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20th Anniversary Sermon, October 6, 1872

[The Church Journal October 31, 1872]

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

My dear Brethren: this being the 20th Anniversary of the founding of this parish, I propose to present you not only a brief account of its progress during the past year, but also a general review of its history during the twenty years of its somewhat remarkable growth.

Last year the sum of $8,471.83 was received for the support of this church; of this $1,000 came from Trinity Church; $2,097.50 from the donations of individuals, and $5,344.33 from the offerings, which averaged only about $100 a week. I am sure that upon reflection you will all agree with me, that the offerings ought to be larger. This will be the case just so soon as all the people who attend the services of this Church feel their responsibility in sustaining it as a part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is hard work to carry on a free church, when Sunday after Sunday a hundred of those attending the services only send to the altar an offering of ten cents each for the Great Father above, who gives them every blessing they enjoy. People think nothing of spending ten cents to ride downtown and back in a streetcar. They can readily spend twenty-five cents for some article to please the sensua1 appetites, or fifty cents to enter some place of public amusement. Large sums are cheerfully spent for clothing and other expenses of daily life. During the summer recreation dollars upon dollars roll forth to pay extravagant hotel bills and the fares of lengthy excursions. But when the solemn moment comes for a thank-offering to God in the public worship of His Church on earth, there seem to be many in every congregation, who either absolutely decline to put anything on the plates, or only give small fractional bits of currency. Those who are acting on principle in relation to the offertory, will, I am sure, join with me in daily prayer to God to touch the hearts of all thoughtless and indifferent worshippers, and lead them to do their duty, so that in the last great day the glorious words may be heard by all, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." One of the greatest obstacles at the present day to the extension of Christ's kingdom throughout the earth, is the indifference of Christian people to the offertory, as forming as much a part of public worship as prayer and praise. When people have faith enough to trust their hundreds and thousands to the offertory as well as the smaller sums, then shall glorious things be done for Him who bought us with the price of His most precious blood.

In addition to the sums named above there were received for the support of our parish day school and the sewing school, $820. There were received in the Sunday School Fund, $332.44. Part of this went to help the Church work among the Indians, part for the purchase of a cabinet organ for the use of the school in the Church, part for the current expenses of both schools, and part for the picnic. There were received for the poor of our own parish, $2,022.17 (of this sum, the work department of the Sisterhood raised $275 and the Brotherhood $870.65; $157.51 was given for the general expenses of the chapel, fuel, gas, &c. and $719.03 were placed directly in the fund for the sick and needy to be distributed by the Rector. A good portion of the latter sum was either specially designated and put on the plates or placed in the alms boxes by the doors.) Beloved, I am devoutly thankful, that thus something has been done in the way of reaching those who need our fostering care. Perhaps you sometimes think I am somewhat enthusiastic on this matter of sustaining our own parish mission work, of holding out a helping hand to those whom our Lord said His followers should ever have with them. I am willing to be judged by the verdict of the future. You will thank me by and by for the little we have been able to accomplish in this parish. We sent $101 to the Bible and Prayer Book Society, $227 to city missions, $164.80 to Diocesan objects, $305.20 to Western sufferers, $103.03 to domestic and foreign missions, and $338.50 to various Church societies and associations.

During the year just past there was raised then, altogether, the sum of $12,856.09; of this $8,441.83 went towards paying our current expenses, and $4,414.16 towards charitable purposes.

The Church Mission to Deaf Mutes received for general work, $2,508.78, and for the care of aged and infirm deaf mutes, $801.01; in all $3,318.79. My Brethren, all the figures I have presented you this day need enlarging. This will take place before another anniversary, provided the offertory is appreciated by the congregation that assembled in these consecrated courts. Last year's work gave us 74 baptisms--20 adult--5deaf mutes--54 children--5 of deaf mutes; 38 confirmed--8 deaf mutes; 44 couples married--4 deaf mutes; 53 burials,--4 deaf mutes. There were admitted and received to the communion, 59; 39 removed and 11 died (4 deaf mutes,) leaving the present number of communicants about 490, of whom upwards of 60 are deaf mutes. The general services for Sunday and week days, and the celebration of the Holy Communion went on as usual. In both Sunday Schools we had about 150 children, who were on various occasions publicly catechized. During the whole year we tried to carry out the system as laid down in the Book of Common Prayer, believing that to be the only way in which effective Church work can be done, leaving the results with God.

