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Old South Church
Boston MA 02116
What's inside? (Text only version)
“Humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling … as we move around this world and as we act with kindness, perhaps, or with indifference, or with hostility, toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble. The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt. Our lives are linked together. No [one] is an island.” —Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark
As I reflect on my time of ministry here at Old South, I begin with gratitude and wonder. I continue to marvel at the ways God has blessed me with the opportunity to serve here at the Old South Church, particularly in this unique call for social justice and urban ministry. This is an amazing congregation, and you have given me an amazing call. You called me to serve as a minister of this church who spends most of her time outside the walls of the congregation. Few congregations have such vision to employ a minister that does not serve the needs of their members, but tries to help their members serve the needs of the surrounding community. Even fewer clergy are lucky enough to hold such a position, and I am deeply and profoundly grateful for this opportunity to serve.
When I began here, March 2001, I engaged in conversations with members of the search committee, outreach committee and staff about how they envisioned this new position, and what they hoped we might accomplish toge-ther. Based on those conversations, my ministry of social justice and outreach has taken shape around four primary goals:
1. Serving as Old South’s primary community liaison;
2. Moving Old South beyond the work of charity into the work of justice;
3. Increasing Old South’s public profile;
4. Discerning how Old South might impact its neighborhood and community, as well as engaging and transforming the lives of its members.
As I reflect back over the last four and a half years, my mind is filled with lists of verbs that describe the kinds of activities involved in each, as well as stories and encounters along the way.
1. Serving as Old South’s primary community liaison: networking, listening, relationship building, meeting, befriending
When I first arrived at Old South, this was my primary goal. The congregation, through its grant-making program, was supporting 35 community non-profit organizations. With some of them, like Match-Up Interfaith Volunteers, Training Inc., and the Horizons Initiative, Old South also had cultivated a close relationship, with congregation members participating actively as volunteers and board members. For others, there was little or no connection beyond the grant. During my first year in ministry here, I worked to connect with each of those groups, as well as the significant interfaith and activist groups in Boston. I met for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, tea and dessert. I accepted every invitation: community events, fundraising galas, clergy gatherings, public rallies, interfaith worship services, open houses, holiday parties and housewarmings.
This effort is all about building relationships, all about nurturing public friendships between individuals and institutions. Old South Church aspires to have friends in the city—friends from other congregations across the lines of race, class, neighborhood and religion; friends who will join us for celebrations and events; friends we can cooperate with on issues of justice. In order to have friends like that, we need to be a friend like that. This work of building relationships is the foundation of our ability to be engaged in mission and ministry in the city and beyond.
2. Moving Old South beyond the work of charity into the work of justice: challenging, educating, organizing, acting, speaking out.
At all those many meetings and gatherings across the city, I introduced myself: “My name is Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, and I am here from the Old South Church.” Time after time, that introduction was met with, “You’re from Old South? Thank you! Your congregation’s support means so much to us!” Each year, this congregation contributes more than $100,000 in grants to the local community. That generosity makes a great impact in meeting the needs of men and women, children and seniors throughout the city.
But we could give away millions of dollars for hundreds of years, and people would still go hungry, still become homeless, still lack medical care. We needed to learn how to move beyond caring for the poor to ending poverty, from charity to justice. Critical to that endeavor was the relationship-building we had already begun, as we needed community partners to act together on issues impacting our community. In November 2001, the Council voted to join the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), to join with others in the work of justice.
Our first major opportunity to practice being a friend in the city and acting together for justice came in the fall of 2002. SEIU 615, a fellow member of GBIO, is a union representing local janitors who clean downtown office buildings, most of whom are Latino immigrants. In anticipation of contract negotiations over unfair labor practices and healthcare for workers, we held conversations between union members who cleaned the buildings at night and church members who worked as professionals in the buildings during the day. When the workers went on strike, Old South continued its generous habits by giving money for groceries to feed the families of striking workers, but church members also used professional connections to set meetings between clergy and employers, rallied professional co-workers to put pressure on business owners to treat their workers fairly, and joined in public protests and picket lines with the striking janitors. I worked closely with other GBIO clergy to plan events to support the workers, and I was surrounded by Old South members when I spoke at a press conference after church one Sunday.
Together with our partners we found ways to create justice for janitors. We learned how to work together with our friends to act for justice. Since then, we have worked together on the struggle for equal marriage rights, the GBIO partnership with Citizens Bank, the campaign to improve dignity and respect for nursing home workers, and many other efforts.
3. Increasing Old South’s public profile: representing, speaking, being visible, showing up.
The work of building relationships and opening ourselves to act together for justice became the foundation of increasing Old South’s public profile. Once I began to know so many people across the city, Old South began to be known across the city. Once we began to act on issues of justice, our media profile and reputation around the city began to grow.
