SUNDAY, OCTOBER FIRST, 1893.
Dear Members and Friends of
The Church of the Transfiguration:
Once again I am permitted to ask your remembrance with me of THE TRANSFIGURATION ANNIVERSARIES. These ANNIVERSARIES are four, viz.: the Anniversary of the FIRST SERVICE, the Anniversary of the introduction of the use exclusively of the OFFERTORY, the Anniversary of the establishment of the DAILY EUCHARIST, the Anniversary of the introduction of a SURPLICED CHOIR.
These ANNIVERSARIES are associated, as most of you know, with the present RECTOR. It will be FORTY-FIVE YEARS on the first Sunday in October, since he read the first service that was read and preached the first sermon that was preached for the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION. It will be THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS on that Sunday since by him was substituted the use exclusively of the OFFERTORY, the presenting to Almighty God upon the Holy Table the Alms and other Devotions of the people in place of the Ordinary Plate Collection.
It will be THIRTEEN YEARS on that Sunday since he was permitted here to establish the CELEBRATION DAILY OF THE HOLY COMMUNION--the daily offering at seven o'clock in the morning of the HOLY COMMEMORATIVE SACRIFICE, and the DAILY FEEDING of those who desire with the most PRECIOUS BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD.
It will be TWELVE YEARS on that Sunday since he was enabled, in good measure by the means then begun to be provided, here to introduce under the present Organist and Choir Master the Surpliced Choir, which has not failed to enhance more and more, as the years have gone on, the spirit and brightness and devoutness of the worship.
And now for the ways, brethren and friends, in which I would ask your remembrance of those ANNIVERSARIES on the first Sunday in October.
Let a prayer on that day go up from the heart of each one who may hear these words, or to whom they may come, for God's blessing upon THE CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION and its RECTOR--that its work for God and man may never cease, and that every obstacle to its greater and greater efficiency may not fail ever to be removed.
Let as many of you as can on that day be present as devout worshippers, at as many of the services in the Church as possible. The services will be at 7 and at 10.30 in the morning, and at 4 in the afternoon.
At the EARLY SEVEN O'CLOCK CELEBRATION OF THE HOLY COMMUNION let the number of the devout attendants have been never so numerous before, and each one with "the intention," GOD BLESS FOR HIS GLORY THE CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION AND ITS RECTOR.
At the Services let the OFFERINGS for the POOR, for the CHURCH, for the Music, for the ENDOWMENT FUND, be as general and as generous as they consistently can be. Money for these objects can be sent to the Rector, by those who cannot be present, to be laid upon the Altar in their name and behalf.
I doubt if in any year THE TRANSFIGURATION has gone out in its Charities more abundantly than in the Anniversary Year now closing. Pray, on its Anniversary Sunday, replenish its Exchequer, that it may continue to go out as hitherto.
In these ways, brethren and friends, let the Anniversaries of 1893 lead the list of all the Anniversaries that are past! Time is short! God bless and keep you, one and all. Yours always faithfully and affectionately,
G. H. HOUGHTON.
A continuous Rectorship of forty and five years is a somewhat unusual one.
In the experience of any such continuous Rectorship there could scarcely fail to be much of general interest, much from which might be derived for others not altogether valuelesss, unhelpful, lessons.
If such continuous Rectorship Were coincident with the existence of a Parish, if the history of that Parish were bound up with that Rectorship, if it had begun with that Rectorship and gone on exclusively, unintermittingly, with it, naturally it might be presumed that much more would this be the case.
If, in the ordering of the Divine Providence, there may have been some circumstances of a peculiar character in the history of such continuous, co-incident, Rectorship; if that may have been brought to pass and accomplished therein to which elsewhere there was not that which was altogether answerable; and if there were something almost quite its own, almost sui generis--as the saying is--in the manner in which this had been brought to pass and accomplished--then still more might one venture to say, would such be the case.
Brethren and Friends: The one who now addresses you does not hesitate to say that in the first and present Rectorship of the CHURCH and in connection with the history of the CHURCH the forty-fifth anniversary of whose origin we are to-day commemorating, there has been, by the will of God, much, much, that is unusual, much, much, that is out of the ordinary parochial experience of a like number of years, and therefore, much, much, which if known, would prove of general interest and not uninstructive.
It is now many years, long before the experience was what it now is, since one of high standing in the community, one holding a ready and polished pen, proposed to secure the Rector an annuity almost sufficient for his independent support, would he allow the experience of his life to be written and published.
It is not two weeks since a prominent Publisher of this Town asked the Rector when his Reminiscences would be written and printed.