On the 20th anniversary of our birth day, it seems proper for me to place upon the record again a short account of the providential circumstances which led to the formation of this parish, and then attempt a brief history of its progress to the present time.

In June, 1850, I was ordained deacon by Bishop Whittingham, at St Stephen's Church, corner of Broome and Chrystie streets, under the rectorship of the Rev. Dr. Price. My father having founded the first institution for deaf mutes in this country at Hartford, Connecticut, in April, 1817, my mother and my wife being deaf mutes--and I--having been a teacher for the seven years preceding in the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, it was not strange that I soon felt it my duty to attempt something for the improvement of the adult deaf mute residents of this city and vicinity. In the fall of 1850, we formed a weekly evening Bible class for deaf mute men and women in the vestry room of St Stephen's Church, which the Rector had kindly placed at our disposal. The room soon became so crowded that we were obliged to remove to No. 59 Bond street, where we held our meetings regularly every Thursday evening for several years. This special work among the deaf mutes of the city was carried on with considerable difficulty, for I still continued teaching at the Institution, which was at that time at the corner of Fourth avenue and Fiftieth street. As I lived, however, quite down in the city, I gave portions of the afternoons and evenings to my newly undertaken special duties. I became a sort of pastor among my deaf mute friends, and soon had the privilege of baptizing several in St. Stephen's Church, where I was assistant-minister. In the Spring of 1851, at a confirmation held in the Church by Bishop  Chase, of New Hampshire, eight deaf mutes were confirmed. They subsequently became communicants. In June 1851, I was ordained priest by Bishop Delancey in Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights. For a great portion of the year following, I officiated on Sundays, at St. Paul's Church, Morrisania, though keeping up the Thursday evening meetings among the deaf mutes of the city. In the Spring of 1852, one of the most interesting pupils of the Institution named Cornelia Lathrop, was taken with consumption, and went to her home in the city. I often visited her. She was a sincere Christian. At convenient times I gave her and the loved ones of her household the great comfort of the Holy Communion. After her death, I conducted the funeral service. During these ministrations, the thought came to my mind, that it would be well to found a parish in this chief city of the nation, in which my deaf mute friends could be specially cared for. I acted on the idea.

I consulted with some of the leading clergy and laity. I obtained an appropriation from the Rector and Vestry of Trinity Church, sufficient to pay the annual rent, $250, of the smaller chapel of the New York University on Washington Square, where, on the first Sunday of October, 1852, we held our first services. The forenoon was conducted orally for a congregation of about fifteen personal friends, and the afternoon by signs for the deaf mutes, numbering about thirty. We took the name of St. Ann's Church for Deaf Mutes, that it might forever appear we had a special mission to the children of silence. We supposed at that time that Ann was a contraction for Anna, the prophetess mentioned by St. Luke, but afterwards found out that the early Church commemorated St. Ann, as the Mother of the blessed Virgin Mary. At all events we were led to take a short euphonious name, whose meaning in the original is "a gracious giver." I trust, beloved, that long after we have been gathered to our fathers, this church will, indeed, prove to be a gracious giver of gospel privileges to all who gather within her walls, and specially to those whom God has seen fit to deprive of hearing and speech. Please bear in mind, my friends, that twenty years ago when the subject had been but little thought of by the Church at large, we began in faith with free seats, and though we have had many discouraging seasons, we have never swerved from our principles. I have faith that our successors will bear on our banner inscribed with free seats to the end of time. With frequent communion, frequent services, free seats, a mission chapel and a special work for the deaf mutes, for whom, when educated, the Book of Common Prayer, in comparison with all other form of worship, is particularly adopted, I am sure we and our successors may well hope for the divine blessing.

On the 3d of March, 1853, a public meeting was held in our place of worship for the purpose of calling attention to the object we had in hand, and to begin a Building Fund. It was presided over by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Wainwright, and attended by a good number of influential clergy and laity. A similar meeting was held November 16th, of the same year. The result was a building Fund of about $12,000, and a recognition of our claims to a fair hearing from the benevolent people of this community. We felt sure that we were to be a permanent organization in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. It was especially gratifying to have the cordial approbation of the principal of the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, Dr. H. P. Peet, who, though not an Episcopalian, saw that on this movement the temporal and spiritual welfare of adult deaf mutes would be greatly improved.