In the summer of 2004, we decided to call on our friends from across the city and across the country to help us become a public presence during the Democratic National Convention. We wanted to bear witness to God’s message of justice, to raise Old South’s profile in this public moment for the City of Boston, and to raise our voices on behalf of the poor, whose concerns were rarely mentioned during the heated campaign. The National Council of Churches and other national groups asked us to host an interfaith service called “Let Justice Roll,” but they did not have connections with local people here in Boston they could rally to support such an effort. With all that work of relationship-building, we had many friends we could call on to join us. I called all those people I had been meeting and befriending, and invited them to help us lead this service. They eagerly agreed. Through its friendships, Old South Church brought together people from every race, religion, class, neighborhood and culture to worship God and work for justice. We were one of only two churches in the entire city to host special events for the Convention, and we increased our profile as a public church with a public witness for peace and justice.
4. Discerning how Old South might impact its neighborhood and community,
as well as engaging and transforming the lives
of its members: listening, reflecting, observing, imagining, praying,
When I started at Old South, then Senior Minister Jim Crawford told me, “You’re our ear to the ground. When something is happening in the City of Boston, it’s your job to know about it and help us figure out how and when to respond.” I have tried to do just that—listening to the needs of our city, observing the politics and problems surrounding us, reflecting and praying about it, and discerning how God might be challenging us and calling us to action. The stories above are some of the ways I have tried to lead us together into action, to find ways we can together impact our neighborhood and community, and to engage in the work of transformation, not only of the world but of ourselves, so that we might bear witness to God’s love and justice.
I am always imagining what role Old South Church might have to play in the future. How will this congregation continue its legacy of social justice and outreach in the 21st century? I have tried to anticipate ways of acting in the world over these last four and half years, and organized to react and respond. But how is God calling Old South to serve in the future?
As I wonder and imagine, these questions often come to mind:
1. How can we increase lay leadership in representing Old South in the community and organizing around social justice concerns?
2. How can we utilize our God-given gifts and resources (i.e., historic building, education of members, financial resources, professional skills) to help make Old South a more dedicated “mission outpost” in Copley Square?
3. How can we help Old South be a better friend and to have more friends in the community?
4. How might we more actively work to transform our members into ministers, offering education on bible study and spiritual growth to equip us for service?
These are some of my questions and imaginings. What are yours? What do you imagine God might have in store for this church? How might God be calling us to grow in mission and ministry? I invite you to wonder with me in completing this thought:
“I wonder if God is calling Old South to . . . ”
Restoring Sacred Ground
by the Children’s Chapel Restoration Committee
Early in 1929, the Rev. Russell Henry Stafford, D.D. (1927-1945) realized that Old South Church needed more space and kinds of different spaces if it was going to survive and grow as an active part of Boston’s religious community. The former parsonage had been converted into a parish house after the departure of the Rev. and Mrs. George A. Gordon in 1927, but this solution did not address the many social, educational, and recreational needs of a changing community. Several church committees and a local architecture firm devised plans to build a large addition to the church in the area between the church tower and the present parish house. The Children’s Chapel became a part of the Old South Church in Boston’s spiritual program and physical plant in June of 1932 when five women church members asked the Building Committee to include in the plans a worship space designed especially for young children.
These five women comprised the Old South Equipment Committee, a group of women appointed to oversee the furnishing of the guild rooms and kitchens in the new Parish House. Now, instead, they presented this new idea for use of the area which had originally been designated as the “Bethesda Chapel,” a small sacred space off the Gordon Chapel for use by ministers when meeting bereaved parishioners.They now proposed this space be enlarged for use as a Children’s Chapel and accepted full responsibility for raising any extra funds needed for such a conversion. Their proposal was accepted.
The women, under the leadership of Mrs. Augustine van W. Shaw, began
to plan for and raise funds for the chapel. She herself made a substantial
donation of $1000. In 1932, they sponsored a benefit bridge party from
which $398.00 was realized for use of the Children’s Chapel Fund. The report
of the Equipment Committee includes the following entry:
Through Mrs. Shaw’s generosity we were able to have the room at the left of Gordon Chapel made with vaulted ceiling suitable for a Children’s Chapel. The money raised at the bridge party was used in this chapel. The equipment committee [is] held responsible for all expenses. We have received as gifts the beautiful old door covering an unsightly fire door leading out of the chapel on the right, a lovely chancel table and a vase for flowers. From fifty letters written we received $194.00. We are still in debt to the amount of about $700. We hope some day for a suitable stained glass window over the reredos. The old iron gates from Seville might be given as a memorial by someone. The money from the bridge party paid for the choir stalls. [Annual Record, 1932-1933, p 33]
In spite of various financial problems and construction setbacks throughout 1932, the entire project was completed on schedule and within budget.