No such book will ever be written. No such Reminiscence will ever be printed. No diary, no journal, has ever been kept, no record has ever been made, no documents, no letters, no notes have ever been preserved, whose contents might unwisely gratify the ear of an undisciplined curiosity ever itching to hear some new thing, to be made public to the least possible pain or regret of a living soul, when the place of the first Rector of the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION is with the departed. No--if he speaks back again at all from the grave, let him speak only words of peace and of helpfulness. The Priest's lips should keep knowledge--the knowledge sacredly entrusted to him while living --within his lips when closed in death.
But, on such a day as the present, Friends and Brethren, he may well, perhaps, be permitted to speak of a few of the things of interest and advantage which have come to pass in connection with the work to which the LORD has graciously called him, during these forty and five years that He hath here kept him alive.
Into that little room on East 24th street, where forty-five years ago to-day the first Service was read and the first Sermon was preached, there then entered neither influence nor money, nor pledge or promise of money, nor members bound to stand together and to work together for the accomplishment of the end in view; and the leader, of what humanly speaking might well have been regarded as a most forlorn hope and expectation, was unknown, untried, and to the eye of the ordinary observer quite incapable of the physical and other endurance of these FORTY and FIVE YEARS; and indeed having no flattering promise of even living these years.
To-day there is here the well organized PARISH of the TRANSFIGURATION with its CHAPEL on West 69th street, having every reasonable prospect of an existence and a usefulness for all time to come.
Connected with this Parish there is here a FREE LIBRARY, a ST. CHRISTOPHER'S class for the instruction of young girls, a ST. ANNA'S GUILD of working women, a ST. MONICA'S GUILD of colored women, an ALTAR SOCIETY for the care of the CHURCH, the SACRED VESSEL, and VESTMENTS, an HOLY INNOCENTS' GUILD that works for sick and helpless children, a ST. AGNES' GUILD of young women, a CHOIR GUILD, a SERVER'S GUILD of those who serve at the Altar, a MATERNITY SOCIETY for the succour of poor women in childbed and their children, a MISSIONARY AID SOCIETY for providing needed clothing for Church Missionaries and their families, Two SUNDAY SCHOOLS, a SCHOOL for teaching children to Sew. And there has grown out of this Parish the EMERGENCY HOSPITAL, on East 26th street, an adjunct of Bellevue Hospital, where women who have need, receive, without charge, shelter, the best of nursing and medical care at the time of childbirth; and the beginning of a free CHURCH HOSPITAL and DISPENSARY.
This CHURCH, standing here in its pleasant grounds, is open from morning until evening, each day of the year, for any, who will, to enter. There is no day of the Christian Year appointed to be kept which is not here observed as the Prayer Book prescribes. Here there are the DAILY PRAYERS and the OFFERING of the DAILY SACRIFICE, the Daily Celebration of the Holy Communion of the BODY and BLOOD of The LORD. Here, or in the adjoining Rectory, night and day, there is ever a Priest to be found ready to go any whither to meet any emergency.
There is no encumbrance of any sort soever on the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION and its CHAPEL in West 69th Street. The grounds, the buildings, the furniture, are entirely free from debt.
The CHURCH is providing for itself an ENDOWMENT FUND, to guard--please God--against any possible peradventure in the future, to ensure for all time to come--please the Divine Goodness--its present Work and Worship in this place. This ENDOWMENT FUND has already reached nearly $70,000. Friends and Brethren, what doth hinder our marking this Forty-fifth Anniversary by making this ENDOWMENT FUND $70,000?
Since the last Anniversary there was laid upon that ALTAR $70,000, as an offering to ALMIGHTY GOD, to provide, in His own good time, for the enlargement of the CHANCEL, for a new ORGAN CHAMBER and CHOIR ROOM, and for a so much needed PARISH HOUSE.
This CHURCH has been instrumental, by the blessing of God, in doing not a little to render elsewhere--to render, perhaps, generally--less obnoxious, less difficult, more easy the teaching of the FAITH as once delivered to the saints, the use of some of the Church Ornaments and some of the Church furniture and EUCHARISTIC VESTMENTS, that, through prejudice and want of knowledge, had fallen into disuse; and the revival of some of the significant, helpful, practices and observances of the CHURCH CATHOLIC--not ROMAN CATHOLIC, but universal-- which for the same reasons had largely ceased to be followed.
In no mingled dialect of Ashdod and Israel, but in the pure CATHOLIC tongue of the CHURCH and of HOLY SCRIPTURE, from the very beginning, according to the knowledge then possessed, and ever after the more and more clearly and fully, as the knowledge increased, the CHURCH DOCTRINE and BIBLE TRUTH of the INCARNATION, the PERFECT GODHEAD and the PERFECT MANHOOD of the ONE CHRIST JESUS our LORD, of the ATONEMENT; of the Christian MINISTRY; of the SACRAMENTS, of the CHURCH; of not only a BELIEVING on the LORD JESUS CHRIST, a TRUSTING in HIM, a RELYING solely on HIM, His Righteousness and Passion, for salvation; but also an obeying of His PRECEPTS and a following of His EXAMPLE--have been taught, according to the ability, in the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION. [See Nehemiah, 13, 24.]