On Christmas Day, 1853, it was our privilege to use the silver communion set presented to our church by Miss Jane Ward and her friends. We use the same sacred vessels to-day. In September, 1854, our parish was duly incorporated under the legal title of "The Rector, Churchwardens and Vestrymen of St. Ann's Church for Deaf Mutes in the City of New York." The wardens were Messrs. Cyrus Curtis amid Robert B. Minturn, and the Vestrymen, Messrs. P. M. Wetmore, B. B. Winthrop, R. Gracie, J. W. Underhill, C. A. Budd, and G. W. C. Garmage, W. M. Genet and J. Jones, the last three being deaf mutes. They elected as Rector the founder of the parish. In the latter part of the same month, the parish was duly received into membership with the convention of the diocese.

Soon after this we bought for $16,000 four lots upon the south side of Twenty-sixth street, between the Sixth and Seventh avenues, as the site for the future church buildings. We afterwards learned that though man proposes God disposes, and often leads us to results far beyond our most sanguine expectations.

On the 1st of November 1857, we bade farewell to the humble upper room where we had planted our very small grain of mustard seed, and began to hold our services in the lecture room of the new building of the Historical Society at the S. E. corner of Second avenue and Eleventh street. Here we went on regularly with our three Sunday services, morning and evening, with the voice, and the afternoon for deaf mutes. The expenses consequent upon the removal, were very much increased, but with the steady help of Trinity Church and larger offerings, our work, with God’s blessing, was well sustained.

On the 19th of May 1858, a public meeting, presided over by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Potter, was held in our place of worship. I called it with the view of finding whether I could be sustained in leaving my position as a Professor in the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes (then situated on Washington Heights) and devoting more of my time to parish work. I stated that my salary at the Institution was $1400, that I had the opportunity of receiving $400 a year in the private tuition two hours a day of a deaf mute young gentleman in the city; and that I was willing to make a venture of faith, provided $1000 could be made up in subscription among my friends. My wish was gratified in the course of a few months, and on the 1st of the following October I said good bye to my beloved associates at the Institution where I had been for fifteen happy years, and felt that God had called me to more active work as a priest in the Church of His dear Son. This change produced important results.

During the Winter and Spring of 1858 and 1859, the parish decidedly increased in numbers and strength. I was able to hold a service for the deaf mutes in Philadelphia, one for those of Baltimore, and one for those of Washington. This was the first of out-growing mission work among deaf mutes. In the spring of 1859 we heard that this property, which we now occupy, was for sale. Allow me, in passing to place on record its singular history. This building in which we are assembled, was originally erected as Christ Church, in 1852 and 1853, under the rectorship of the Rev. Dr. Halsey. The Rectory was added several years afterwards under the Rev. Mr. Wiley. After the congregation had left the old church in Anthony street, they worshipped for a while in the larger chapel of the University, while this building was in process of construction. By a singular coincidence, we at the same time were worshipping directly under them in the small chapel. Little did we think that they were building for us. In the Spring of 1858, Christ Church, under Rev. Mr. Wiley, exchanged property with the Baptist congregation worshipping at the S. E. corner of Fifth avenue and Thirty-fifth street. The Baptists remained here one year, and then sold to us the church, rectory, four lots and the organ and church fixtures for $70,000. This. purchase was consummated in July, 1859, and our services commenced on the first Sunday in August.

We soon sold our Twenty-sixth street lots for $18,000 to Mr. John Do Wolfe, the devout and generous layman, whose recent death has touched the heart of the whole Church in this country. He bought them as an act of good-will towards us, and he should ever be remembered as one of our best friends. With this sum of $18,000 and $2,000 in cash subscriptions, we made our first payment of $20,000 on our property, leaving us with a bond and mortgage of $50,000 at seven per cent interest. Single-handed, the weight would have undoubtedly crushed us. But with faith in God’s blessing we relied upon three different grounds for appeal to our brethren of other parishes and to the community at large. We asked some for help, because we had brought back to the Church her consecrated property, which had been temporarily alienated. We asked others, because we offered free seats to all who would come and use them. We asked others, because we were the only church in this great city specially caring for the deaf mutes after they left the fostering care of various State institutions and came here to earn a living. The result proved we did not ask in vain. From year to year we promptly met our interest and steadily reduced the mortgage debt until it amounted to only $13,000. Last year, in consequence of the repairs which it became absolutely necessary to put upon the church and rectory, $7,000 was added to this mortgage, making it now $20,000 upon a property worth $150,000. Two legacies of $10,000 each, left by the Misses Burr, will bye and bye pay of this mortgage. In the meantime we must meet the interest of $1,400 a year. Our beloved friend, Mr. George R. Jackson, late senior warden of this church, left us a legacy of $5,000 payable with interest three years after his death; which took place in September 1870.  We have received three legacies from Mr. W. E. Sanders $225.85; from Mrs. Sarah Talman $500; and from Mr. Thomas Garner $500.

