Smith ("H" for "Harry") became Grace's Rector #9
in September. Rev. Smith had served at St. Paul's for twelve years and may
have had his eye on our parish, as he was the summer replacement for
four Sundays in July at Grace in 1933, 1934, and 1935...and thus no
stranger to our church.
Born in Illinois, Rev. Smith had graduated from
Wesleyan University in Connecticut at age 25, having taken time out to
serve as an Artillery Lieutenant in World War I. Rev. Smith did his
theological training in Cambridge at ETS (now EDS). The 42 year-old
rector, his wife Anne, and their three young children thus moved into
the stone Rectory on the Grace Church driveway during the summer of
1936.While at Grace,Rev. Smith continued his studies at ETS, earning a
doctorate in 1940. An accomplishment of Rector Smith's initial year was
the conversion of the church library into a chapel (the chapel we enjoy
today). Yet no change comes easily: Mr. Fawcett resigned after seventeen
years on the Vestry, arguing that during the Depression it was not
appropriate for Grace Church to undertake a building project. On a side note, Within a
year of Rev. Smith's arrival, Alison Umbsen and her family transferred to
Grace Church from Trinity, Boston.
event occurred during the Annual Meeting of 1937: a Mr. Kenway asked"Is
the spiritual efficiency of Grace Church as high as it ought to be? And
if not, why not?" A clue concerning what Kenway might have meant by
"spiritual efficiency" is found in Rev. Smith's report in the next
Yearbook..."[S]cattered, irregular attendance at church breaks down the
life of a parish...the rest [of us] are left to mush along with the
smaller half of our people....Can a regiment of soldiers add to its
glorious past with half of its members 'absent without leave'? Could an
orchestra make a very joyful noise with nobody behind the music racks of
half its members? Neither can a church be anything but ineffectual with
only a scattered loyalty to its chief function, the Service of Divine
Worship....An irregular congregation means that any continuity in
preaching is futile. If [attendance] is to depend upon...whether or not
there are a few drops of rain on Sunday morning, why bother? Or if
attendance at church ranks only fifth or sixth in the list of Sunday
occupations, what is the use of priest or preacher taking the matter any
more seriously than that?...It is exactly the same problem that crops
up in a family when the children ask at the breakfast table on Sunday
morning, Why do you send us to church school when you don't go to church
During World War II, many men and
women from Grace served in the Armed Forces; a committee of women mailed
Grace Church's weekly bulletins to them overseas twice each month.
During the war-time fuel shortage of 1943, Immanuel Baptist Church (on
Centre Street opposite Eliot Church) exhausted their ration of heating
oil and was forced to close for the winter. Grace Church invited the
pastor and congregation to join our worship until spring - which they
did. "And they were real Baptists, too!" observes Martha Bell. After the
War, the mood of the country was different. The wish for a new
beginning was reflected in the Vestry who accepted Rev. Smith's
resignation effective September 1, 1945, ending his nine years at Grace
Church. What would "post-war" Newton and Grace Church be like? Find out
in the next History Minute.
In 1936, Isabella Wilson, Grace's Director of Religious Education,
was the first female elected as Grace's delegate to the Archdeaconry of
Lowell (roughly similar to the present Charles River Deanery). FDR was
re-elected (electoral votes of every state except Maine and Vermont);
"Gone With the Wind" published; "I'm an Old Cowhand" and "I've Got You
Under My Skin"; Shirley Temple's first film, age 8; Hoover Dam; gold
medals for Jesse Owens(and one for Jackie Robinson's older brother) at
the Berlin Olympics in front of an enraged AdolphHitler.
After 31 years of Rev. George Shinn followed by22 years of Rev.
Laurens MacLure,the parish had grown used to stability. Yet after only 3
1/2 years at Grace, the energetic Rev. Richard Preston accepted an
unexpected call to lead the re-building of fire-ravaged All Saints,
Worcester...departing in the fall of 1933. Caught by surprise, theparish
sought candidates.By Maythe Vestry chose Rev.Tage Teisen, the rector of
St. Paul's Church in Troy, NY. Technically Rev. Teisen began as rector
#8 on July 1, 1934, however the Vestry agreed toR ev. Teisen's request
that he receive an annual paid summer vacation of twelve
weeks...effective with the present summer.Thus Rev. Teisen's first week
at Grace began on September 16, and Grace had had almost a full year of
supply ministers. ("Tage" rhymes with "page"; "Teisen" is pronounced
Born in Denmark, Rev. Teisen grew up in a suburb of
Philadelphia, graduated from the University of the City of New York and
the Philadelphia Divinity School. Rev. MacLure,Grace's retired rector
and a long-time friend of Teisen, described the new rector as "...a man
of wide culture and scholarly tastes...too well balanced to be carried
away by either foolish or sensational fads, or to go to extremes of
churchmanship." Yet these were different times. Rev. Teisen proved to be
a "high church"advocate who consistently dressed in a black cape and
biretta,the stiff square cap with three or four ridges across the crown
often worn by Roman Catholic clergy.
Rev. Teisen faithfully conducted
the services from mid-September, 1934through June, 1935. After his
return in mid-September, the rector missed only a few services until
February, 1936 when he became ill, discussed a request for a year's leave
of absence, then resigned...after about eighteen months of service at
Grace Church. In his letter of resignation, Rector Teisen indicated that
Grace Church needed a person with stronger health and energy. It is not
likely that we will learn the nature of Rev. Teisen's illness, although
we know that he was alive in 1960, and was awarded an honorary
doctorate by Rollins College in Florida.
event of Rev. Teisen's short tenure was the installation of the Brown
Memorial Reredos, dedicated in December, 1935. In the center of the high
altar is the beloved Good Shepherd stained glass window.During Rev.
Teisen's initial months, he supported the Brown family's proposed
donation of a new high altar and ornate black walnut carved reredos
which since 1935 has covered most of the Good Shepherd window. Whether
his support for the controversial project played a role in his illness
we cannot know, yet Grace Church returned to the instability of supply
clergy each week. Nonetheless, one of these substitutes, "Mr. July" for
three years in a row, was to emerge as Rector #9. Find out who in the
next History Minute!
While Rev. Teisen was at
Grace Church, church telephone was "Newton 3221", later "BIGelow 3221",
now (617)244-3221; President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrestled with the
Great Depression...and unemployment of 33%; Hitler became Fuehrer of
Germany; John Dillinger shot by the FBI; Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks;
"Anything Goes" and "I Only Have Eyes for You"; the Hammond pipeless
organ; Donald Duck; debut of Ella Fitzgerald; Puerto Rico asked to
become a state.