Here are some of the important milestones.
* On Ash Wednesday, March 1, 1933, the Parish House and Gordon Chapel were opened and the Children’s Chapel became a vital part of the children’s education program. The anticipated use of the chapel became a reality. Worship services for and by children in the Chapel became a continuing part of the Christian education program. The Annual Record for 1935-1936 reported, “The chapel services are another of the outstanding achievements of the year. There have been twelve formal worship services in the Children’s Chapel and in the Gordon Chapel.”
* On December 6, 1942, a dedication service was held to celebrate the installation of an Estey reed organ, “the gift of several individuals and organizations of the Church.
* Another important use for the chapel came to the fore in the next decade: weddings. On December 31, 1942, the Rev. Stafford conducted a wedding service in the chapel. The marriage records list weddings in the Children’s Chapel through the early 1970s, through the ministries of the Rev. Stafford (1927-1945), the Rev. Frederick M. Meek (1946-1973), and the Rev. James Crawford (1974-2002).
* On December 10, 1961 the beautiful stained glass window above the communion table in the Children’s Chapel was formally unveiled. The window was designed and executed by Mr. Wilbur Burnham, as a gift of Mrs. Laurence A. Whitney in memory of her mother, Mrs. J. Converse (Helen Brewster) Gray, whose name is inscribed on the hearts of all who knew her. Another window crafted by Burnham is located outside the Gordon Library. This window is dedicated as “A gift for children” and is dated Boston 1961.
* In 1976, the Church School program was restructured so that the children would be a part of the worship service in the main sanctuary. Church School would begin at 10:00 a.m. in the Gordon Chapel with a children’s service; the children would then go to different classes and convene again in the chapel at 10:55 a.m. to go into the sanctuary for the first part of worship and a children’s sermon and then leave for an activity period. Forty-three years after its installation, the small room off the Gordon Chapel no longer would be used as a chapel for children. But it did continue to serve for several years as a small chapel for the use of the staff and the congregation.
* In 1985, when a new organ was installed in the Gordon Chapel, the original organ was moved into the small chapel and the room fell into use as a storage area for heavy equipment, notably even the snowblower for many years!
* From 1985 – 2004, there were several attempts to reopen the room as a chapel. In April of 2004, the Board of Ministers and Deacons authorized a study to determine how to restore the chapel and to handle the storage needs. Following Congregational Church protocol, the Board asked Judie and Ely Pierce to chair a committee to study the project and report back to it regarding the feasibility of such a restoration.
* 2004-2005. The Children’s Chapel study group’s primary interest was to make the chapel a welcome space for use by the entire congregation and, to that end, limited its work to restoring the light fixtures, painting the chapel, and adding lighting that would be welcoming while emphasizing the five stained glass windows. The Board authorized the committee to continue its efforts to restore the chapel. A successful fund raising campaign was held, and restoration work began in December, culminating on June 12, 2005, when the Children’s Chapel was rededicated as a worship space.
Other Notes. The Children’s Chapel Restoration Committee, during the course of restoring this space, made several interesting discoveries. Old South member Mary Hunter noticed that the stained glass border bands of the windows to the left of the alter had been painted out in black. The paint was removed and, with the windows now newly backlit, the vivid cobalt blue glass underneath was once again unveiled. Most of the original furniture pieces were discovered in the basement of the church. The wood carved angels were found in the old boiler room – wing tips broken and covered with wax. The Bible stand was discovered in the basement by Nancy Taylor while exploring the church property soon after her arrival at Old South as the new Senior Minister. All the furniture used in the final restoration is original to the Children’s Chapel.
Eternal God, we offer thanksgiving and praise to you on this festive day. We give you thanks for those who responded to your call to rebuild this Chapel and for those who have had the dream to re-establish it as a place of prayer and meditation, of meeting and comfort. We thank you for all that this Chapel has meant to so many over the years. In tender memory, we rejoice at the inspiration that has been found here, through song and hymn, word and prayer, and in the lives of so many children.
Look upon us this day with gladness. Bless us as we reconsecrate this
Chapel to its sacred and gentle purposes. Bless, O God, the lighted stained
glass windows, the furniture and decorations, the newly pained walls and
ceiling, and the newly finished floor that together they may offer a place
of healing and hope, of worship and consolations, of beauty and peace.
Children's Chapel Restoration Committee 2004-2005:
Judie & Ely Pierce (co-chairs), Deborah Davis Berman, Roger Burke, Janet Butler, Diane Gaucher, Janet Murphy, The Rev. Donald Wells, Davis Yetman, Interim Senior Minister Carl F. Schultz, Jr., and Senior Minister Nancy S. Taylor.