From first to last, from the beginning until the present, here there has been no putting forth of any personal, individual, notions of Doctrine and of Duty, of HOLY SCRIPTURE and of Inspiration. The endeavour has been to teach that which was held and taught aforetime, that which the CHURCH has received and held and taught from the beginning. There has been no deviation, no change, no turning back, no preaching of one thing to-day and of another thing, the opposite, to-morrow. There has been but the one simple right onward course, so far as the teaching was concerned.
As the knowledge of the Faith as held by the CHURCH has increased, has become clearer and fuller, the more clearly and fully has it been the desire and the endeavour to set forth that Faith.
As the old paths, the paths of the CHURCH, the paths of the APOSTLES and MARTYRS and SAINTS, have been more and more clearly discerned, it has been, ever more and more, the desire and the endeavour to point them out, and the more earnestly to say--"THIS IS THE WAY. WALK YE IN IT!"
While there has ever been, it is believed, the speaking of the Truth in love and with all due prudence, it has never been withheld, or modified, or adapted to the wisdom, or the ignorance, of the Nineteenth Century, lest this man or woman of wealth or influence, in its upbuilding days, would not come to the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION, or lest this man or this woman of wealth or influence might go from it. The man of wealth and of influence has never here been courted, or had place, for his wealth and his influence.
There has ever been a due mindfulness, it is believed, of each one and of every one, but a greater mindfulness, an entire mindfulness, a mindfulness, exclusive of all other mindfulness, has there been of the Truth and of its teaching, of the thing that is right.
"Platonis amicus, sed multo magis veritatis amicus."
That was a tribute here paid long years ago by a grateful heart for which the TRANSFIGURATION was most thankful. "In the rich man's sin, the poor man's sorrow was not forgotten."
What in comparison with the teaching of the Ages, the teaching of the CHURCH, is the value of the view and opinion of the individual, who is here today and gone to-morrow, concerning the eternal unchangeable Truth of the Omniscient GOD!
Through the ear and through the eye, in that which has been taught and practiced, gradually and persistently has the old time Truth been here set forth. All that has been preached has been the old time Gospel truth. The old time CHURCH DOCTRINE, BIBLE TRUTH. Whatever has been practised here--whatever Ceremonies and Ritual have here been observed; whatever have been and are the Ornaments and Adornments of the CHURCH; whatever you here see and observe, is significant, means something, is intended to illustrate, and exhibit that same old time Truth. PULPIT and ALTAR and CANDLES and CROSS and FLOWERS and LECTERN and BAPTISTERY and WINDOWS and PAINTINGS, and SACRED VESTMENTS, and MANUAL ACT, and POSTURES--all unite in proclaiming the Everlasting Gospel, CHRIST and HIM CRUCIFIED.
The liberality that has ever here been found, that is here found, and which it is trusted shall ever here be found--is not a liberality of the things belonging to another. It is a liberality of personal service and personal sympathy; a liberality of one's own strength and time, and whatsoever means. It is a liberality of an abundant welcome through the Church's ever open doors to pass, and find a place for laying down the burden of one's sins, a place for rest and for worship; a liberality in the use for the need)- of the Alms that have been laid upon the ALTAR.
Here there is no liberality in dispensing with the laws of the CHURCH, in doing that which is not permitted--in giving away any part of the truth, in withholding any part of the old Gospel, or teaching any other in its stead.
All that has been done and taught here during these forty and five years, the old time accepted teaching and practices that have been in any measure here revived--have helped to make less difficult such revival elsewhere and in the future.
Forty and five years ago the use of the Sign of the Cross, the Surpliced Choir, Candles, an Altar Cross, Eucharistic Vestments, the Crucifix, the Eastward position, Kneeling at the Incarnatus, the reverent Inclination to the ALTAR, Flowers, the Preaching in the Surplice, the Invocation of the Blessed Trinity before the sermon, the saying of the Litany at a Fald Stool, the asking the congregation to rise at the Presentation of the Alms upon the ALTAR--subjected one to somewhat more than remark. Now this is no longer so. What has been done and taught at the TRANSFIGURATION, and the manner of the doing and the teaching, have accomplished not a little in effecting this change.
