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The New St. Thomas Church

An Address
By the Bishop of the Diocese
NOVEMBER 21, 1911


A Sermon
By the Rector of the Parish
NOVEMBER 19, 1911


Printed by order of the Vestry


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011










THE event which brings us together this afternoon is an interesting and notable one and one which in my judgment will constitute the beginning of a new era in the life and growth of your church. When, a few years ago, on an early summer morning, your stately and beautiful edifice standing here was suddenly destroyed, it seemed like a crushing blow from which it would be difficult to recover, which, by the scattering of your congregation and consequent distribution of its energies would involve serious and perhaps permanent interruption of your worship and your work. Such has not been the case. There was another fire latent in your Parish, which, like the fire in the flint, showed not till it was struck; and when the conflagration struck your stately edifice that latent fire in the Parish was awakened and developed a courage and determination in your Rector and people which would result in the erection of a more beautiful edifice, the corner-stone of which we lay to-day.

Scarcely had the flames of that physical conflagration [5/6] been extinguished, almost before its embers were cold, you planned for the resumption and the continuance of your worship and your work, and here on the very spot, where your services had been so suddenly and so seriously interrupted. You have since been carrying out these plans, and I select with care my adjectives when I say with a remarkable, signal and almost unprecedented success. You have not only continued here your Parish worship, but also your Parish work. I doubt if there is a corresponding period in all your past when you have done as much as during the years that have intervened since that conflagration. With seeming justification you might have excused yourselves from doing all this work in and out of the Parish, because your energies were necessarily concentrated upon the building of a new and costly edifice; but you have made no such excuses. Your activities in the work of the Parish have not in the least abated; your generous contributions to the work of the Church at large have not been diminished; both of them have been increased.

Although it is embarrassing to him to say it in his presence, I nevertheless take advantage of this opportunity to say it, and to make public recognition of the fact, which all his brethren acknowledge, that all this is in large measure due to the unwearied zeal, indomitable energy and brave and characteristic leadership of your Rector, to whom you have given your confidence, your support, your loyal cooperation, because he has deserved it and is entitled to it.

I have but a word or two more to add. In deciding [6/7] to build your new church here, on this very spot where the old one stood, you have in my judgment decided wisely; for whatever may be the character of the Avenue, however much in the future it may become commercialized and its residential nature changed, it will always be, in all the changes of this city, one of its great and thronged thoroughfares; and your church will stand where the people are, or where from all points of the city, north and east and west and south, they can and will easily come. It is one of the most strategic and commanding situations in the city. It is one not only where the people can and will easily come, but one where you can reach out in all directions, almost all over the city, with your beneficent Parish administration and activities.

And this one further word I wish to say. In deciding to build among the great and stately structures of this city a church, and a beautiful church, albeit costly, you have again decided wisely. I know that in the opinion of some, such expenditure may seem extravagant and wasteful. I do not share that opinion. I believe, on the contrary, that in this commercial age when the strong tendency seems to be towards the materializing of the standards of life and conduct, it is desirable and expedient as well as lawful and right that another stately building, of another kind, should be built. Among all the great towering structures of this city, standing for business, for pleasure, for family use and comfort, there should stand another, equal to them, emphasizing and expressing another and a better tendency. I believe, [7/8] as a sagacious English writer puts it, that it is ever a fatal sign of art decaying into luxury and religion into contempt when men permit the House of God to be meaner than their own, or when they allow to their domestic pleasures what they refuse to their collective worship.

Here then another stately structure shall stand, which by its very presence shall teach the people of this city that "Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."



"I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."
St. Matthew, v: 17.

THE great nations of the world live in the temperate zones; not in the barren North where death is ever present and offers only the choice of freezing or starving; nor in the opulent South where tropic fruits offer daily bread without toil. In the one case, the bravest effort must fail; and in the other, effort is unnecessary. But in the temperate zones the seasons come and go, each bringing a blessing, and departing, that in the fullness of time a greater blessing may come; and it is here, in the midst of an order beautiful and wise, that the mightiest nations are developed. True, each season brings its problem as well as its power, and to some its bane is greater than its blessing. But the wise husbandman knows that each element is essential, each is blessed and beautiful in its time: spring is full of hope, summer glorious in fulfilment, autumn rich in full treasuries, winter purifying in mighty discipline and strengthening in its hidden preparation for a more abundant life.

Only a child, and the youngest, could think that winter is an end, a failure; it is a beginning, a preparation for larger achievement. The fields and the trees yield their fruit, which feed mankind; the dead leaves fall and enrich the soil; nothing is lost; and as [9/10] the winter's cold sends the life blood back through the tree's great heart, the root grows stronger, takes deeper draught of the love of Mother Earth, and prepares for a larger life and a better year. Every change may be a blessing; every season, with its problems, an increase of power; each cries, and winter loudest of all, "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Where the seasons come and go nations are strongest; and the men in whose lives great crises arise have the chance to be greatest: the crisis comes not to destroy, but to fulfil them.

