Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Brief History of the English Tea

In the fall of 1917 Monongahela was seized by the patriotic fervor that was sweeping the nation because of the United States’ recent entry into what would become known as World War I. The US Army found itself ill prepared for the miserable conditions of trench warfare on the front in France. The uniforms provided to American soldiers were not protecting them from the cold and wet of the trenches, and so a massive campaign was started on the home front to provide socks, mufflers, scarves and other knit goods to the boys at the front. Almost daily the Monongahela Republican was running advertisements for knitting parties held by the women of Eastern Star, the “Queen Esthers” of the First Methodist Church, the Lydia Bible Class of the First Baptist Church, and a dozen other organizations along with advertisements for where to get the best khaki yarn.

At St. Paul’s the knitting was the responsibility of the St. Margaret’s Guild. In 1917 knitting, accompanied by music on the Victrola and player piano, was the main activity of all their meetings. Back then, the main fundraiser of the Guild was a bazaar held in early December of each year since about 1908. In the fall of 1917 it was decided that a turkey dinner would be added to the bazaar to fund the Guild’s knitting operation. This dinner, which would eventually become what we call “the English Tea”, was first held on December 14, 1917.

Although we know little about the first English Tea it must have been a success because St. Margaret’s Guild decided to keep doing it long after the need for knitting had passed. On December 8, 1926, the English Tea was one of the first major public events held in the new Parish Hall. That year there was an increase in the price for the dinner, for adults it was $1.00, and children were 50¢. That year there was such a demand for dinner, that people had to be turned away.

One of the strangest things about the English Tea is that it is called “the English Tea” and yet it seems that it was never intended to be like a traditional tea that one might find in England. The most likely explanation for this was the Rev. John Norman, who was serving in his fortieth and last year as rector of St. Paul’s in 1917. Norman was very keen to connect St. Paul’s to its Anglican roots and so started many English-themed organizations and events, including soccer and cricket teams. It was probably as part of that initiative that the dinner was first billed as an “English Tea.”

Over the years the bazaar and the tea became separate events, the tea was moved to early November and the menu changed from turkey to ham. Eventually the bazaar and the St. Margaret’s Guild would fade away but the English Tea still remains. For ninety-three years now St. Paul’s has put on its best and invited the town in for supper. It is one of the enduring traditions that makes St. Paul’s what it is and it got its start in the singularly Christian act of providing warmth for those who were freezing, and a touch of home to boys who were suffering far away.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

St. Paul's Millionaire

For the most part the parishioners of St. Paul’s over the past 150 years have not been rich or famous people, but the ordinary faithful folk of Monongahela. There is, however, one notable exception, a bona fide millionaire coal baron. Mr. William Ivill Jones worshiped with his wife and young children at St. Paul’s Church. Jones was quite active in the life of the church. He served as a vestryman and, for a time, as junior warden. The Jones family donated one of the stained glass windows on the north side of the church.

Jones’ father owned the Pittsburgh-Buffalo Company which operated coal mines all over western Pennsylvania. William Jones was the secretary of the firm. He was a well loved figure in turn-of-the-century Monongahela and was involved in many community organizations and beneficent orders.

When he unexpectedly died at age thirty-five in 1905, his funeral was one of the most heavily attended and extravagant services ever held in our church. Below is the Monongahela Valley Republican’s account of the funeral, dated December 7, 1905:

Grave Closes Over Honored Citizen
Hundreds of Sorrowing Friends Brave the Chilly
Weather to do Homage to all That is Mortal
of William Ivill Jones.

The vast concourse of people who turned out Sunday afternoon to attend the funeral of W. I. Jones at St. Paul's Episcopal Church was a touching and fitting tribute to the man and speaks volumes for the esteem in which he was held. All classes of people from every walk of life honored and respected him and it was therefore not surprising that the church was unable to furnish even standing room for those who gathered to do homage to the man, whose friends were legion, and to take one parting look at those once comely features now cold in death.

Shortly after two o'clock the cortege left the late home on East Main Street. Mr. Jones' two brothers-in-law, William Holsing, of Canonsburg, and James Ternent, of this city, and his four brothers acted as pall-bearers at house and at the cemetery. At the church the Elks had charge of the services and R. E. Byers, Prof. C. B. Wolford, F. B. Wickerham, James P. Moore, F. R. Colvin and Fred Cooper were the pall-bearers. The beautiful Episcopal ritual was used, however, and Rev. J. P. Norman read a passage from the fifteenth chapter of Corinthians, commencing with the 20th verse.

