Centennial Celebration

In this Centennial Moments in History e-letter, you will read about years 1970-1974. How did growing discontent with directions in the national church affect the way our parish chose to handle our giving? Have we always had a Great Hall in the parish house? When was our present organ installed, and who provided for it? The church's organist & choirmaster had been in place since before the merger in 1928, and he retired during these years. Who was his successor and what had been his previous church music experience? Read on to find answers to these questions, and more.



                          Centennial Moments in History
No. 29
23 August 2012 

           The History of The Church of St. Michael & St. George
(1928-      ) 
The Music Ministry Continues to Flourish

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
After much deliberation, the Research and Planning Committee recommended in 1970 that the Church of St. Michael & St. George remain at its present location and serve the surrounding area. The vestry then initiated a Capital Fund Drive with a goal of $385,000 (multiply all dollar figures in this e-letter by 5.2 to get an approximate present value, based on the CPI) for renovation and expansion of parish facilities and for replacement of the Moller organ. The auditorium with its fixed seating in the parish house was converted to the multi-purpose Great Hall we know today. The Ellenwood narthex and church school facilities were enlarged, and significant improvements were made to the kitchen.

The Rt. Rev. George Leslie Cadigan acknowledged the decline in financial support occurring throughout the diocese in his address on 6 February 1970 to the Convention of the Diocese of Missouri:

We are well acquainted with the obvious causes for the dollar deficits. The Church's participation in public issues: in the confrontations in the diocese; at South Bend; and the reactions to the same; and your Bishop's identification with certain issues such as the current strike, the Legal Aid Society, and his pushing for involvement in public housing. . . . Our society is at a peak of tension such as I have never known.

There were strong differences of opinion among parish members on these and other issues. In an attempt to come closer to meeting the coming year's budget, the vestry voted to allow parishioners to designate their pledges as restricted to parish use only or to diocesan use only, or to designate their pledges as unrestricted and to be treated as always with a percentage going to the diocese. Of the total $137,477 pledged, 19 percent, or $25,466, was restricted to parish use only, and 0.3 percent, or $400, was restricted to diocesan use only. The remaining 80.7 percent was unrestricted and to be treated as usual.

On St. Michael and All Angels Day 1974, a new organ was dedicated to the Olin organhonor of the spiritual leadership of the rector, the Rev. Jack E. Schweizer. The organ was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Spencer T. (Ann) Olin. In 1984, the Petty-Madden Organ Company made tonal revisions and prepared for additions. The antiphonal organ on the west wall of the nave was built in 1967 and was a gift of Gen. and Mrs. Sverdrup in memory of Mrs. Sverdrup's brother, Johann Egilsrud.

Only three rectors had served the merged parish during its first 47 years: the Revs. Dr. Karl Morgan Block; Dr. J. Francis Sant; and Jack E. Schweizer. There was a similar continuity in the position of organist & choirmaster. Mr. Paul Friess became organist & choirmaster on 27 October 1927 at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels and continued in that position for the merged parish in 1928, serving for 36 years until his retirement on 1 August 1963. He said, "I am still in good health, but I want to stop playing while I am still in the chips." An interim organist served for the next two years.

In January 1966, Mr. Edward A. Wallace became organist & choirmaster, coming from St. Thomas's Church in New York City where for 12 years he had been associate organist & choirmaster and assistant headmaster of The St. Thomas Choir School. Mr. Wallace made his residence in the Jay Herndon Smith Memorial Tower apartment that had been vacated by Miss Martha Bishop who had made her home there for 21 years (1944-1965). Under Mr. Wallace's leadership, the choir received many invitations to sing at home and abroad. The choir sang at the Washington National Cathedral in June 1976 to commemorate Missouri Centennial Day and in the 1990s made three trips to England, singing at Westminster Abbey and other locations. Mr. Wallace was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music from Nashotah House Seminary in November 1995. He retired in 2001 after 35 years of service and was appointed organist & choirmaster emeritus.

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What role has the music ministry had over the years in the life of our parish? In your personal life? What role should it have in the future, and why?

Hark! The sound of holy voices,
   Chanting at the crystal sea,
Alleluia, Alleluia,
   Alleluia, Lord, to thee!
Multitude which none can number
   Like the stars in glory stands,
Clothed in white apparel, holding
   Palms of victory in their hands.

Now they reign in heavenly glory,
   Now they walk in golden light,
Now they drink, as from a river,
   Holy bliss and infinite:
Love and peace they taste for ever,
   And all truth and knowledge see
In the beatific vision
   Of the blessed Trinity.


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