The week following the Sunday in March, 1850, when a portion of this building was first opened for Divine Worship, a Church Paper, at first to the somewhat prejudice of the young and inexperienced Rector, stated in an editorial, which went somewhat over the Church land, that said Rector had requested the Bishop of Pennsylvania, the father of our present Diocesan, when preaching at the TRANSFIGURATION on the afternoon of that day, to preach in the Surplice!--as if even asking him to do so had been worse than breaking four or five of the Commandments.
When the two Eucharistic Lights--that tell of Christ, both God and Man, as the Light of the world-- were here about to be introduced, and the good Bishop Horatio Potter--God rest him!--was asked not to sanction what was proposed, but to state whether he were averse to it--he said "On the contrary, I think that we make altogether too little of the things which teach through the eye,"--and then he gravely shook his wise head and added, "But you must consider whether you will run the risk of breaking your neck for a straw, as it were."
Those Eucharistic Lights and that Altar Cross were made the subject of more than one speech, to which the Rector listened in a General Convention which he had permitted here to be held, owing to the bad acoustic properties of the place, where it had assembled. Nothing had ever been seen like them by the speakers in any of our churches before. "That cross is leading the way, and those candles are lighting the way, to Rome, to Rome! sir," exclaimed one of the speakers.
And any one may read, who cares to read, in the life of a certain Reformed Episcopal Bishop, of a proposed indignation meeting because those Lights and that Cross had stood as a standing insult to that Convention during its Session. That Convention had not been invited to come and sit before that Cross and those Candles. It had asked to be permitted to come. And to think of men claiming to believe in Christ--in HIM as the propitiation for the sins of the world, and as the Light of the World-- professing to be scandalized and insulted by the presence of the Symbols of that Propitiation and of that Light!
But things are different now. And even then, at the close of that Convention, one of the Delegates, now a Bishop, standing before the Chancel, said to the Rector, "The CHURCH at large owes you a debt of gratitude, for having accustomed this Convention to the sight of that Cross and of those Candles."
One of our long time ago good vestrymen--God rest him! God rest him!--he sees things differently now--he saw them so and was more than content before he entered into rest--thought that he must leave the Church if the use of the Processional Cross were introduced--if that were set before us for a brief while in symbol, to which the LORD spiritually, in reality, calls us--the following our lives long in the way of the Cross!--and how few are there now who would fault the use of the Processional Cross?
As one and another passed from us through the Veil into the world unseen, from the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION into the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURED, from the very first almost, tenderly, tenderly, we began to bear them here in loving remembrance and sought to do for them, through the infinite mercy and goodness of God, more than tongue can tell, or than it can enter into the heart of man to conceive.
There was our Easter Even Service when we recalled the year's departed--a Service peculiar to the TRANSFIGURATION.
There was the printing of leaflets concerning the state of the Departed, and what we were taught by Holy Scripture and the CHURCH could be done for the Departed--for those who had departed with the least particle of divine grace. And who is he who would not exercise the largest hope for his fellow in regard of this grace, and commend and commit him to the infinite mercy of the All Merciful, rather than sit in judgment upon him?
There was the printing of Prayers and Litanies to be said for the Departed; the preaching of the occasional sermon with reference to them and our relation to them. Then the bidding of the people to prayer for them and the offering in public of the Prayer in the Prayer Book for them: "O Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of just men, made perfect"--when? "AFTER they are delivered from their Earthly Prisons"--JUST men--men made partakers in this life in any measure of the justifying grace of the Alone Justifier, JESUS CHRIST, but "made perfect after they are delivered from their Earthly Prisons: we humbly commend the soul of our dear brother--or sister-- into Thy Hands as into the Hands of a faithful Creator, and most Merciful Saviour, most humbly beseeching Thee that it may be precious in thy sight. Wash it, we pray thee, in the Blood of that Immaculate Lamb, that was slain to take away the sins of the world, that whatsoever defilements it may have contracted in the midst of this miserable and naughty world, through the lusts of the flesh, or the wiles of Satan, being purged and done away, it may be presented pure and without spot before Thee."
Then, with the Prayer, there was the pleading of the HOLY SACRIFICE at the ALTAR; and the placing thereon of the Memorial Offering, that it might come up before GOD, and that HE would remember for good, according to the supplication of NEHEMIAH, the one by whom or in whose behalf it was given. [Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.--Nehemiah, 13, 14.]
But after one of the Addresses had been delivered concerning the Departed, and after the offering of prayers for them, according to the teaching of HOLY SCRIPTURE and the CHURCH and the practice of Ancient Israel, ("Lord, remember DAVID" prayed King SOLOMON long after his father DAVID was dead!) and the Apostles and Martyrs and other Saints, one said to the Rector: "What does your Bishop say to this Teaching?"