The church was entirely filled, with the exception of a few seats in front reserved for the family and immediate friends, when a dirge, sadly beautiful, was played on the pipe organ by Prof. Grundhoffer and the surpliced choir-boys marched down the center aisle, followed by the members of the choir and the pall-bearers, who slowly bore the rich casket in which silently reposed all that was mortal of William Ivill Jones. Then came the heartbroken widow, the three little children, the grey-haired father and the bereaved brothers and sisters. All hearts go out to Mrs. Jones and her children in the hour of their affliction...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Rev. John Palmer Norman - Part 2

We still feel the legacy of the Rev. John P. Norman at St. Paul’s today. We can thank him for the peel of the tower bell, the light streaming through the stained glass windows, and for many of traditions which we still observe. Nearly half of everyone ever baptized at St. Paul’s was baptized by The Rev. Norman.

During many lean years, St. Paul’s was kept financially afloat because of gifts from Norman’s wealthy Pittsburgh friends. Because of their financial assistance, the church was able to support a professional organist as well as a boys’ choir that was renowned throughout the diocese during most of Norman’s tenure.

In 1891, Norman, with the blessing of St. Paul’s vestry, began missionary work in Charleroi, which would lead to the creation of St. Mary’s Church. Norman’s high church sensibility still influences the way St. Paul’s and St. Mary’s churches worship. He also served churches in West Brownsville and McKeesport during his time here, but his primary loyalty was always to St. Paul’s.

Norman was well known for many of his eccentricities as well as his dedicated service. He had “scandalous weakness” of chewing tobacco, and drank his coffee hotter than anyone else could stand. He was famous for travelling around the community on horseback to visit parishioners, even in his old age. In 1901 Norman broke his leg, but continued to serve, celebrating the Holy Eucharist and baptizing infants (much to their parents’ dismay) on crutches.

The Rev. Norman was very community minded as well. He served on the Monongahela School Board for many years and was active in the Masons and the Grand Army of the Republic (a Civil War veterans’ organization). Norman was instrumental in starting Monongahela’s first Kindergarten and gave large amounts of his own money to fund community vaccination programs. He coached community soccer and cricket teams and contributed many articles and book reviews to local newspapers. He once even got St. Paul’s mentioned in the New York Times for a letter that he had written to Congress.

Emma, The Rev. Norman’s wife, was also very active in parish life. She led the St. Margaret’s Guild for many years and organized many fundraisers and social events like the first English Tea. Together the Normans lived in the rectory which stood across the street from the church, with their invalid daughter. The Rev. John P. Norman retired from ministry in 1918, and moved to Cochranton, Pennsylvania where he died in 1923.

In its 150 years St. Paul’s church has had thousands of parishioners and a total of forty-five rectors. Among all those people, it is certainly safe to say that no single person has loved this church more or served it more diligently than the Rev. John Palmer Norman.

The Rev. John Palmer Norman - Part 1

In the history of St. Paul’s Church in Monongahela, one figure stands out from all others. That figure is the Rev. Dr. John Palmer Norman. The Rev. Norman served twice as Rector of this parish from 1872 – 1875 and from 1880 – 1918, for a total of forty-one years, nearly a full third of the time that the church has existed.

Little is known about Norman’s early life. He was born in 1836 in Centre County, Pennsylvania and at some point became a medical doctor. During the Civil War he served in the 84th Pennsylvania Infantry. At the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 the regimental surgeon was killed on the field during intense fighting and Norman took his place caring for the regiment’s wounded. He would spend the rest of his military service as the Surgeon of the 84th.
After the war Norman was practicing medicine in Clarion County when he was first introduced to the Episcopal Church and befriended Bishop Kerfoot who encouraged him to enter the ordained ministry. Norman first came in Monongahela in March 1872 (aboard a side-wheel steamboat) as a deacon to serve St. Paul’s and Old West.

When Norman arrived here the missionary work in Monongahela was at a low point. There had been some scandal concerning our second Rector, The Rev. John Linskea, which left the congregation in disarray, the priest defrocked, and the church property endangered by sheriff’s sale. Norman was not discouraged though and set right to work restoring the parish. In a matter of few short weeks, and despite the death of his only son, Norman had the congregation and church school up and running again and presented fourteen for confirmation in May of 1872.

In 1875, Bishop Kerfoot transferred Norman to St. Johns – Lawrenceville, and again the situation in Monongahela declined. In five years there were three different rectors, another scandal which ended in the priest being defrocked, and an entire year when the church property was abandoned. In 1880 Kerfoot, now on his deathbed, reassigned Norman to Monongahela with the instruction to “Hold on to that place – never let it go.”

The Rev. Norman, now fully intending to spend the rest of his career in Monongahela, immediately sprung into action. He oversaw the completion of the church building, raised the funds among his wealthy friends for the purchase of the tower bell, arranged for a used organ to be installed, started the first choir, prepared thirteen for confirmation and organized the donation of the stained glass windows. He did all of this, as well as eradicate the parish’s debt, in the first year.

Bishop Kerfoot: A Man Full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.

