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Address by the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Church of the Holy Communion. Wednesday July 24th, 1844.

From The Gospel Messenger and Church Record of Western New-York, Utica, Sat. Morning August 3, 1844.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008


This Church, a notice of the laying of the corner-stone of which will found be among the Episcopal Acts, is to be built of brown stone, cruciform, 110 feet in length, and 65 feet in width including the transepts. It is to be a pure specimen of the early English, fitted to accommodate about 800 people, and ready for consecration in May next. Adjoining the Church will be a residence for the pastor.

Besides the Prayer Book and the Bible, a paper containing the following inscription, was deposited in the corner-stone:

whereof this corner-stone
was laid by
Bishop of the Diocese of New York,
on the Vigil of
in the Year of our Lord,
The Church to be erected
in fulfilment of the intentions of
the late JOHN ROGERS,
of the City of New York,
by his Widow

Glory be to the FATHER,
and to the SON,
and to the HOLY GHOST.

The lady who thus carries out the pious design of the founder, is a sister of the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg, whose address on the occasion we have great pleasure in presenting to our readers.


The work we have now begun, and commended to the favor of God, may at first sight be regarded as an uncalled for undertaking. A Church is to be erected where one seems scarcely required: the neighborhood but thinly settled, has its share of its ministrations of the Gospel; why then is Christian liberality expended here, with so many calls for it elsewhere? To this it might be enough to say that a church is not built for the present generation alone. It is a provision for the time to come, which always wise, is eminently so in the midst of population rapidly increasing. But the proper answer is furnished by the history of the undertaking. It was not a plan lately devised, and about which we are at liberty to enquire, whether the means appropriated to it, might not be better employed. It was determined upon several years ago. The late Mr. John Rogers, of this city, for some time previously to his death, formed the pious resolution of founding a church, of which the privileges should be open to all who desired them without money and without price. To this object he designed to consecrate a portion of his estate in this section of the city. During his long and severe illness it was a favorite subject of his thoughts and conversation. He hoped that God would accept it as a thank offering at his hands, unworthy as he was to offer it--and his strongest wishes of recovery were that he might have the happiness of seeing the church completed. This was denied him; but he was contented to leave the accomplishment of his plan in the hands of his widow. He made no formal will to that purport, well knowing that a knowledge of his intentions was a sufficient security for their being carried into effect. Accordingly his widow, at as early a period as has been practicable, now enters on the fulfilment of his benevolent design. While she cordially approves of it, and rejoices that so good a work is in her power, she desires to be considered only as the dispenser of her husband's bounty, and means to proceed as she believes he would himself have done.

This was the origin of the work before us. It began in a heart touched with gratitude to God, and a desire to promote his glory by furthering the salvation of men. It was a fruit of the same genuine piety which in all ages has bequeathed to the church so many of her sanctuaries. Churches so founded springing out of no worldly interests--acts of penitence and faith--thank offerings of charity--have a character of their own: they are the legacies of the faithful to their brethren in all generations--the perpetual benedictions of the saints--tokens of rememberence from the church at rest, to the church yet militant--and thus pledges of the unity of the one body in Paradise and on earth--symbols and ties of love in the communion of Saints. Let then this sanctuary be named the Church of the Holy Communion--nor let it only be a name. Let it be the ruling idea in forming and maintaining the Church, and in all its ministrations. Here let there be a sanctuary of Jesus Christ consecrated especially to the great ordinance of his love. This will rebuke all the distinctions of pride and wealth, which the founder of the church designed should never be provided for here. As christians dare not bring such distinctions to the table of the Lord--there at least remembering their fellowship in Christ and their common level in redemption, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, kneeling around the sacred board; so let the name brotherhood prevail, let there be no differences of worldly rank, in the Church of the Holy Communion.

With this ruling idea, let the church be supported by the offering at the Holy Communion, as churches once were, and will again be when the faithful shall understand that the contributions are really offerings to God! When the spirit of the Offertory is acted out, and almsgiving is regarded as a test and means of Communion with Christ; when the rich and poor man come together in the church; when those whom God hath blessed in their basket and store, have their poor neighbors whom their alms are to relieve kneeling at their side; and when christians see the minister of God taking their gifts and on bended knees humbly laying them as an offering on the altar of the redeemer, they will not then be sparing of their bounty. It will not then be mere human pity that will make them generous; but a divine faith that to minister to the poor in Christ is to minister to Christ himself, will stir their hearts; and a holy shame save them from sending a scanty pittance to be offered as their alms and oblations on the altar of the Divine Majesty.

As far as we live up to this idea, peace and love will prevail within these walls. For where would be the spirit of the Communion in strife and in discord and schism? From one source of contention at least, that of ecclesiastical politics, a church will be free, which will maintain its outward union with the Body at large, only through the union of the Pastor and the people with the Bishop; and so preserve its unity by adhering to the fellowship of the Apostles.

Again our idea implies that here should be a house of unceasing Prayer. For what Holy Communion can there be without prayer, especially intercession; which as it is continually. offered to the Father by the Beloved Son in behalf of his Church, so is it the constant voice of that Church, going up night and day--each part for the whole, and the whole for each part--the Everlasting Litany,--the patient cry from age to age, Thy kingdom come! Here then let the part be borne in this Catholic Communion of Prayer! Here let there be a house of God, not barred and silent at weekly intervals, but ever open to His worshippers and vocal with their prayers! "Day by day we worship Thee," let here be said in the unceasing service from the year's beginning to its end! And if the place be thus truly a house of prayer, may we not hope that it will still further realize its sacred designation, and become a Church in the constant celebration of the Holy Communion! Frequent sacraments require frequent prayers, and frequent prayer begets them. Let the congregation who in time to come may worship here, if they would elevate their Church to its highest honor, make it a Tabernacle of the Holy Eucharist--a Church in which the commemorative sacrifice of our Faith shall be offered continually, ever showing forth the Lords death until he come--where the devout stranger shall never come on a Holyday and find the Table without the Bread, the Altar without the sacrifice. If the congregation should aspire to this glory for their Church, let them aspire to be meet for it: let them abound in all other good works and use faithfully all other means of grace: let their Faith work by love; let them be given to prayer, to fasting, to self-denial, to labors for Christ's sake. The frequent Communion will then, of course, be part of the life of faith, and communicants will find what they need for the strengthening and refreshing of their souls.

Of the first congregation of Christians, we read that they continued in the Apostle's doctrines and fellowship--in breaking of bread and in prayers; that they had all things common, and parted with their possessions to all men as every man had need. Should we give a name to that first congregation, how better could we designate it than by that which in hope we have ventured to assume for ourselves; its hope, my Christian Brethren,--not in arrogance or vain expectation, but in hope and prayer, and humble dependance on God. In a good work our hopes should be high in the beginning, however we may fall short in the end. When Christ is the sure foundation-stone, elect and precious, we may piously trust that the temple of the living corner stone will arise, animated by His Spirit, adorned by His grace, bound together by His love, and every where inscribed, "Holiness unto the Lord!"

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