It is not strange that Christ our Lord used these words in His sermon on the Mount. It was inevitable that He should be misunderstood, misrepresented, persecuted. The old order must pass, a new spirit must enter in. But men clung to outward observances to which inwardly they were utterly disloyal. He did not come to destroy but to fulfil, to help men to pass from the ineffective old to the sincere and inspiring new. Greater than the coming of a new season was the coming of a new era, and it came to fulfil men, to lift them nearer to their greatest and best.

There are times when fulfilment seems to involve destruction, to tear away barriers, to uproot evil, to level mountains, and to fill chasms, that the highway of God may be built for a purer and happier people. Every man knows that some destruction is involved in fulfilment, that poisonous weeds must be uprooted before the life of a good plant can develop. Yet even here the word of God shows the more excellent way: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." [10/11] It is the light which destroys darkness; and the man who prays to God and serves his fellowmen creates an atmosphere in which the germs of evil cannot live. It is in that life with God for man that man's fulfilment comes. The history of the last nineteen centuries bears its most eloquent testimony to that fact. Great crises have confronted the Church of Christ. His soldiers and servants have been called to face the greatest dangers, to cope with wickedness in high places, to undertake tasks which seemed so impossible that the world resounded with ridicule, to overthrow established customs and bring in severe and absurd standards, but the King's Church and the King's men echoed the King's cry: "I came not to destroy, but to fulfil," and civilization rose a step higher.

The history of this Parish is a part of that stirring story, and it is proper to-day to recall the men who increased its life, who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," "not to destroy, but to fulfil," and who left a record for character and achievement which kindles our gratitude, our admiration and our ambition.

In the corner-stone to be laid next Tuesday will be replaced (taken from the old corner-stone) three sermons by Dr. Morgan relating to the history of St. Thomas's. In those writings he found little room for mention of himself, but when the name of this parish is spoken by those who know the history of this city and diocese the name of William Ferdinand Morgan is in every mind and on every lip as the man who, above all others, was, under God, responsible for the [11/12] good work and wide influence of this church in the last half century. Dr. Morgan strongly felt the necessity of the removal of the church from the corner of Broadway and Houston Street to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street. You may be sure there were many prophets of evil in those days, many obstacles, risks, and real dangers. Yet he came not to destroy, but to fulfil; and with a wise foresight, a real faith, a calm courage, a manly dignity, an infinite patience and perseverance, he advanced the great enterprise step by step and brought it to splendid fulfilment. We have no reason to think we should have dared to begin our new St. Thomas's but for Dr. Morgan's example, and his indomitable spirit which will, I pray, be a permanent characteristic of the Parish he did so much to fulfil. In our new church we will give a place of high honor to the bronze bust of Dr. Morgan, which the flames were unable to destroy or even to injure, and who seemed therefore to come back to his stricken Parish and from out the ashes and ruins beg us to realize that adversity is not a curse; that winter is not death; that the crisis meant not destruction, but fulfilment; that in meeting what seemed a tragedy with faith and courage, with intelligence and unselfishness the Parish and the people could attain a deeper consecration, a higher nobility of character, a wider service of God and man. Surely it was in such a faith and hope that we rose from the dust and ashes and began our great work. Dr. Morgan built the old St. Thomas's; Dr. Morgan organized the work wisely, broadly, permanently; and Dr.
Morgan [12/13] has a real and vital part in the beautiful structure now rising around us.

Even the briefest statement of our parish history would be pitifully incomplete without a word of thanks to God for the influence and service of Dr. George William Warren, for thirty years the renowned organist and choirmaster of this church, whose ability and character are beyond my power to praise. "His strength was as the strength of ten, because his heart was pure." In his compositions, his choir-work, his every association with the people of the Parish, a fine, beautiful spirit was always dominant; and to his usefulness as a musician of the highest type must be added a spiritual influence, a power for good, fully equal to that of the clergy. In the lives he touched and fulfilled in his stirring, appealing hymns, that noble loving soul is here.

Your Rector has always counted it one of his great misfortunes that he never had the privilege of knowing Dr. Brown, who followed Dr. Morgan. To have known Dr. Brown would have helped his successor, and therefore the Parish. No man ever had more loyal friends; no man was ever more deeply respected by those who knew him best; no man could hope to excel him in sympathy, in devotion, in Christian manhood. At a critical time, and under difficult conditions he was faithful, even unto death. Your Rector accepts that faithfulness as a sacred trust. The true life and loyal service of John Wesley Brown must ever be a grateful and inspiring memory.

