Welcome to All Saints Episcopal Church
West Newbury Massachusetts
The History of All Saints Church
The Early Years (1635-1880)
Twenty-five years is a long period in one’s life and yet it is short in the history of mankind. How the times and conditions have changed all over the world in these twenty-five years! Our attention today is fixed upon our parish History.Last Sunday, Bishop Babcock gave us a picture of the early history of the Church in this region.
We know that, as a whole, the first settlers who came here in 1635 were not in opposition to the Church of England. Many loved the Mother Church. Some had the Prayer Book bound into one volume with the Bible. One such Bible is still preserved in the Bartlett family and there was one in the Morse family, which I am tracing and hope to possess.
The Prayer Book was used in the homes. But the congregational form of worship had been established here and every one was taxed for its support and compelled by law to attend the meetings. Being God-fearing and law-abiding citizens, they obeyed and fervently worshipped God. Most of them became Congregationalists. Still the love of the Mother Church lingered in their hearts and was transmitted to their children and grandchildren.
And in 1711, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren built Queen Anne’s Chapel in a part of Newbury that is now Newburyport. There was King’s Chapel in Boston and Queen Anne’s Chapel here. When King’s Chapel was taken by the Unitarians, Queen Anne’s Chapel became the oldest parish of Massachusetts. Its people built St. Paul’s Church near the waterfront to accommodate some of the parishioners and one minister served both as one parish. Finally, the old chapel was blown down and the parish carried on under the name of St. Paul.
Many persons were so far away from St. Paul’s Church that it was difficult and sometimes impossible for them to attend services there. Yet they kept up the love of the Church and used the Prayer Book in their homes. Sometimes a priest would come to visit these homes, would have services, baptize, and administer the Holy Communion. That was a blessing, but not very satisfactory.
Finally, in 1880, the Diocesan Convention of Massachusetts appointed a general missionary, the Rev. John Samuel Beers, to visit the scattered families belonging to the Episcopal Church where there was no regular parish. For several years, he occasionally held services in West Newbury homes.
Beginnings of a Church
When the Rev. Samuel M. Emery retired from active service, he came back with his family to live in the old farm home here. Sometimes, he had services in his home and his wife, Mary Hale emery, had a Sunday School. They longed for a church here, but did not have the means to build one. He died fifteen years before his wife died and, during those years, she longed and prayed for a Church here. Here prayers were heard and answered! A fortune was bequeathed to her and brought the means to fulfill her prayers: but not in her lifetime. Her children remembered her prayers and shared her longing. When they inherited the fortune left to their mother, it was evident that God was answering their mother’s prayers and entrusting them with the means to fulfill those prayers.
In 1907, they built a hall to be used for community gatherings and occasional services. It really was a plea for a parish here. They named it St. John’s Memorial Hall, for St. John the Baptist, that it might plead like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It was dedicated on St. John the Baptist’ Day with a religious service and as a memorial to Eliphalet Emery, Samuel Eliphalet Emery, and Nathaniel Emery Noyes, the last being the one who bequeathed the fortune to Mary Hale Emery and made it and the Church possible. Bishop Lawrence came and conducted the service and said the prayers dedicating it to the service of the Church and community here. It is a sacred memorial as well as a necessary part of the Church. The parish house came before the Church as an inducement for a church to come.
I was invited to come and hold a service in St. John’s Memorial Hall a year or so later. I was touched and impressed by the need and the hearty desire for a parish church here. I loved old Newbury, where some of my ancestors had settled in 1635, where three of my direct ancestors were among the men who had built Queen Anne’s Chapel in 1711, where one of my family, the Rev. James Morse, had been rector of St. Paul’s Church from 1803 to 1842. I felt a real interest.
When Miss Mary Elizabeth Emery, the head and spokesman for her family, told me of the desire to have a parish here and offered the use of St. John’ Hall for a parish house and the prospect of building a memorial Church to her parents and said that St. John’s Hall was like the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Come over and help us’; I felt much moved to respond. I promised to consider the call.
Bishop Lawrence and my friends protested against my burying myself in the country. I had been successful in my ministry, I had the best advantages and education, degrees from Harvard and Cambridge, I had calls to nineteen more promising places, some quite important, one even offering the prospect of becoming a bishop; it seemed too bad for me to give them up. Yet the voice of one crying in the wilderness ‘come over and help us’ had reached my heart. I prayed over it, as I always pray over everything I do, and God answered my prayer. I felt He called me to come to West Newbury, found the parish here, and build the Church.
First Service: November 6, 1910
So I came on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, November 6, 1910, and started regular services, which have now continued for twenty-five years.
At first, the Bishop would not give his approval or consent for me to stay or build a church here. He saw so many needs, which he considered greater. But he let me try it out.
During the first winter, I continued to live in Boston and came here for weekends. The field appealed to me. I found the people eager for the definite teachings of the Church. Many had fallen entirely away from religion and churchgoing. We had larger congregations than we expected, a number were baptized. In February 1911, a parish canvass was made by the diocese. Fifty-four persons were with us and more were expected. I moved from Boston to West Newbury in March, on St. Patrick’s Day.
I felt called by God and I was determined to make good.
In April, the Bishop gave his consent. All Saints was acknowledged as a mission in the Archdeaconry of Lowell. We organized as a mission under the direct control of the bishop, the minister to be appointed by the bishop and his salary fixed by him. The minister was to appoint each year a warden, clerk, and treasurer to assist him in the administration of the parish, with the approval of the bishop.