And one of our Church leaflets bearing upon what can be done for the dead was sent to the Bishop, and another was put into the hands of the Bishop of another Diocese to bring before a then sitting General Convention, and the Rector was told that should this be done, that leaflet would prove a firebrand in the Convention.
But it was no long while after, that the then Bishop of the Diocese, in a time of sorrow, came in hither and listened, with the congregation, to one of those Addresses and joined in the Service, and then went up into the Sacristy and spoke of the comfort that he had received.
The tears of sorrow, of bereavement, Friends and Brethren, are glasses through which we see things in a different, a truer, light.
Once, when an ALL SAINTS DAY and a SUNDAY had fallen together, the RECTOR preached from the words of ST. PAUL to the EPHESIANS: "Being confident of this very thing, that HE, Which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the Day of JESUS CHRIST." The sermon was but the simple unfolding of the truth wrapt up in the text, viz: That if the Lord had begun, in any measure, in any one while in the life here a spiritual work, the good work of grace, it would not cease, it would not be perfected, at the hour of death; but that HE would perform it, HE would continue it,--the work of cleansing, the work of sanctifying, the work of enlightening, the work of beatifying,--through the long lapse of the whatsoever interval between death and the Second Coming of the LORD, the Day of JESUS CHRIST; and the added inference, that if the LORD permitted us, as He assuredly does, in any measure by any means--by prayer, by offerings, by the pleading in the way of His appointment of His Passion and Death--to have part in the work here, so may we believe that He will graciously permit us, in some measure, to have part in the progressive work there.
After the sermon was preached, there came to the Rector a much interested, but somewhat timid, Parishioner and said: "How could you have preached such a sermon at this time, when pews are to be rented or to be given up?" As if, aside from the coincidence of the days, such a time were not a good, an honest, time for setting forth some truth of Holy Scripture, here taught, which had failed to be generally apprehended and accepted.
But all this is changed now. All this is more easily done elsewhere now, than here it was done then. And TRANSFIGURATION Leaflets, concerning the Departed, and containing prayers for the Departed, are sent for from all over the land; and not many days pass without the bereaved and the sorrowing hither coming to bear in loving remembrance before God their dear ones within the Veil, and to do, and to ask to have done, for them what they can.
When in that room on East 24th street, perhaps an half-dozen met to decide upon the corporate name by which the Parish then to be organized was to be designated, and to elect its first wardens and vestry" men, the NAME of the TRANSFIGURATION, at the Rector's suggestion, was chosen. There were many and weighty reasons that led to this selection. The NAME of the TRANSFIGURATION was one, it is believed, then in our Communion thus unappropriated. There was then no CHURCH either in this country or in England, so far as was known, called by this NAME. The CHURCH bearing it would commemorate one of the less frequently and, for the most part, less sufficiently considered Events in the Life of the LORD; and yet an Event not inferior in importance and significance to many other of the Events in that Life. There was that in this Event, and associated with this Event, which was very suggestive, much in harmony with that which was desired, and, by the help of the Lord, proposed in the work then undertaken, and there was one particular of coincidence and encouragement that did not fail to be observed.
The TRANSFIGURATION testified beforehand the Sufferings of CHRIST in this world, and the Glory that should follow in another.
It gave the assurance to the sinking faith of the disciples who witnessed it, and it gives the assurance and encouragement to the so oft times desponding faith of those who hear of it and read of it, that Glory and Gladness shall follow suffering and sadness. Glory and Gladness unending in another world, shall follow suffering and sorrow transitory in this world, if borne in the Name and for the sake of the LORD. It has largely to do with the world unseen; with the world which for us is yet to come; with the Glory there revealed in the LORD yet bearing the marks of the Passion, and with the Glory to be revealed in His followers after that they have here suffered awhile.
And so, as it has to do with the Eternal world, and as the LORD bade the three disciples who witnessed it not to reveal it until after the Resurrection, and as He spoke to the disciples of drinking anew with them of the fruit of the vine in the Kingdom of HEAVEN, and as it is the old time tradition that it was on the SIXTH of AUGUST that the revelation of what had transpired on the mount was first disclosed by the Three: So in the long TRINITY season which symbolizes, in a way, the unending Eternity, at the time of the ripening of the new grapes, when the vintage was blessed and juice from the grapes could be pressed into the Cup for the COMMUNION,--on the SIXTH of AUGUST was appointed to be kept from the beginning of its keeping, as is now here observed, the FEAST of the TRANSFIGURATION.
At the time of the TRANSFIGURATION the Holy Scriptures, as represented by the Fathers of either TESTAMENT, and the Everlasting God bore witness to the LORD, in WHOM we believe, WHOM we love, WHOM we adore, in WHOM only is all our hope.
