Take a look around you.
The cornerstone of this building was laid 120 years ago on All Saints day, 1898.
In 1898, the dominant story in the news was the Spanish-American War. Stoked by Yellow Journalism, and imperialistic ambitions the war raged most of the year, and resulted in the US annexing Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
Automobiles were brand new technology…the first American built one was purchased that year…Also the world’s first fatal automobile accident.
Utah was a brand new state, but New Mexico, Arizona, and Alaska and were still territories. Hawaii was annexed that year.
William McKinley was President, but only women in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, could have voted for him, because women in all the other states weren’t allowed to vote. Women were newly allowed to be made deaconesses in the Episcopal Church—unmarried, or widowed women were allowed to become deaconess. But women could not serve on the vestry, read the lessons, or serve at the altar.
Four years prior, in 1894, a group of Episcopalians, who had been meeting in the Beaconsfield Casino, formed a new parish in Brookline on All Saints day—November 1st. 1894 was the year that Coca-cola was first sold in bottles. Telephones were relatively new technology, but becoming as ubiquitous as cell phones now. The US was in a major economic depression in these years, only the Great Depression was worse in terms of the number of people unemployed.
The background to the founding of this parish was the Gilded Age. It was the age of of boom and bust…of monopolies, and trusts: Rockefeller, Carnegie, J.P Morgan, Andrew Mellon, Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall… It was also the age of labor unions and mass strikes protesting unemployment, terrible working conditions, and tremendous income inequality…One estimate has 2% of American households owning more than a third of the nation’s wealth, and the top 10% owning three fourths of all wealth. The bottom 40% having virtually nothing.
It was also the age of “the new immigration” instead of Scots, Irish, and Germans, there was a massive increase in Italians, Russians, Jews, and Chinese…so many came that the Federal Government opened up a brand new reception center in 1892…called Ellis Island.
These were decades that saw the rise of populist, anarchists, and socialists movements.
History never truly repeats…but sometimes it rhymes.
Take another look around…
See those reredos in the Resting Chapel, and over the altar in the Langdon Chapel? Those were painted by Julia Addison, the wife of our first rector.
Those windows there: Julia Champlain and her husband George, gave bequests not only for those windows but for the rectory as well. Those windows depict Christians of the first century, living under Roman domination, and persecution…St. Stephen (who was stoned to death), St.s Peter and Paul, St. James. Then early martyrs: St. Polycarp, Catherine of Alexandria, Perpetua, and Irenaeus. People today still die because of their faith.
The window in the back there honors Sophie Langdon Tyler, mother of Barret P. Tyler our 2nd rector (served 1920-1932). Sophie worked in Wyoming with the Arapahoe nation, after they had been forced onto the Wind River Reservation. Her son Barret left All Saints in 1932 to also go to St. Michael’s Mission in Wyoming. His son also named Barret (also depicted there) was an army chaplain. Captain Tyler, was killed in the Philippines in 1945, just months before the WWII ended.
The doors most of you came through, were redone in 1953 as a tribute to those from All Saints who served in WWII, that back corner contained a war shrine where prayers were said every day at noon from D-Day, June 6, 1944 until the end of the war.
Those windows are dedicated to the Corey Family. Corey Road, Corey Farm, the Corey’s owned a lot of land around here. Eva Corey was one of the first women elected to the National Council of the Episcopal Church. Eva died in 1943, her sister Linda in 1961, they left us an endowment which we continue to be good stewards of, drawing only a small portion of each year. The vast majority of our income comes from pledges. The Coreys were passionate about Outreach and Youth, ministries that continue to be vital here.
Those windows tell the story of early church history, from Pentecost to Thomas Cranmer writing the Book of Common Prayer…And the some some almost forgotten aspects of early Christians in North America: the Log College, the Haystack Meeting, the printing of the Bay Psalm Book (You can read about these in Rick Montross’ book on the history of our windows). Those windows weren’t installed until the 1950s
The Nave altar was installed in 1969. A lot has changed here…A lot has remained the same.
History never repeats…but sometimes it rhymes.
Do you think the saints depicted in our windows…the faithful souls who dedicated these windows, and gathered here week after week…do you think they were every doubtful of what the future held?
Do you think they were ever fearful, and worried…?
Do you imagine they were ever overwhelmed…or exhausted…or unsure of what to do next or where to turn?
Of course they were.
When we talk about the great cloud of witnesses…when we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed…this is what we mean…these people depicted in our windows and the people whose hearts and hands and generosity built our walls…they’re not just pretty pictures in glass…and names on brass plaques…they are our family….they are here…present with us now. And presiding over all of it, is Christ ascended and (in the Rose window) seated in glory.
This is the communion that we just baptized Maggie into…a universal and eternal communion… We, and they, are her sisters and brothers.
And every one of these people started out just like she did…they all needed to have their ears opened…they needed to have their eyes opened…they needed to find their voice…and like Lazarus they needed to be unbound…freed to do God’s work in the world…In their world…Their Roman world…their Revolutionary and frontier world…their Gilded Age world…their world which had all kinds of problems…deep, vexing problems…and no clear solution…they needed to have their ears opened to hear…the Good News…they needed to have their eyes opened to see…the possibilities…they needed to be unbound to act for a better world…a world without hatred, and discrimination, a world with enough for all…a world described in our reading from Revelation today.
They heard and saw, and found their voice, and acted on their faith. They proclaimed the Good News, they continued in the apostles teachings, they sought and served Christ in all people, they strove for justice and peace…all of those things we just promised (again) to do ourselves, and promised that we would help Maggie do…and all of our children. Of course, they didn’t do it perfectly…but they kept doing it…and of course they didn’t complete the work…but they kept doing it.
Take another look around you…at the people near you…at the people here who are journeying with you…Now, it’s up to us. History never repeats, but sometimes it rhymes…what will our stanza in this poem be? What will they say of us, in the years to come…when they tell our story?
Our world has plenty of problems…and we have plenty to offer…we have open ears, and open eyes…we have hearts that long for a better world, and hands to work at bringing it about…We only need to be unbound from anything that holds us back, so that we can rise up and join with all of the saints singing praises to God from whom all blessings flow, and with whom nothing is impossible.
This is draft text of the sermon and may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse any grammatical or typographical errors, and please do not cite without permission.