We worshipped in St. John’s Hall regularly from Nov. 6, 1910 until March 22, 1913. The hall was used for all sorts of meetings during the week, but each Saturday, we set up our altar and Church fittings. The Rev. Rufus Emery, a retired priest of four score years and a cousin of the Misses Emery, assisted sometimes in the services. He was a real inspiration. The hall has been consecrated by those years of regular celebrations of the Holy Communion, forty seven baptisms, twenty six confirmations, and all the ministrations of the Church that have taken place there. It is dear to many for these associations. Had it not been for St. John’s Memorial Hall, we should not have had a Church here. A church cannot exist without a parish house.
On June 17, 1912, the cornerstone of our Church was laid by the Ven. Samuel Gavitt Babcock, Archdeacon of Lowell. He is now Bishop Babcock. The Rev. Rufus Emery put on the first mortar, I gave an address on the history of the Church in Newbury, and there were present the Rev. Arthur H. Wright, Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Newburyport, the Rev. John Tyler, of St. John’s Church, Haverhill, and the Rev. Richard Grover, of the West Newbury Congregational Society. The Roman Catholic priest sent greetings by one of his young men.
It was interesting to plan the Church and to see it grow. I was thankful that we agreed to have gothic architecture. St. Nicholas’ Church, in Newbury, England, is a beautiful perpendicular gothic church, very large and not appropriate here; but I wished our church to have the same character. I took a print of St. Nicholas’ Church into the office of our architect, I insisted upon a long, narrow church with a dignified chancel, and all the lines leading up to the alter, and on the right proportions. It was to be cruciform, but the arm of the cross designed to contain the organ chamber has never been built. We were eager to get into the Church and it seemed long in building. We had many delays. But finally it was ready.
The Church and Architecture
We held our first service in the Church on Easter Even, Easter Vespers and Baptism, on March 22, 1913. It was a great gratification to be in our Church. The very architecture taught the Christian faith and the furnishings were distinctly religious.
St. John’s Hall is a beautiful building, commodious, comfortable, and convenient, an excellent parish house. But it could not be a church’ for in it occurred secular entertainment’s, lectures, fairs, concerts, dances, suppers, etc., things good in themselves and useful; only there could be no permanent altar or religious atmosphere: unless we fitted up and used the small reading room as a chapel.
In our Church, we find a place consecrated to religious uses alone. Here we have our permanent altar, God’s throne, and all the surroundings suitable to sacred worship. The atmosphere is religious. Even conversation is out of order, unless it is on matters pertaining to the Church and worship.
Among churches, our building takes a high rank for beauty. The architecture is perpendicular gothic and the proportions, on which I insisted are so harmonious that the impression is satisfying and the building seems neither large nor small. The furnishings are in character with the architecture: everything is simple, but rich and beautiful. All things are subservient to the altar and lead the attention to it.
On the rood beam, is a large crucifix, carved exquisitely by I. Kirschmayer, an Oberammergau carver; its background is the blue of purity and at is foot are the palms of victory: surrounding it are the symbols of the four evangelists. As we look at it, we think of what our Lord said, in reference to His crucifixion, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.’And beyond the rood beam and choir rises the sanctuary, the most sacred part of the Church. There is the altar, the throne of God. God is omnipresent it is true, but on the altar, during the Holy Communion, He is present in a very special and real sense. Under the form of bread and wine, God the Son offers us His Body and Blood, to be our spiritual food. It is a mystery: we cannot understand it. All we know is that He said the words of consecration Himself over the bread and wine and then declared them to be His Body and Blood: and that He commanded us then and always to do this in remembrance of Him. So the altar, upon which rests the Body and Blood of God, is certainly God’s throne. That is why we reverence it.
Our altar is of Caen stone with a marble top. It is a memorial: ‘This altar has been placed here to the Glory of God and in grateful memory of the early priests of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1711-1766, Henry Harris,
The credence is a memorial to the Rev. John Samuel Beers, the first diocesan missionary, 1881-1886.
The dignified bishop’s chair, kept ever ready to welcome the Bishops, is a memorial to Bishop Seabury, the first bishop consecrated for the American Church. On the back is carved the seal of the diocese of Massachusetts.
The baptismal font is a memorial to Flavius and Elizabeth Emery.
The Church, the furnishings and the memorials just named, the land, the rectory, and an endowment, are, as the tablet in the vestibule reads: ‘To the glory of God an din loving memory of the Rev. Samuel Moody Emery, D.D. and his wife, Mary Hale Emery, given by their children’. This is a magnificent gift, but not too much to commemorate one who, more than any one else, is the inspirer of this work and whose inheritance supplied the means sent by God for this purpose in answer to her prayers.
Mary Hale Emery’s prayer has been answered. Her children but caught her inspiration and carried out her wishes of so many years ago in building and maintaining a Church in West Newbury.
The Church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William Lawrence, D.D., Bishop of Massachusetts, on June 24, 1914, St. John the Baptist’s Day. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, of which St. John’s Memorial Hall is the symbol, had been heard and answered. Bishop Babcock, who laid the cornerstone and has been our helpful supporter and encourager from the beginning, was present, as were a number of our clergy, the two Congregational ministers of West Newbury, and the Roman Catholic priest, Father Haley, in the chancel.