at the Service
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Presentation of the Gift
The Native Women of
Sunday February 8, 1931
It has been said with truth that the building of a great Cathedral is a major event in history. I wonder if we who live in New York realize how world wide the interest is in the building of this Cathedral. That world wide interest has been shown by beautiful and symbolic gifts from almost all the principal Foreign Governments.
Not long ago a beautiful Gold Chalice was received from the Government of Hungary. Only a few weeks ago on December 7th a gift was presented from the King of Siam. Since that we have announced a gift from the Minster of Old York in England. Today a gift comes from Fort Yukon, Alaska, above the Arctic Circle. And I may add that I have just received a letter from Sidney, New South Wales, asking for information as to the progress of this Cathedral to be published in the newspapers in Australia and New Zealand.
The gift presented today is a set of Altar hangings sent by the Indian Women of Alaska, made by their own hands, of exquisite bead work embroidered on Moose Skin.
It is one of the most significant and touching of all the gifts that have come to the Cathedral. Most closely associated with Fort Yukon is the name of Hudson Stuck, that true adventurer for Christ who was the first Archdeacon of the Yukon. His name will never be forgotten by the Indians to whom he ministered. He was their beloved friend, and gave his life gladly in their service. And I speak of him with special affection for he was my classmate and friend in College at Sewanee.
Archdeacon Stuck found that one of the most crying and tragic needs of that region was a hospital. An appeal was made to the Church at large and at Fort Yukon a hospital was established which now bears the name of the Hudson Stuck Memorial Hospital. That Hospital, which does a most wonderful and blessed work, is under the direction of Dr. Grafton Burke and Mrs. Burke. It is from them and the Indian Women of their region that this gift comes, and it is a happy circumstance that their son Grafton Burke Jr. now at the Riverdale School, New York, is able to be here and present the gift as their representative.
The Indian Women who have made and sent these Altar Hangings are devout communicants of this Church. They have a great love for Archdeacon Stuck as well as for their devoted friends Dr. and Mrs. Burke, and their noble Father in God, Bishop Rowe, and these hangings which they send bear the following inscription, “In grateful memory of the work done for our people by Bishop Rowe and Archdeacon Stuck, these hangings are made and given by the native women of Fort Yukon, Alaska.”
We are grateful indeed for this beautiful memorial gift, and I may say that in our minds it will be associated with the names of Dr. and Mrs. Burke.
Three things in regard to these Altar Hangings should be emphasized,--first, their special and unique interest, coming from the Christian Indian Women of far off Alaska, made by their own hands of the Moose skin of their own country; we may I am sure say that this is one of the most interesting Altar Hangings in the World! Second, the beauty and artistic merit of these hangings; they are remarkable both in design and workmanship; the effect of the colored bead work on the Moose skin is most striking and they will be exceptionally beautiful on the Altar. Third, the labour and skill and generous sacrifice that these hangings represent. Dr. Burke writes that they represent months of faithful, devoted and patient work by the women who send them.
This gift is of the same kind as that of the women in the Temple who received our Lord’s own special commendation and who is remembered forever in the Gospel. Those who send this beautiful gift have never seen this Cathedral, and it is not probable that any of them will ever see it, but they wish to have their share in it. They know that this Cathedral is a witness to the Grace, and Power, and Love, of the same Lord whom they believe in and worship; they know that we and they are one in Faith and Prayer and Sacrament; they know that it is the power of Christ’s Religion which sent them the inestimable help and blessing brought into their lives by Bishop Rowe and Archdeacon Stuck, and Dr. and Mrs. Burke.
And so we gratefully accept their gift as a Holy and Beautiful Expression of that Christian Love which should bind together all who are one in the fellowship of Christ’s Church, and we send to our Indian brothers and sisters at Fort Yukon, and to Dr. and Mrs. Burke, and to all who have had part in this gift our heartfelt thanks and appreciation and our most affectionate greetings, with the assurance that this gift will be Greatly Treasured, and that when we use it in the service of God, our prayers for those who send it, and for those in memory of whose work it is given, will go up from the Altar of this Cathedral!