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Church Service League remembered

posted May 2, 2012, 10:17 AM by Amelia Fannin
For 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 choir.

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