The committee wishes to thank all those very generous contributions of time and money that made this restoration possible.
Children’s Chapel Remembrances
The Children’s Chapel represented to me the children’s counterpart of
the Old South Sanctuary. During the many years in which I taught First
Grade in the Church School, the children and teachers from kindergarten
through fourth grade came together and held weekly worship services in
the Children’s Chapel following their morning school classes. One of the
teachers would tell a story and the children would act as ushers or read
selections following an order of worship similar to the morning church
service... I’m delighted that the Children’s Chapel is being restored to
its original beauty. For many children as well as teachers, it represents
– Edra Mercer
Our family joined Old South Church in 1968 when my father, T. Thomas
Boates, Jr. joined the ministerial staff. On joining the church school
program I learned my classmates had already joined the church as members,
so Old South’s Senior Minister Dr. Meek “tutored” me in the necessary lessons
to catch up. Because I had not been baptized as an infant, I was baptized
by Dr. Meek in the Children’s Chapel during the winter of 1969 with my
family in attendance. During my high school years, several classmates and
I put together a worship service for some of the younger church school
classes in the Children’s Chapel. I used my LP record player and played
some contemporary LPs including a refrain for “Joy to the World” by Three
– Ellen Boates Clark, Glenville, Illinois
As teachers in the church school in the mid-60s, we felt as part of
the children’s training that they should be exposed to the ritual of attending
a church service such as their parents attended. For this, we used our
pretty little chapel, which was really designed ideally for children. We
held a regular service with prayer, scripture, biblical stories and songs
sung to accompanying organ music, giving our children a spiritual experience
not attained in a regular classroom.
Karol and Me
a Reflection on Pope John Paul II
by Stephen R. Silver
My mother, whose passage from childhood to adulthood coincided with
FDR’s four terms in the White House, has told me
how strange it was to imagine anyone else as president after the great man had died. To her, and millions of others, “the President” and “Roosevelt” were two ways to describe one thing. I gained a better understanding of what she felt when Pope John Paul II died earlier this year. The white-haired man I see in the paper or on TV isn’t the Pope – he’s Cardinal Ratzinger! Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, is the Pope. Always has been, always will be.
Now, I’m not a Roman Catholic — never have been, and expect never will be. And there were fundamental issues of faith and doctrine with which I disagreed with John Paul. Yet I was always impressed by the intellectual integrity and spiritual depth of his vocation. For all his faults, John Paul always struck me as a holy man. Part of this was based on what I read in books and the papers, part on what I might have seen on television. But much of this evaluation came directly from a papal audience that I attended in 1999.
This was actually the second time I had been scheduled for a papal audience. Way back in 1968, when I was but a sprout in short pants, an Italian colleague of my father’s arranged for our family to participate in a special audience with Pope Paul while we were in Rome. Alas, the Pope was sick when we were in town and instead of receiving a blessing from the Vicar of Christ, we were greeted by some Cardinal from the Curia. Given John Paul’s health in the late 90s, I had reason to worry that history was about to repeat itself.
Happily, my fears were unfounded. I was traveling with a group of 250 or so Harvard Law School alumni and faculty, a couple of whom had really good Vatican connections. So instead of heading off to the 1960s-era auditorium where the Pope usually meets people, we were led to a beautiful Renaissance state apartment. A quite impressive throne stood at the head of the room in front of a marble fireplace in which one could have comfortably parked a Mini Cooper automobile. Chairs were set up for our party. This was a good thing, since it was some time between our arrival and the Pope’s appearance. But finally the pontiff came, shuffling through a door on the side of the room, accommodated by one or two aides.
Since I was with the group in my capacity as part of the Law School’s external relations staff, I hung back when we entered the room and took a seat in the back row. This turned out to be not only the right thing but a smart thing to do, since it occurred to each of us in this last row, including the mantilla-garbed, rosary-bead carrying Catholic women in our party, to stand on our chairs so we could see what was happening. The priests to our rear were not happy about this, but without saying anything to one another we all reached the conclusion that the Pope wouldn’t mind, and so ignored the hand-motions signaling us to sit down.
John Paul was wearing the familiar white robes, his shoulders stooped, clearly an old man, whose body had been subjected to the ravages of time, an assassination attempt, and the punishing schedule that he maintained. Yet unlike other famous people I’d met or seen in public, the pope did not seem smaller in real life than he did on television but larger. Inane as the description is, John Paul did have a rock star quality. He had an aura, a presence. He had “it.”