You will realize the necessary brevity of this record. [13/14] So many assistant clergy, so many wardens and vestrymen, so many faithful characters and generous hearts among St. Thomas's parishioners, have given their best for the fulfilment of this church, that one longs for a chance to tell even a part of that beautiful story. It cannot be to-day. We salute them gratefully; we accept from them our inheritance of a great Parish which they helped to fulfil; and we pledge ourselves, under Christ our Lord, to press on for its larger fulfilment.

Now, what does this mean? It means more than there is time to tell to-day. Before very long we shall have our impressive new church, more beautiful and more firmly established than ever, in the center of Manhattan Island. The problems of the East Side and the West Side must be ours; the problems of the living wage, with its inevitable tragedy of vice and crime, of poverty and disease. These are the sorrows of Christ, they must be ours, too. One may destroy by neglect—we are come not to destroy but to fulfil these dwarfed and crippled lives.

We face to-day the problem of the home, endangered by the laxity of the moral and civil law, and the substitution of self-will for the will of God.

In a day when so-called Christian nations are more powerful than ever, they waste their men and money in huge armies and navies, formed because of the mutual distrust of these same Christians, or of unholy ambitions against each other.

Even the Church of Christ oft seems like a house divided against itself. It must do more to fulfil its [14/15] Lord's great prayer "that they may all be one," before it can effectively preach peace and good-will to all mankind.

These and other similar problems the new St. Thomas's must face with intelligence, sympathy and courage. The outlook is not appalling. Social service commissions are getting beyond the resolution stage, and into the region of practical progress. The danger which threatens the home is prompting the people of the nation to call for a certain uniformity of law. Whether such legislation is desirable or not is an unimportant matter compared with the mighty fact that the people of this land are becoming aroused. The Church of God must lead them to right convictions and to victory.

The movement for peace and arbitration has become more powerful than you ever expected to see it. The Church of God must help it to win. A desire for a closer unity is animating large bodies of Christians. The brethren may be far from being of one mind, but they are coming to be of one heart. That always must come first.

The outlook presents many difficulties, many vital problems; but solutions do not seem impossible, nor the people unwilling to try.

Our greatest anxiety I have not stated, nor can I refer to it except in fewest words. It is our own domestic problem; the ordering of our own household; the influence of our own family; how members of the Christian Church, members of this Parish, may pray more sincerely to God, may serve more unselfishly [15/16] their fellowmen; how we may rid ourselves of the shame of godless homes, of wasteful extravagance, of lazy ease, of neglected children, and the score of other evils which flourish in the soil of selfishness. Oh, my people, we are not sent to destroy ourselves or others, but to fulfil in them and in us the will of Him who sent, and who will recall! The scores who are helpful to God and man give us a measure of fulfilment. When the hundreds turn from positive vice or negative neglect to constructive service, the Church of the living God will be the most inspiring and victorious force in the world.

The problems our new St. Thomas's will face are vaster, more complex, more vital than ever. But Christendom is greater, the Church is at least larger, and Christians have more power, more money and influence, more knowledge and skill, with which to solve the problems. Shall I not add that they have more sympathy, more light, more determination to give themselves, and thus to find themselves?

Two years from now, please God, we will consecrate to Him our new church. Meanwhile, let us consecrate ourselves. With the beautiful light of the past shining on us; with the glory of God-given opportunities of to-day flooding around us; with a greater future summoning us to press forward for God and His people; surely the ranks close up, with no one missing, and every soul sends up a pledge "not to destroy, but to fulfil."


A Bible, in token that this Church is built on the Truth revealed by God.

A Prayer Book, as a testimony that this Church is built on a pure faith and a spiritual worship.

Three sermons by a former Rector, the Rev. William F. Morgan, D. D., relating to the past history of St. Thomas's Church and its establishment on this foundation.

Two sermons by the present Rector of the Parish, concerning the building of the new St. Thomas's, the history of the Parish during the last forty years, and its future usefulness.

The Journal of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States for the year 1910.

A Journal of the Convention of the Diocese of New York for the year 1910.

The Thirty-fourth Annual Year Book of St. Thomas's Parish.

The Seventy-ninth Annual Report of the New York Protestant Episcopal City Mission Society.

The Fifty-second Annual Report of St. Luke's Hospital.

The American Church Almanac and Year Book for 1911.

The Church Hymnal.

The Churchman.

The Living Church.

The Southern Churchman.

The Spirit of Missions.

The first issue of The Great Commission, the new Diocesan paper.

A Copy of the New Missionary Canon recently adopted at the Diocesan Convention,

A copy each of eight of the principal New York daily newspapers.

The Order of Service for the Consecration of the Choir and two Memorial Chapels of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The Book of the Plans for the new St. Thomas's Church.

The Order of Service for the laying of the corner-stone

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