Then was it that the ALMIGHTY FATHER bade us to hear and heed HIM, His SON only, in comparison with the hearing and heeding of any other. Then was it that the disciples at the last were left alone with the LORD, and saw no man save the LORD---as the LORD is seen alone in yonder window by the Organ with the underlying legend: "THEY SAW NO MAN SAVE JESUS ONLY;" to tell all who enter this CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION that JESUS--JESUS supremely--is the ONE, the Only ONE, unto WHOM to turn, unto WHOM to look, WHOM to see.
In the TRANSFIGURATION even the garments of the LORD were whitened by the celestial glory so as no fuller could whiten them, and from out His BODY shone a brightness surpassing the brightness of the SUN. And this whiteness and this brightness failed not to fall upon those there with the LORD, for their whitening and their brightening. And in a CHURCH that should commemorate by its name that Event, why should there not be a striving to commemorate, why should there not be a special incentive in its very Name, to commemorate, on the part of Priest and people, in a spiritual sense, the whiteness and the brightness displayed on the mountain. Indeed there might be the purpose and the effort for this. And in the character of the CHURCH that should be builded, and in the accessories that should be provided, might not all be with a view to this end?
There were five with the LORD on the Mount. There were six only to cast in their lots together when the work for the formation of the Parish and the building of the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION were first contemplated.
Humanly speaking, there has followed from the meeting of that half dozen in the room on East 24th street, for the organizing of this Parish and the choice of its corporate Name, and the choice then made of its corporate Name, much more than the existence of this our CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION, as it now exists, and its well grounded hopes and expectations, under God, for the future.
From what was there and then done, it has been the will of the DIVINE PROVIDENCE that there should follow the introduction into the AMERICAN PRAYER BOOK of the old Office for the keeping of the FEAST of the TRANSFIGURATION--the Collect, the Epistle and Gospel, with the addition of proper Psalms and Lessons; and the appointing by the AMERICAN CHURCH that this FEAST throughout that CHURCH be observed on the 6th DAY of AUGUST, the day on which it was originally appointed to be kept.
And there has followed from what was then and there done, also, doubtless as a consequence, the subsequent building and naming of eight other CHURCHES and CHAPELS of the TRANSFIGURATION in this country--ground was broken for the ninth on last Transfiguration Day--and of one CHURCH in ENGLAND. [There is now a tenth in Rhode Island]
But there was connected with the TRANSFIGURATION of the LORD a work of mercy, a miracle of healing, which was also had in mind, which it was hoped and intended should for all time to come be borne in mind, in and by the CHURCH that should be founded, please God, this should be permitted to be done, in the original choice of the Name--the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION.
You will remember that the LORD and EXAMPLE remained not on the Mount where there was peace and glory and holiness and safety and love, in the Presence of MOSES and ELIAS and the three disciples, PETER and JOHN and JAMES, and where the voice of the Heavenly Father was heard--though the disciples would fain have constrained Him so to do,--but came down to its base where the youthful demoniac was writhing, that He might bid the Devil be gone from him and torment him no more.
So in the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION that was to be founded, it was the purpose, which from first to last it has been the endeavour to fulfill, that while there should be the devout lifting in worship of the eyes HEAVENWARD to its glories as not elsewhere more so, there should be no such uplifting as to hinder the turning of them EARTHWARD to the needs and miseries of men. Nay, that the more the uplifting, so much the more the down-turning. That while there should be no lack of the going of one's ways into its gates with praise to Almighty God, there should be never the failure of going out of them with Alms and Sympathy, and loving kindness and the Ministry of Mercy, to so many of His creatures as possible.
That while here the amiableness of the dwellings of the Lord of Hosts, His presence and the presence of blessed Angels should be sought and found, there should be as great a readiness in going, and as frequent a going, if the Lord should will, into the never so loathsome Devil's den for the release of any there bound in His chains.
And so during these FORTY and FIVE years, it is believed that the love of God, all inadequate as this love may have been, and the love of man, the worship of the ONE, and work for the other, have been somewhat equally taught and practised in this CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION.
While yet the congregation dwelt in tents, so to speak, on East 24th street, before hither coming to take possession of the first builded part of this TEMPLE of the LORD, the Bellevue Hospital, then without its appointed Chaplain as now, and having only prisoners from BlackwelPs Island for nurses, was regarded for those sixteen months, almost as a TRANSFIGURATION Adjunct. Its wards were very familiar. There prayers were offered, and words of pardon and peace were said, and the BLESSED SACRAMENT was administered, more times than can be told. It was known that from the room on 24th street, as from the CHURCH here afterwards, one was ready to go day or night to minister to the sick and the dying. Scarcely the part of a street from Twentieth to Thirtieth running eastward was not lovingly trodden in quest of those who had need.