The Pope spoke at some length, sometimes with a strong voice, sometimes in a barely audible whisper. He talked about the rule of law and morality. Nothing particularly surprising passed his lips. But the way he spoke was arresting. Body language is often a telling reflection of one’s sense of self. Confident, retiring, aggressive, unsure. John Paul that day did not speak like the leader of a billion-member church but as a parish priest. This was most evident when at the conclusion of his remarks he asked for the children to be brought forward. Bending over, he gave each of the boys and girls a blessing. And in those moments I saw the exact same body language I’ve seen over the years in ministers baptizing a baby or confirming a teen or welcoming an adult into the church – the reflexes of hope for the future, of joy at being able to be pastor, even if for just a brief moment, to another member of the body of Christ. It was something I saw as recently as mid-June weeks ago when a friend who is a minister baptized an adult. There may have been more than 100 of us in the sanctuary that hot, sultry morning, but for a few minutes, for my friend the minister, the only person present was that woman who was standing up to say, “Count me in! I’m going to be a Christian!” He beamed and she did too. And at that moment the Spirit of God in Christ was made manifest, palpable and tangible and we were reminded that that which is Holy intrudes on us at will, making the great seem more human and the human seem transcendent, asking only that we be on the lookout, ever ready to be witnesses to the Kingdom of God.
This is why, in some ways, John Paul will always be for me “The Pope.” Not because of his longevity in office nor because of his heroic stand against fascism and communism nor the imprint he has made on Christian teaching but because some years ago on a June afternoon in Rome he laid aside the mantle of the papacy and was just a priest, giving a blessing to some kids, boys and girls who may not even have known who he was other than an old man with a warm smile and a gentle touch, telling them that God loved each and every one of them.
The British Came . . and Entertained!
A review of the revue by Evan H. Shu
The British have found a better way to win over the minds and hearts of the American people, and that is with their charm and humor, which was on full display at the recent Old South production in June of the comic musical revue, The British are coming . . . again!
This collection of skits and songs spanned the range of what one might
call “British humor” from the supposed
unintentional faux pas of Peter Southwell-Sander’s high-minded and bewigged English cleric and his sermon comparing the “Hairy Man” to the “Smooth Man,” to the slapstick comedy of his role as a workmen describing his up and down experience with a barrel of bricks.
The music was charmingly funny and ably performed throughout with the highlights being Rossini’s The Cats Duet by Old South choir members soprano Alecia Batson and mezzo soprano Rebecca O’Brien, the Flanders and Swan’s Hippopotamus Song sung by bass Graham Wright and Have Some Madeira, m’dear sung by tenor Keith Brinkley.
Even those who might not ordinarily be a fan of typical British humor found that they were won over skit by skit and song by song in this production whose proceeds went to benefit the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s effort to increase access and affordability for health care in Massachusetts. The writing came from a number of sources, both traditional and modern, but notably and most prominently from Peter Southwell-Sander who was undoubtedly the driving force behind this production with the assistance of Old South music director Gregory Peterson, who accompanied flawlessly on piano. The production even included a freshly minted piece, The 151st Psalm (see page 8). Its “walls falling down” type clause was no doubt inspired by the very recent threat of the MBTA’s plans to renovate Copley Square station, thus endangering Old South Church’s foundations.
In addition to the four Old South Choir members mentioned previously, other cast members included Jeff Makholm (perfectly cast in a variety of roles from acerbic butler to persistent cleric), son Daniel Makholm playing the one-theme English schoolchild, and even Senior Minister Nancy Taylor in a bit role challenging the genealogical “begat” relationships of Biblical text. But, undoubtedly, the stars of the show were Alecia Batson, who, in addition to her wonderful singing, stole a number of other scenes (even when her lines were limited to “Yes,” and “No” as in the “The Vicar Visits”), and Peter Southwell-Sander, who seamlessly went from highbrow turns as an Anglican priest to lowbrow ones, such as the English carpenter assigned by God to build the Ark (imagine Bill Cosby’s “Noah” going completely cockney).
In any case, whether the audience came out of curiosity, anticipation,
or in the interests of benefiting a very good cause in GBIO, they left
thoroughly entertained and won over by this latest British invasion of
humor and music.
The 151st Psalm
From the British are Coming.. Again!
by Peter Southwell-Sander
Some members of the congregation
Have been causing an awful lot
Because they are having a lot of
trouble with piles,
On which the Church is built – but,
when they speak of it, it causes lots of smiles.
You see, the church is in a precarious state,
For, what with the Roxbury puddingstone walls,
the ornate roof striped with tiles of red and black, the decorative carvings, the spire, the lantern of green russet-colored copper, the two balconies, the intricate woodwork, the organ, and all, the pews, the foundations could be giving way, because of all the weight.
When the church was built between
eighteen seventy two and eighteen seventy-five,
The foundations were laid on tree trunk piles
that need water to help them survive.
