Commemorative of the Tenth Anniversary of the Founding
Delivered by the Rev. Edward Wallace-Neil, Sc. D.,
Published by request of the Church Wardens and Vestrymen.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2013
"These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name.”—REV. iii. 7, 8.
THE various messages of God the Holy Ghost to the seven churches of Asia, clothed as they are by the sacred writer in language of the most lofty and sublime character, appeal to the very tenderest emotions of all who read them. To the churches to which they were addressed—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and the rest, they were words of deep and real meaning, words of weight and reality, words of high praise for such of the churches as deserved them, words of condemnation and warning to those churches which were lax or lukewarm or slothful.
But the Word of God was not written for the Christians of that remote age only, nor for the early Church alone; and, while the words of S. John the Divine [3/4] had a special meaning for those seven churches which he addressed by name, yet they come down to us of this day and generation, to the Churchmen of this great city of New York, to the churches of this locality of Harlem, and to us of the Church of S. Edward the Martyr, with all the force and all the reality they carried to the seven churches in those ancient cities of Asia.
"These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name."
May we not reverently take these words as addressed to ourselves, my beloved, on this the tenth anniversary of the founding of this Parish of S. Edward the Martyr? May we not reverently consider this message of God the Holy Ghost as directed to the congregation of this church great and small, young and old alike?
"I know thy works," says the Spirit of God. Thy works of mercy and of charity. Thy deeds of love and devotion done in the Name of Christ for the advancement of His Kingdom upon earth, for the enkindling [4/5] of His life and light in the lives and the hearts of men. Thy gifts and thy alms of whatsoever God hath bestowed upon thee. The sacrifice of thy time and thy energies in the behalf of the great Bride of the Lamb.
Behold, all these are known to Me, saith He, who notes even the sparrow's fall. O, faithful, loyal, noble souls, those of you who have continued with me through all the labor, the disappointments and the drudgery of the ten years' history of this parish, those of you who remember the days when we had to feel our way step by step in very fear and trembling, listen to the Voice of God the Holy Ghost which speaks to you, coming down through the ages: "I know thy works." Though the world be unmindful, though men may forget, yet all is known to Me. For "God is not unrighteous, that He will forget your works, and labor that proceedeth of love; which love ye have showed for His Name's sake."
And what are those works which have been accomplished through and by this parish since that memorable S. Edward's Day, ten years ago, when with many prayers and fearful courage that little company gathered together in those two small rooms near Third Avenue?
 What have been the results of this humble beginning so like that in the upper room at Jerusalem? I may not enumerate them all, for time would fail to go into every detail.
From the very start S. Edward's parish has identified itself with the Catholic cause in the Church. Its sympathies have ever been with that portion of the Church militant whose aim and object are to restore to the service of the Church all those parts and portions of her heritage of which she was robbed by Puritan fanaticism. Everything that is beautiful in the service of God, everything that will gladden the eye, rejoice the heart and elevate the spirit, has ever found a congenial environment in this parish. "The best that we have for God," has ever been our motto. S. Edward's was the first parish in Harlem to adopt those helpful auxiliaries in the public worship of the Church, which are so common to-day, but which were looked upon with suspicion and distrust ten years ago, when the old cry of "Romanism" was raised against anything that was beautiful in the service of the sanctuary.
Ours was the first surpliced choir, the first choral service. The first to use the proper priestly vestments. The first to use lighted candles on God's altar. The first to exalt the Holy Sacrifice to the place where it belongs [6/7] as the one, only, grand and central act of worship, which our Blessed Lord intended it should be. Those acts of outward reverence, those exterior gestures of piety which bespeak the devotion of a religious heart and which go so far towards making the worship of Almighty God a vital reality, were ceremonies peculiar to S. Edward's ten years ago and were openly frowned upon and cried down by Churchmen of the neighboring parishes. To-day the change is marvellous. Of the eleven adjacent parishes, seven have the once despised surpliced choir, three have introduced incense, and the end is not yet. Truly the example of this parish has been most salutary. And if S. Edward's never did anything else, its influence which has wrought all these changes in the surrounding churches should win for it the praise of all those who desire the upbuilding of Christ's Kingdom upon earth. But if the influence of S. Edward's has been so helpful in toning up the spiritual life of the congregations around about. If its influence and its example have helped to infuse new health and vigor into the sister parishes of this locality, what has been its work among those who have been from time to time identified with it in the relations of parishioners and communicants?
 The congregation of S. Edward's has changed no less than three distinct times during the ten years of its existence, for our lot is cast in the midst of an ever changing population. What can be said of that considerable number of souls who first learned to love the Church and her ways in this humble parish? That great flock of faithful believing ones who were here taught the "faith once delivered to the Saints." Are they lost to the great onward movement of Catholic thought and practice? Have they become merged into the great body of the careless and the indifferent, forgotten the lessons of truth which they have been taught? Ask the rectors of the parishes where they have gone and they will tell you that the best workers they have, the most devoted of their flocks are those who have gone to them from here and who have carried their fervor and their zeal and their devotion into their new spiritual homes. So then in this respect again S. Edward's has not existed in vain. "I know thy works." "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters." "By their fruits ye shall know them."