On the 1st of January 1860 our font was presented to us by a young lady specially interested in our mission to deaf mutes. We have at other times received other articles from kind friends, viz.: chancel chairs, altar cloth and alms basin, furniture and pictures for the Sunday-School &c. Some years ago the Trustees of Greenwood cemetery deeded us a lot for the burial of deaf mutes.

On the first Sunday in October 1862 I was instituted as Rector of this parish by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Potter, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Delancey preaching the sermon.

During the last twelve years, we have had as assistant ministers, the Rev. Dr. Ewer and the Rev Messrs. Eagan, Benjamin, Holmes, Cole and Chamberlain. The latter, our present assistant, is specially interested in deaf mutes by family associations, and is able to conduct the services for deaf mutes very acceptably. Since he has been with us he has been a great help and comfort to me in the various associations and duties of our parish life. In addition to the clergyman referred to above, there have been associated with me, the Rev. Dr. Clerc, and the Rev. Messrs. Pennell, and Berry, besides Mr. Samuel Adams, the deaf mute layman, who conducts the services in Baltimore. "The Church Mission to Deaf Mutes" will soon be incorporated, and will, I trust, be able not only to increase the number of regular services for deaf mutes in different parts of our country, but also foster the Home for Aged and Infirm Deaf Mutes, recently begun at No. 220 East Thirteenth street, in this city.

During the twenty years of our parish life there have been 969 baptisms; 664 persons confirmed; 956 communicants; 418 marriages and 542 burials. These have included a large number of deaf mutes and the children of deaf mutes. These are the statistics of our own parish register. Outside of our own parish I have on various occasions and in different parts of the country officiated at baptisms, marriages, and burials, especially among deaf mutes.

It seems fitting, beloved, that on the 20th anniversary we should place on record some of the names of the departed who have been prominent as our friends. Of the clergy I would mention the Rt. Rev. Bishop Wainwright, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Tulford (sic: Fulford) of Montreal, and the Rev. Drs. Cutler, Cruise, Higbee, and Vinton; and of the laity Messrs. R. B. Minturn, R. D. Weeks, W. A. Spencer, A. Averill, J. W. Underhill, Laurent Clerc and Stephen Hale. From among our wardens and vestry we miss Messrs. Josiah Jones, deaf mute, C. C. Lathrop, G. R. Jackson, and Henry Merrill, and of our communicants the following have died during the past year, passing to the rest of Paradise with Bishops Davis, Upfold, and Eastburn: Lavinia Macy, Henry T. Tomlinson, George Berrien, Rev. Anderson Sutton, Ann Amelia Sands, Alanson McDonald, Nathan M. Duncan, Ann Broughton, William Robert Skidmore, Catharine Purcells, Matilda Staley, Mary Kelly and James Fairgrieve. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."

Notwithstanding the many imperfections of our twenty years work, I trust, my brethren, it is right for us to feel today, that something has been accomplished for Christ and the Church. But we cannot always dwell on the past. The duties of the present and the future are already pressing upon us. Your great duty today, beloved, is to give all in your power through the envelopes or otherwise for the needs of this Church. In addition to the debt already referred to, we, upon a Church note, borrowed $2,000 for the repairs upon our church property made last year. Are there not twenty persons who will give $100 each to make up the sum? Besides this we have a floating debt of about $2,000 resulting from the small offerings of the last three months. Should the offerings today prove sufficient to pay this debt, and I trust they will, we should be very happy and grateful. But there are other duties in addition to giving.

You should take a personal interest in the services of this parish, in the meetings of its associations, in its Sunday-Schools and in the mission at the chapel. You should see that all the children are baptized and in due time confirmed. You should all be sincere communicants. Doing all this with love to the great Head of the Church, this parish would be vigorous and effective. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us all in the way of our duty as members of this parish.

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