Centennial Celebration

In this Centennial Moments in History e-letter, you will read about years 1956-1960. Where was the coffee hour first held? What happened to the parish house in these years? How were assistant clergy becoming a larger part of the life of the parish, and why were they needed? Did we own a second clergy house before we bought the two on Wydown Boulevard? If so, when, and where was it? Read on to learn about the changes in these years. Change, as it turns out, may even be more certain than death or taxes.



                          Centennial Moments in History
No. 25
26 July 2012 

           The History of The Church of St. Michael & St. George
(1928-      ) 
A Growing Staff 

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
                                                                                                   -- Hebrews 12:1-2a

By 1956, the parish house had become inadequate for the needs of the parish. There was no ground to build upon, so the interior was extensively remodeled in an attempt get the most effective use out of every square foot of space. A small addition was constructed on the west side, using part of the rectory yard, to provide badly-needed office space. The remodeling was completed in time for the Annual Parish Meeting in January 1957.

The cost for the project was $172,000 (multiply all dollar figures in this e-letter by 7.5 to get an approximate present value, based on the CPI). By May of the preceding year, 80 percent of this amount had been pledged in a Capital Funds Drive. Parishioners were asked to provide the remaining 20 percent by making additional contributions in the amount of twice their annual pledge.

Prior to the remodeling of the parish house, the Rev. Dr. J. Francis and Mrs. Sant had offered the hospitality of the rectory after the Sunday morning worship service. Shortly after the remodeling, a custom of a coffee hour following the worship service was instituted with the exception of the fourth Sunday of each month when Holy Communion was celebrated. It was the custom in most Protestant Episcopal churches of the day to celebrate Holy Communion once per month, the other Sundays being devoted to Morning Prayer, a custom that would continue until the introduction of the 1979 Prayer Book in which the Holy Eucharist was made "the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord's Day and other major Feasts."

A number of assistants served the parish in the decade of the 1950s. The Rev. C. George Widdifield, who had served as the minister of education since 1946, left in February 1951 to become rector of a church in Buffalo, NY. The following May the Rev. William McNeil Baxter, fresh out of seminary, succeeded Mr. Widdifield as minister of education. He served in that capacity until June 1954 when he left to become rector of a church in Washington, D.C. He was quickly followed by the Rev. Donald Gilbert Stauffer, a recent seminary graduate, who came as assistant rector and college chaplain. Mr. Stauffer, like several of his clergy predecessors, found a bride among the parishioners, Miss Lynn Giessow, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry (Emilyn) Giessow. The Rev. Alfred L. Mattes arrived in July 1955 to serve as minister of education. With his arrival, the parish for the first time had three fulltime clergymen: Dr. Sant, rector; Mr. Mattes, minister of education; and Mr. Stauffer, assistant rector and college chaplain.

The June 1957 payroll lists all fulltime and part-time employees and reflects the size of the staff at the time. In addition to the three clergymen, there were two fulltime secretaries and one part-time secretary; the organist & choirmaster and seven paid choristers; and several fulltime and a number of part-time sextons and cleaning women.

In June 1957, Mr. Stauffer left to become vicar of a mission in San Lorenzo Village, CA. His bishop was the Rt. Rev. Dr. Karl Morgan Block who had served as the last rector of the Church of St. Michael and All Angels 1925-1928 and the first rector of the Church of St. Michael & St. George 1928-1938. The Rev. David S. Gray of Providence, RI succeeded Mr. Stauffer, maintaining the trio of clergy. Mr. Gray had attended Yale Divinity School after graduating from the Yale School of Engineering. When he came to the church, he brought his bride, the former Elizabeth Dodson, who had been with the Baptist Student Foundation in Cambridge, MA.

Mr. Mattes resigned in 1960 to become the rector of two Missouri churches: Calvary Church in Louisiana and St. John's Church in Eolia. His successor was the Rev. Jack E. Schweizer, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, who previously had served at several Methodist churches in the St. Louis area. Mr. Schweizer was ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church 22 March 1961.

After serving the parish for five years, Mr. Gray resigned to accept an appointment as a Research Fellow in Christian Ethics at the Yale Divinity School.

After several years with two clergy staff members in addition to the rector, a second house at 7032 Westmoreland was purchased in 1960 for $25,000, and the Grays were the first occupants. When Mr. Gray left the parish, Mr. Schweizer and his wife, Jean, made their home in what became known as the "second rectory".

Back to the future logo
The 1950s was not the first time the rector had employed an assistant, but it was the decade in which assistants became the norm, and 1955 was the first year the parish had three clergymen. Think of the assistant clergymen and clergywomen you have experienced at our church and perhaps previous churches where you have been a member. What impact or added value have they made on the parish? What impact have they had on you personally and on your immediate family members?

Let saints on earth in concert sing
   With those whose work is done;
For all the servants of our King
   In heaven and earth are one.

E'en now by faith we join our hands
   With those that went before,
And greet the ever-living bands
   On the eternal shore.


-- John R. Tyler
Historical information from Trilogy by Harriet Davidson