But there are those who are not of the Church militant to-day who have worked and labored and prayed with us in the days that are gone, those days of small things, in the building up of this great spiritual work. [8/9] Those whose names we speak with bated breath and for whose souls' repose prayers ascend to God ever from this altar. Within our ten years' history nearly four hundred of the faithful of this parish have gone to their rest fortified and strengthened by the Sacraments of Mother Church, in the confidence of a certain faith. By the Church on earth they are sadly missed. The Church in Paradise is the richer of their company. In the mystical bond of the Communion of Saints they rejoice with us to-day and with us plead the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ so continually shown forth on this altar. "Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest, grant them Thine eternal rest." Seven hundred souls have received the washing of regeneration from the hands of your rector at yonder font, signed with the sign of the cross and enrolled under Christ's banner. Over two hundred have received the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost in the Sacrament of Confirmation. When the fact is considered that all this has been the work of one priest with but one pair of hands, performed ofttimes with a tired brain and a weary heart, I think you will the more appreciate this labor done for Christ and His Church, in and by His Name. But there is a pastoral work more laborious still, entailing greater nervous strain, causing more [9/10] anxiety to the priest than any of that which has been mentioned, causing him frequently sadness of heart, unquiet hours and sleepless nights. Work which affects the inner life of the priest and his people alike. Work of which the world may never know but which must remain securely sealed under lock and key until that great day when Christ shall come to earth again. Work which admits of no earthly reward, which wins no praise from the hurrying crowd nor need of eulogy from the newspapers. Work which leads the priest to the wretched home where drunkenness and debauchery abound, to shield and defend the pure, the helpless and the innocent. Work which takes him to scenes of destitution and misery almost beyond description, to encourage the tempted and to lift up the fallen. Work which takes him to the home from which the wayward son or daughter has gone, leaving bleeding hearts to mourn for them. Work which sets him searching for the lost one, if so be he may find and bring the erring soul home again. Work which leads him to the place where flow the orphans' tears and the moan of the afflicted widow ascends to the ears of God on high. Work whereby he exercises the power of the keys given him at his ordination, the awful responsibility of binding and loosing. The tale of the tempted sin-sick soul [10/11] that pleads to God for pardon and peace. The almost despairing cry of the sin-haunted mortal who has drunk of the cup of iniquity even to the dregs. This is the work the faithful priest of God must meet and accomplish in this great city. This is the work which only God sees and knows. "Are not these things noted in Thy book," O Thou unchanging and unchangeable Lord of Hosts?
Convinced then, my beloved, that the past of S. Edward's has been one of singular blessing to those who have worshipped, to those who do still worship here—that its influence for good has been felt far beyond the confines of its own parish bounds, let us thank God and take courage for the future.
It is for you, my beloved, to make the future of S. Edward's even more than what its past has been. It is for you to aid in extending its influence and its teachings. It is for you to uphold the hands of the rector in his labors abundant, to stand by him loyally and faithfully in his endeavors to extend the work which God has given him to do. It is for you to shield him from the insinuations of the slanderer and from the assaults of the ungodly. It is for you to give of your time, your means, your talents, of whatever sort they may be, for the furtherance of this great work in this [11/12] spiritually destitute region. Have you time, use it in the service of God. Have you means, give in accordance as God has prospered you for the building up of this parish. Have you gifts, devote them to the greater glory of God.
And in this great, this grand work of spreading the Kingdom of our Lord, each and every one has his or her part and share.
The young girl who comes here and behaves in a modest, pious manner is sure to make an impression for good on some one, who has perhaps come to the service through curiosity to see what is done here. The choir boy or the acolyte who conducts himself as if he were in the very immediate presence of Almighty God, which indeed he is, is doing as much to promote the welfare of the Zion of our God as the man who can contribute thousands of dollars.Beloved of S. Edward's parish, tried and true, the tie which binds us together, priest to people, people to priest, is no ordinary one. One end only of that bond is here, the other reaches away far off into heaven itself. To how many of your little ones, to how many of you yourselves, have I administered that "One Baptism for the remission of sins." How many of you have I prepared and presented for Confirmation. [12/13] How many of you have I blessed in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. How many of you have I year after year fed with the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. With what numbers of you have I been in the hour of affliction when the life you loved so well was rapidly passing away. Many of your dear ones I have laid away to await the great resurrection morn. O by the memory of these sacred associations be loyal, be true to S. Edward's. Do all you can to promote its welfare. Defend the faith that you have been here taught, regardless of the consequences. Stand up for the doctrines of Catholic truth no matter what the world may say or do. So in that great day of days when we and all the whole Church of God are summoned to stand before our Saviour Judge, the words which fall upon our ears may be those which the Holy Spirit addressed to the Church in Philadelphia, in Asia: "I know thy works; thou hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name."