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Feast of Saint Andrew and the Mystery of Our Missing Rector

posted Nov 7, 2012, 8:50 AM by Amelia Fannin

A 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 Mayer.

...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