We are grateful that up to now our hallowed halls,
Have been preserved since the water has been
kept in place by the thick sidewalls.
But we hear that the water could all escape and run away,
As a result of construction work by the M-B-T-A.
Our new senior minister is very fond of processions
Round the church on special occasions;
But, what with the music, and the marching round about,
we are afraid that,
Like the walls of Jericho, our church might fall down flat,
So we have asked her, as nicely as we can,
to refrain from that sort of thing,
Until the building issues have reached a firm resolving.
We are worried that we might have to raise a lot
Of money, to preserve the building, but we hope
that the Lord will provide for those who have not.
Of course, we hope that we can continue
to keep water round all that wood,
But what does it matter, as long as it still looks quite good?
As the moderator said at council with a frown,
“We all know that the church could be falling down;
But at least let it be said
That we’ve done our bit, and kept the church
looking very nice indeed,
So that, by the time it does fall down, we will all be dead.”
Q & A with
By Michael Fiorentino
Editor: this interview is part of our continuing series of question & answer type interviews with interesting people at Old South Church. Though we are still in the process of getting to know our new Senior Minister, Nancy S. Taylor, we thought it an equally important and fascinating task to get to know her husband, the Rev. Canon Peter Southwell-Sander, a cleric in his own right as an Anglican priest of the Church of England.
At what point in your life did you feel a calling to the ministry?
I grew up thinking that I would follow my father into the British Navy, but my father’s death when I was just seventeen caused me to re-think. I had always been actively involved in both my schools and home churches. I studied English and then Theology at Cambridge University and went to theological college (seminary) also in Cambridge.
Where did you serve as a Church of England priest and what were some of the highlights of your ministry?
I have the wonderful memory of being ordained in Canterbury Cathedral to serve as an assistant in the large parish church of Maidstone, Kent. I spent the last of my three years there organizing the first Maidstone Youth Week – a series of events bringing together over 60 youth organizations, including a Folk and Beat service that filled the church’s 3,000 seats for the first time since the national days of prayer in WWII.
I returned to Cambridge to serve at the University Church, where I founded a Folk Club for young people from the town and university and ran several Folk Services that were broadcast nationally. After this, I was chaplain of Girton College, the first college to be have been founded for women at university level. From there I went to an inner city parish in Clapham, South London. It had a diverse population from slums that were being cleared to more affluent areas. The acting stars Timothy West, Prunella Scales and Derek Jacobi were parishioners, and I baptized one of Mick Jagger’s children (the photo of Mick, me and the baby made national front page news).
My second parish in London was Merton near Wimbledon. The church was built in 1195 and was famous for being the church Lord Nelson attended for four years before the Battle of Trafalgar. The congregation was about the same size as Old South’s now and had a cathedral quality choir of men and boys. Every summer I accompanied them, and sometimes preached, when they sang the services for ten days in Winchester and Salisbury cathedrals. But it was training lay people to exercise “the ministry of the laity” in a wide variety of ways – visiting the sick and housebound, preparing families for baptisms, and weddings, ministering to the bereaved, taking an active part in worship including lay preaching – that led to a change of direction for my future ministry.
You talk of a change of direction in your ministry – what exactly was that?
I was appointed as Director of clergy in-service training for the Chelmsford Diocese, one of the largest in the Church of England. I was also responsible for training lay preachers, and in fact chaired a national working group that drew up new guidelines for this. My staff and I designed and ran residential and day courses, introduced a clergy appraisal scheme, and were among those who worked for and achieved the ordination of women to the priesthood.
You have the title of The Reverend Canon. What does that mean?
Canons are the senior staff of a cathedral. For my time in Chelmsford, I was also a Residentiary Canon of the cathedral and am now an Honorary Residentiary Canon. It meant that I played my part in the life and worship of the cathedral, especially for two months of the year when I was “in residence” preaching every Sunday and leading worship.
How did you and Nancy meet?
When my ten-year appointment at Chelmsford ended, I went freelance as a trainer and consultant. I consulted, and designed and ran training courses for business organizations in Europe and America. But my real love was the teaching of preaching. Nancy and I met when I was consulting to the Association of Chicago Theological School’s Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degree program, and she was studying for her doctorate. We have been married nine years – I moved from London to Boise! But for the first two years I worked three-quarters time for one of my former clients, an aerospace company, and commuted every two weeks from Boise to London. After that I got jobs in Boise, first as Executive Director of an opera company, and then as chaplain to four assisted living facilities.
I believe you have a special interest in opera, don’t you?
Yes, it has always been my first musical love. I have written two books on opera – on the lives and times of Verdi and Puccini. Luciano Pavarotti, whom I have met several times, wrote the foreword to the Puccini book. They have each been translated into many languages.