And it was counted an happy omen that directly the Services here were begun, there should have come and made his way through one of the air holes under the rear of the CHURCH--there were no houses then on Thirtieth street--a poor, miserable, ill-used lame dog with a rope 'round his neck, as if knowing that TRANSFIGURATION would afford him shelter, safety, and food, as it did for nearly nine years. Poor dog!--such had been his ill-usage and such was his fear of man that he would come out only at night for the food that was laid at his hole.
At the outbreak of the Civil war, from the opening of the first hospital in this town for sick and wounded soldiers, the TRANSFIGURATION provided, gladly and gratuitously, for six months--until a paid chaplain was appointed--for all the services and needed spiritual care--care always thankfully received. A lady from TRANSFIGURATION had charge of the fever ward. Another went daily for the music at the short service held by the Rector. Again and again was the Burial office read in the street by the side of the hearse in front of the Hospital on Lexington avenue, the now Children's Hospital and Nursery.
And when in the draft riots of that war, poor, innocent, helpless colored folk were driven from their humble homes and some from their sick beds, and others were hung from lamp posts--it was here at the Church of the TRANSFIGURATION that some found refuge and food in the room above stairs, the Parish Library, in the Choristers' robing room, in the Sunday School room above the Chapel, at yonder end of the CHURCH. And the talk about pulling the Church down about his ears, if the Rector, who had brought them out under the trees for the sun and the air, "did not keep the niggers out of sight," made him only the more determined that while he had the sun and air and shelter and food at TRANSFIGURATION, they should have them. And as he recalls those days he can never forget the coming of that Vestryman-- God bless him!--from the country, and with his open pocketbook in his hand saying that he must have part, as he did, in the feeding of those forlorn and desolate ones. [Mr. Edward A. Quintard, still a vestryman, thanks be to God! of the CHURCH of TRANSFIGURATION.]
For now more than Twenty Years, gladly and gratuitously, to the two principal SISTERHOODS of the AMERICAN CHURCH, the SISTERHOOD of ST. MARY and the SISTERHOOD of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, has their spiritual care been given by the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION: The RECTOR standing in the relation of Chaplain to the one and of Warden to the other. To their daily Prayers at their Altars and in private, and to the Prayers of his people and the Prayers of others to whom it has been his privilege to minister, it is doubtless due that "now behold, the LORD hath kept him alive these forty and five years."
It is owing to the relation with one of these SISTERHOODS that the sufferers by Yellow Fever at Memphis and in other Southern Cities, a few years since, received through the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION, perhaps quite fifteen thousand dollars; and that from it went shriven and blessed a Priest and Sisters to minister to the sick and to lay down their lives for them.
It is owing to the relation with the other that the Midnight Mission for many years received, through the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION, the personal spiritual care of its inmates.
As the knowledge of what the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION was intended to be, and was ready to be, and was, in the personal ministry of mercy and blessing; that no sin, no degradation, no sickness, no possible peril, was or could be a barrier to that ministry: The Gambling House, the House of 111 Repute, the Prison House, were opened to it. There was no place that was shut against it. There was no man or woman who hesitated to seek it in time of need. And thanks be to GOD!--during all these forty and five years not so much as once has the foot of that personal ministry from the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION withheld itself from crossing any threshold through fear from possible personal peril. From the dying it has come out of the Gambling House at midnight, and from the House of Ill Repute at the dawn of the day. And the hand of that ministry, despite of warning, in the midst of pestilence, has held the head, as it should, of the pestilence smitten, for the receiving of the BODY and BLOOD of the LORD.
But it was not until the occurrence of the incident that gave to this CHURCH the name by which it is so widely known and made it an object of interest and affection to so many, that the field and the opportunities for the exercise of the personal ministry of the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION became what they then began to be and have since become.
There was drawn to this CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION an English woman of rare intelligence and cleverness, whose life had been a life of sorrow and disappointment. Through the long time personal ministry of which mention has been made, the remembrance of that sorrow was greatly soothed and the burden of that disappointment was well-nigh removed, and that was accomplished without which there could not have been the death of peace and of gladness that followed. During a long illness, which poverty was making the more grievous, she was tenderly and abundantly cared for, and when she died she was buried by those with whom her lot in this country had largely been cast members of the Dramatic Profession and Writers for the press.
They were these full of sympathy and interest who were present in the rooms on a distant street where the Burial Office was read by the Rector of the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION. He well remembers the warm grasp of the hand and the grateful words of one and another of them.
Then followed the seeking, on their part, of the personal ministry of the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION, especially for the Burial of the dead.