The first Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt. Rev. John Barrett Kerfoot (seen here) was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1816 and consecrated Bishop at Trinity Cathedral on January 25, 1866. On February 1, 1866 he made his first visit to the Monongahela Episcopal Mission and was pleased with the work being done here. He returned to lay the cornerstone of the church on September 3, 1866. It was in honor of Kerfoot’s consecration on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul that our church was named and it is to him that our altar is dedicated

Bishop Kerfoot’s great affection for and special relationship with St. Paul’s is attested to by the Rev. John Norman. The following is Norman’s account of his assignment to Monongahela by Bishop Kerfoot, written in 1884:

In April 1880, the present Rector was placed in charge of this Parish… by the Bishop of the Diocese, who was then prostrated by the illness which eventually proved fatal. He was not able then, or afterwards, to leave his room and yet none the less felt “the care of all the churches coming upon him daily.” St. Paul’s Church was ever dear to him and his concern for her welfare and success continued undiminished as long as his life was spared. I well remember my first visit to this Parish in April 1880. On my return I called to see the Bishop, as he had requested I should do, and told him about the Church and her work which I found less discouraging than had been feared. When I told him how warmly I was welcomed and that much interest was manifested, and an earnest desire felt for services, the look of care and concern that at times was to be seen during his illness vanished, his face brightened, his whole manner changed and grasping my hand he exclaimed, “Hold on to that place – never let it go!” I felt then, and have since often felt, that if we all loved God’s Zion, as our First Bishop loved her, most assuredly “Peace would be within her walls and plenteousness within her palaces.”

Norman took Kerfoot’s advice seriously and never did let St. Paul’s go. He remained here for the rest of his career, nearly forty years. The Rev. Norman also leaves us this prayer in remembrance of our first Bishop:

May the Divine Master whom Bishop Kerfoot so dearly loved and in whose service he cheerfully spent and was spent, give us grace that as he was, so we may be, full of good works and that being “full of the Holy Ghost and of faith,” much people may be added to the Church, not indeed through any merit in us, but that seeing our good works, many may glorify the heavenly Father, who alone inspires us to do them. Amen.
(the dedication plate of St. Paul's altar is seen here)

An Energetic and Self-sacrificing Rector: The Rev. Henry MacKay

The first rector of St. Paul’s Church was the Rev. Henry MacKay (pronounced “Mac-eye”) (seen here as a young man) A Scotsman, MacKay was born on the Rock of Gibraltar on June 15, 1822. In Canon Richard Davies 1957 history of our parish it was reported that MacKay had earlier been a missionary in Bermuda before coming here. Discussions with MacKay’s great-grandson, Mr. Edwin Shaw of Juneau, Alaska, however have revealed that this was likely not the case. According to Mr. Shaw, MacKay first came to America because he did not want to work in his family’s whiskey distillery in Scotland.

In any case, MacKay was ordained to the priesthood on October 24, 1859 by Bishop Samuel Bowman, and served as a missionary in Beaver County before coming to Monongahela. The Rev. Norman writes of the years of MacKay’s ministry here during the Civil War:

For several years little more could be done than to keep the little flock together, and even this was a difficult and delicate task during those feverish excitements that disturbed the late Rebellion. It is a proof of faithful and successful pastoral work, that amidst such trials and distracting circumstances, no material loss should be sustained in numbers, nor spiritual decay be felt in the work…

MacKay was instrumental in the organization and fundraising for the construction of our current church building. On September 3, 1866, the cornerstone was laid by the Rt. Rev. John Kerfoot, first bishop of Pittsburgh. In his official diary Bishop Kerfoot wrote that he was pleased to find in Monongahela a “vigorous parish” with an “energetic and self-sacrificing” rector striving hard to complete their house of worship.

In 1869, the church building still unfinished, the Rev. MacKay was called away from Monongahela to do missionary work in the eastern parts of Butler County. MacKay later spent most of his career serving a parish in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts. In 1883 MacKay was present at the consecration of St. Paul’s Church building and “saw his long-deferred hopes fulfilled and realized that his labor had not been in vain”

After a long and devoted career in the ministry the Rev. Henry MacKay (seen here in later years) retired westward to New Mexico. There he was active in many successful and important business ventures. He died in 1906 and is buried in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Parish is Established

On November 18, 1863 a meeting was held by the Episcopal Mission of Monongahela City with the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Alonzo Potter, in attendance. Bishop Potter (seen here) later reported that at Monongahela he found:
“A vigorous congregation, with well conducted services, a large Sunday School, earnestly instructed in the principles and duties of our holy faith; a most eligible property purchased and paid for, with a home for the missionary already on it, and ample room left for a large Church and its proper accompaniments in the future of that now reviving town;”

It was at this meeting that the parish was organized, a charter adopted, our first vestry elected with Mr. John Markell, mayor of Monongahela (seen here) as senior warden and our first rector, the Rev. Henry MacKay, called. The members also pledged $2,200 for the construction of a church building, which was at the time a quite impressive sum.
For two years St. Paul’s would be a parish of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. The members of St. Paul’s church were very active in the creation of the new Diocese in Pittsburgh in 1865