Do you notice any striking similarities or contrasts between the Anglican Church and the UCC?
Oh, yes! The absence of hierarchy in the UCC is a striking contrast, which is both a blessing and something difficult to work with. The emphasis on the ministry of all people speaks to what I have always passionately believed in, but which the Anglican church is less committed to. Worship too is very different. As a teacher of preaching, I love the prominence of preaching in the UCC, though I regret the absence of regular communion. I am now totally committed to the UCC! Last Fall I took the UCC polity course at Andover Newton and have been licensed by the Metropolitan Boston Association at the request of the deacons of Old South.
You obviously love the theatre as evidenced by the Old South hit comic musical revue The British are coming … again! When did you decide that acting was something you’d like to pursue and what are some of your other theatrical credits?
I first acted at school. Bishop Cauchon in Shaw’s Saint Joan was the pinnacle of my school acting career! At university I became involved with the Cambridge Footlights (David Frost was a contemporary member) and I wrote and took part in a number of revues both in Cambridge and at various points in my career.
Anything else about Peter Southwell-Sander the person that you’d like to share with the Old South family?
Firstly, as many at Old South know, I was married previously and have four children and two 15-year-old granddaughters. Nancy and I are in continual touch with my family and always meet with my former wife and my children when we are in England, as we will be this August.
Secondly, I have been treated for cancer for several years now. It is one, but only one, of the reasons why I am so happy to be fully a part of the Old South family. I chose Old South as my spiritual home a year before I knew that Nancy was to be the senior minister. I try to contribute by a voluntary ministry that includes rehearsing scripture readers and organizing badge volunteers and Welcomers. I am currently exploring an exhibition for weekday visitors and tourists to our church.
Note: We hope you enjoyed this profile. If you have suggestions for other interesting people at Old South to interview, please feel free to contact Michael Fiorentino at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
This is Big!
Excerpt from the Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. J. Mary Luti,
May 22, 2005 on the Installation
of Nancy S.Taylor as Senior Minister of Old South Church
This is big! You Old South folks are used to it, of course, and probably don’t even notice any more, but let me tell you, this place is really is big! ...Our entire sanctuary could fit in here with room to spare. This is big! . . . Your website describes this is a 19th century Northern Italian Gothic style building, and so it is; but sisters and brothers, you don’t need to know your Gothic from your Greek Revival to be able to appreciate the fact that it is big! And awesome. Not awesome in the way that these days everything from a snow day to scoring tickets for a U2 concert is awesome. I mean goose-bump awesome. Burning bush awesome. ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner!’ awesome. What an amazing place!
For now, let’s just agree that this is big. And it’s awesome. And just in case you think that I grabbed a church growth manual by mistake and left the installation sermon on my kitchen counter, I want to assure you that all this talk about big things is leading someplace.
To Nancy Taylor, in fact. Because it’s no secret that Nancy tends to think big. If you’ve been half awake during the last four years, you know that she has elbowed her way into the public eye, insisted on a seat at the public table, influenced the public debate, and increased the holy ambition quotient of the UCC in Massachusetts. And she has said it so often and with such persistence that I doubt there’s anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know that ‘The United Church of Christ is the largest Protestant denomination in Massachusetts.’
Now, I know that the Rev. Dr. Nancy S. Taylor who did all that and more as Conference Minister and President has not undergone a personality transplant or a soul graft since her call and election as the 20th Senior Minister of The Old South Church in Boston. It is, then, a safe bet that something big is going to happen here too.
Well, truth to tell, big things have always happened in this place.
If you know the social justice history of Old South, you know that this
has not historically been a destination of choice for ‘bliss ninnies’ –
folks who believe in being very, very spiritual; and for whom spirituality
is all about relating to a nice clean God who assiduously avoids contact
with the earth and the human body. This Divine Niceness is
uninterested in what goes on in our boardrooms, our bedrooms, our courtrooms and in all the inns in all our towns that still have no room. Bliss ninnies protect God from such worldly and depressing concerns by keeping God in beautiful surroundings where no harm can befall God and where God also can do no lasting damage. In churches, they brandish invisible cans of spiritual disinfectant for keeping faith free of impurities. When the preacher mentions politics: Psffssst! Or money: Psffssst! Or anything that is demanding or complicated, or that disrupts the church’s etiquette: Psfssst! . . . .
But the people of Old South are just not that nice. You have often made rather big nuisances of yourselves in the world. So, in a way, Nancy with her big, expansive, public vision of mission and ministry will not be bringing something completely new to you. But since God always asks and gives something completely new in every change and challenge, it’s probably time we listened to God, in Jesus.
Read the rest of Mary Luti's wonderful address
at the Old South web page <www.oldsouth.org>.
