Project Canterbury

Life of the Reverend James de Koven, D. D.,
Sometime Warden of Racine College.

by William C. Pope, M.A.

New York: James Pott & Company, 1899.

II. Church of St. John Chrysostom.

IN connection with his professorship at Nashotah, he was rector of the Church of St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, two miles distant. In this church he was ordained priest by Bishop Kemper. It was built by Robert Ralston, who built St. James the Less, Philadelphia. Both churches exhibit the spirit of the ecclesiastical renaissance in its first bloom. The church at Delafield is guiltless of plastering, the walls, ceiling, seats, rood screen, being of oak. The font and altar are of stone. The altar-cloths were imported from England at a cost of $500, the communion vessels are silver gilt. The church and rector were well fitted to each other. After he had left the parish he was on one occasion invited to officiate there. He found the vestry had removed the Litany desk. Nevertheless he said the Litany in his accustomed place. Whether he took his Prayer Book with him is not known, but he could say the Litany as well without the book as without the desk. He subsequently wrote to the vestry that as the church had been consecrated with the Litany desk, it should be restored to its place. This was done.

The ritual was considered Puseyite, but the eucharistic vestments were not used, nor eucharistic lights or colored stoles.

It is not often that a little village churches is so well off for preachers as was that of Delafield. In 1850, on the second Sunday after Epiphany, Dr. Cole preached in the morning, and Mr. de Koven lectured in the evening on "The Holy Catholic Church." The next Sunday, Dr. Adams preached in the morning, Mr. de Koven lecturing on the "Distinctive Doctrines of the Church." The fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Mr. Kemper preached in the morning, and Mr. Hodges lectured in the evening on "The Liturgy." Lectures followed on the Sacramental System of the Church," "Baptism of Infants," "Confirmation," and the "Feasts of the Church." They were attended by crowded congregations, in part composed of Nashotah students.

The first rector, the Rev. William Markoe, had built a schoolhouse. Two months after Mr. de Koven's arrival at Nashotah this entry is found in his diary:


My Parish School opened to-day. Thank God! May He bless it and make it succeed!"

He was an adept in catechising the whole school. The highest class recited to him on Friday the collect and the whole or part of the Gospel for the following Sunday, and upon them, he asked questions and gave instructions. Musical ability was not one of his many talents, but determination was his compensative gift. On one occasion, in the absence of Miss Cox, who taught singing, he undertook to drill the children in a chant. They knew the tune, so that the only difficulty was the pointing which was surmounted under his direction. At a later period at Racine College, he determined to sing his part of the Litany, but when the time came, he thought it best to intone it as usual. At the second petition he dropped into the inflections he had been practicing, and found himself singing a solo, without even the support of the organ. In spiritual matter he dealt very tenderly with the scholars, so that to be told to come to the vestry, perhaps for a misdemeanor, was a pleasure, rather than something to be dreaded.

In 1868, in the General Convention, as chairman of the committee on Christian Education, he obtained the passage of a resolution recommending "the establishment of Christian schools, in every parish where it may be practicable."

On the evening of St. Peters' Day, 1879, the Bishop of Wisconsin, with the Bishops of Missouri and Western Michigan attended service at St. John Chrysostom. A memorial altar cross was presented to the church. Dr. Adams, at that time rector, received it. In view of subsequent events, special attention is called to the gracious words of this dear, good man: "We receive gratefully this beautiful cross as a memorial of Dr. de Koven. He was for five years rector of this parish, and during that time conducted a school in connection with this church. Here first were those talents trained that afterward made him so renowned through the Christian world as a Christian educator. Here he prepared and made himself ready, and conceived those first thoughts and plans that elsewhere had such wonderful success. In this village there are now many consistent Christians in the maturity of life who received their first impressions in their childhood from him, in his school--many persons there are in Delafield and Pine Lake, baptized and confirmed during his rectorship--many persons aged now who were his parishioners in their maturity, admired his powers and loved him as their pastor. In the hearts of all these the fragrance of his memory dwells as a blessing to their souls."

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