It was the some time mention of this, as seen in the public prints, that led to the saying,--in connection with the refusal elsewhere of the Burial of an Actor, a Baptized man, an English Churchman, one whose right to the Burial Office was quite equal to that of any of us--"There is a little Church around the corner where they do such things;" which was followed on the part of the one to whom it was addressed, with the prompt rejoinder, "GOD BLESS THE LITTLE CHURCH AROUND THE CORNER."
In the printed circular concerning the last Anniversaries, those of a year ago, it was stated that the disbursements for the year, the charities, having been, as they always are, very large, had quite considerably exceeded the income.
At once of their own accord, voluntarily, as though theirs were the bounden duty, and notwithstanding again and again gentle, but earnest deprecation,--for there was no manner of claim upon them, generous souls of these Professions, the Dramatic and the Press --undertook at once to provide for the deficiency, and they did so--God bless them! Very many and touching were the letters that then came to the Rector--this is one them.
Boston, Oct. 27th, 1892.
My dear Dr. Houghton:
I have heard that the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION is in some financial difficulty, and the enclosed check for Two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) is a little contribution made up by my sons, George, Edmund, Joseph and myself.
While I regret the sum is not larger, I hope it will be accepted with our love and best wishes.
The words of Holy Scripture, Brethren and Friends, with which was prefaced what has now been said: "AND NOW, BEHOLD THE LORD HATH KEPT ME ALIVE THESE FORTY AND FIVE YEARS," were spoken by Caleb when he came to Joshua to ask for himself and his Tribe, as a perpetual inheritance, the hill of Hebron. He gave as the reason for the granting of his request that, for the forty and five years that the Lord had kept him alive during his fights with the Philistines and the other sometime Possessors of Canaan, in thence driving them out, he had wholly followed the LORD GOD.
In the present case the keeping alive these forty and five years has not been, whatever the desire and the purpose of the heart, because of a wholly following of the LORD GOD, but in order that the LORD GOD, Who worketh by whatsoever means He will, might accomplish what he has here done during these years--Blessed be His NAME! To HIM this day be ascribed all honour and thanksgiving. Nor is it for any such reason, but of his infinite mercy and goodness, that this day we ask that the Heavenly Joshua--JEHOVAH our SAVIOUR--would grant to Caleb and his Tribe, to the first Rector of the CHURCH of the TRANSFIGURATION, and to all who shall ever stand here in his stead, and to all from first to last, to whom he and they shall have ministered, sure and everlasting possession in the Heavenly HEBRON--the Heavenly hill in the world everlasting of Refuge and of Rest--in the CITY of the Friend of the Merciful GOD. [This is the significance of the name by which the modern Hebron is now known.]
To the Members and Friends of
The Church of the Transfiguration:
The object of this Fund, as has been frequently stated, is to provide in days to come for the maintenance in this place of the present worship and work of the Church of the Transfiguration--to guard against the possibility, so far as may be, of the change of this worship as regards the Daily Eucharist and the Daily Prayers; and the lessening of the work now here done for the souls and bodies of our fellow men.
It is the very natural and earnest desire of the one whom God has permitted to be its founder, and now, these many years its Rector, to see this fund so increased that its annual income, with what may be derived from the existing congregation, may be sufficient to put beyond the ordinary peradventure the likelihood of any change from that to which he is accustomed, whether of the locality or of the worship or of the work of the Church of the Transfiguration.
In the nature of things, however, so far as the fullfilment of this his desire, is concerned, it is obvious that what is done must needs be done with no great delay. It cannot be expected that he will be permitted much longer to stand before its Altar to place thereon the offerings for the increase of the Endowment Fund of the Church of the Transfiguration.
He would ask then from its members and friends, from those to whom it may have been a blessing and a comfort in any measure whatsoever, from those who appreciate what God has been pleased in and through it to accomplish, and who desire that, what it now is and what it now is doing, it may never cease to be and to do, such offerings for this Fund, as can consistently be made.
The accruing interest of the Endowment Fund--which is well invested, for the most part on Bond and Mortgage--is added wholly to the principal. During the present Rectorship, certainly, this interest will continue to be so added.
It is for the Church--for the unceasingly maintaining of its present worship and its work for our fellow men in this place--that the Rector continues to make his appeal for the increase of the Endowment Fund. He has no other interest in the matter.
It is hoped that it may eventually reach at least $250,000.
The Fund is now $71,000.
G. H. HOUGHTON,
I give and bequeath to the Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen of the Church of the Transfiguration in the City of New York, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York, the sum of dollars for the sole use and benefit of the Endowment Fund so called of said corporation.
I devise to the Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen of the Church of the Transfiguration of the City of New York, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York, all that certain land and real property known and described as follows: for the sole use and benefit of the Endowment Fund so called of the said corporation.