Is Your Church Going
By John Dutton
The members of a small church in the Dothan district of the town of Hartford, Vermont (my hometown) first met in 1779 in the kitchen of one of the parishioners. By 1795 they built a plain, simple meeting house without a steeple, affectionately known as “God’s Barn”. The church, started as Presbyterian, also had some affiliation with the college across the Connecticut River and was first known as The Church of Christ of Dartmouth College in its North Hartford Branch. Could this prestigious name, missionary influence and "call" aimed at the native rustic Vermonters be felt by Andrew Newton’s horse, the protagonist of the following story recounted in a history of Hartford?
“Handed down through the years is a story concerning the Dothan Church and Andrew Newton’s horse. Andrew Newton lived on the corner of Christian Street and the Dothan Road and was a faithful attendant at the Dothan Church.On this particular Sunday Mr. Newton was ill and unable to attend services. Sensing that it was time to go to church the Newton’s old white horse left his stall and walked over to the front of the house where he waited patiently for the family to make its appearance. Several carriages passed on their way to church and the horse decided there was no need to wait any longer. He walked to the church and stood in his accustomed place throughout the services returning to his stall after the services were over.”
(From Historical Highlights of the Town of Hartford Vermont
by John W. St. Croix, 1974, printed by Imperial Company).
Adapted from title song of musical MAME
Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
New Lyrics by Mark Strickland
As performed by the Old South Church Membership Committee on May 1, 2005 to honor Kate Layzer’s
Interim Assistant Ministry at Old South
from 2004 to 2005.
You’ve brought Still Speaking right into style, Kate
You’ve raised our banner up to the sky, Kate
You’ve got the subways hummin’ with ads
to bring new members to our fold
The Membership Committee knows that your
heart and soul are made of gold!
You’ve given us your Pastoral Care, Kate
You’ve made us all a bit more aware, Kate
The sad, frail, the lonely will relish all the soup
you’ve helped prepare
You’ve helped folks want to thrive again
You’ve given us the drive again
To keep Old South alive again, Kate!
You’ve welcomed women back to the well, Kate
They tell us that they think you’re just swell, Kate
Your love for God’s a-shinin’
— it’s present in your manner and your speech
You may be from the suburbs,
but Boston never had a sweeter peach!
Your Apple laptop with you is found, Kate
You’re apt to sit with it on the ground, Kate
The thoughts, and love you’ve shared with us
— and your ministry at Hale House….
Your special dedication’ll
Prove you’ve been inspirational
We think you’re just sensational,
Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate!
Godspeed to Kate and to Gregory & Ann Peterson!
The Teacher’s Song
Original Music & Lyrics by Monica Bauer
as dedicated in worship to honor departing Minister
of Music, Gregory Peterson, on June 26, 2005.
I have learned a lesson or two;
I have learned to sing and dance.
We all start without a clue;
Do it over, not a chance!
Still my memories remain;
Triumph teaches, so does pain;
As we’re tested all our lives
In hope, and loss, and gain.
I have learned a lesson or two;
I’ve become a teacher now.
Every day there’s something new;
Want to learn, I’ll show you how.
Learning laughter, leaving rage;
Learning when to turn the page;
Love whoever you’ve come to be
At each and every stage.
I have learned a lesson or three;
I have learned to sing and play.
I’m your teacher, learn from me;
I’m your student, lead the way.
We’ll Be Seeing You
Words/Music by Irving Kahal & Sammy Fain
New lyrics and arrangement
By Erik Gustafson
as performed by the Old South Choir in tribute to Gregory & Ann Peterson at a special luncheon on June 19, 2005
We’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That each heart of ours embraces
All day through:
In that sanctuary,
Old South on Copley Square,
Your domain for eight plus years,
That place you and Ann grac’d so well.
We’ll be seeing you
In every lovely worship time,
In everything of note and rhyme,
You’d help’d us reach a place sublime;
We’ll find you in our music;
And when we sing in tune,
We’ll be looking at the cross,
And we’ll remember you!
Old South Reporter
OSC Reporter, a voice for the extended community of the Old South Church, explores the mission of the church and aspects of the Christian life through news, stories, poetry, essays, and commentaries
Evan H. Shu , chair, Lois Harvey, David Clark, Mark Strickland, Janet Eldred, Elizabeth England, Eleanor Jensen, Helen McCrady, Nancy S. Taylor and Michael Fiorentino.
Deadline for next issue: September 18, 2005
Old South Church in Boston
A congregation of the United Church of Christ
645 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
Nancy S. Taylor, Senior Minister
Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, Assistant Minister
Patricia Hazeltine, Church School Director
Tadd Allman-Morton, Ministerial Intern