The Rev’d Canon John G. B. Andrew OBE, DD, January 10, 1931 – October 17, 2014
October 17, 2014
The Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, on behalf of the Parish, announce the death of their beloved Eleventh Rector (1972-1996), Canon John Andrew.
Canon Andrew was born in Yorkshire, England, was a priest in the Church of England and served as Domestic Chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. In 1972 he was called to be XI Rector at Saint Thomas, New York, where he had a distinguished tenure in which his preaching, pastoral presence and leadership of the liturgy drew large congregations to the Church, an achievement especially notable during an era of general decline in the Episcopal Church. Canon Andrew and Organist and Master of Choristers, Dr. Gerre Hancock, were instrumental in the preservation and enrichment of the Anglican choral tradition in the United States through the Saint Thomas Choir School. He was awarded honorary degrees from several Episcopal/Anglican seminaries in recognition of his work.
John Andrew was a friend and confidant of many church leaders both within and outside Anglicanism. He was a particular friend of Terence Cardinal Cooke and was a promoter of ecumenical relations between the Anglican and Roman Catholic communions.
Father Andrew’s ministry was remarkable for his ability in social conversation, humor, and joyousness – for which reasons many were eager to claim him as their friend. The secret of his influence was a gift he received and passed on from Archbishop Ramsey – namely, his transparent faith in Jesus and the miracles of the Gospel.
After a brief retirement to England, Father Andrew returned to New York in 1999 where he eventually returned to Saint Thomas at his successor’s invitation to be the “junior curate” as Rector Emeritus. In this role he took part in the liturgy, in social conversation with parishioners, and in fund raising. He departs this life as a beloved member of the Saint Thomas family for over 40 years.
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Born in Yorkshire on January 10. 1931, to Thomas B. Andrew and the former Ena Maud Friend, John Andrew was educated at Beverly School in the north country. From age seven, he was a boy chorister at Anlaby parish church in East Yorkshire. After serving two years as officer in the Royal Air Force, he earned a B.A. in theology at Keble College, Oxford, later proceeded to the M.A., and then went to prepare for ordination at Cuddesdon College, Oxford. Already a devotee of classical music, he sang in the choirs of Keble College and at Pusey House in Oxford, serving also as cantor at Cuddesdon, experiences that would prepare him well for eventual service in the parish with a strong musical tradition.
Ordained in York Minster by Archbishop Arthur Michael Ramsey to the diaconate in 1956 and then to the priesthood in 1957, Father Andrew’s first pastoral work took him to Redcar Parish Church, on the northeast coast of his own Yorkshire. In this industrial area, he ministered among steel workers for some three years, earning valuable parochial experience.
The fledgling and adventuresome Father Andrew next found himself crossing the Atlantic in 1959, at the age of twenty-eight, to serve as curate at St. George’s-by-the-River in Rumson, New Jersey. Not for long would he remain there, however. On October 1, 1960, the Most Rev. Arthur Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of York, recalled him after just nineteen months in Rumson to become his chaplain. On January 17, 1961, Ramsey was appointed the one-hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury and took John Andrew to Lambeth Palace as his Domestic Chaplain, and in 1965 succeeded as Senior Chaplain. Among his many duties he found time to preach before Her Majesty the Queen and her family by express invitation on several occasions.
After some eight years at Lambeth, Father Andrew in 1969 received a major parochial appointment as the Vicar of Preston in Lancashire, which put him in charge of seven clergy and six downtown churches, and made him the rural dean of Preston, a jurisdiction that included some thirty-nine priests. It was from Preston that John Andrew would be called to New York, taking with him the example and memories of his patron and model Archbishop Ramsey, to whom, he later recalled, “I owe everything in my priesthood.”
Eleventh Rector, 1972-1996
Father Andrew had first seen Saint Thomas Church, and had fallen in love with it, on May 8, 1959, his third day in the United States as a curate in New Jersey. By invitation of Dr. Morris and with the encouragement of the warden Dr. John Pierson, he had preached several times at Saint Thomas throughout the 1960s, the latest being the summer of 1971 when he and Dr. Morris had exchanged parishes. And so it would come to pass that on March 23, 1972, the Vestry would make a decision that would make all the difference to the history of Saint Thomas Church for the remainder of the twentieth century:
Dr. Pierson, Warden and Chairman of the Search Committee to recommend a successor to the Rector [Dr. Morris], reported on the efforts made by that committee as a body and by individual members to find the candidate most worthy to be the next Rector of St. Thomas Church.
Dr. Pierson reported that the Search Committee unanimously recommended: The Reverend John G. B. Andrew.
At his Institution as XI Rector of Saint Thomas by Bishop Paul Moore on December 3, 1972, the new rector wrote to his new parish:
I come to you to serve you and love you as best I can…Never has there been an occasion when, upon entering St. Thomas, I have not felt awed and humbled at the faith of those who loved God enough to give so superb a house as this for His glory and praise.
Father Andrew, who possessed a deep affection for the music of the Anglican cathedral tradition, had come to Saint Thomas shortly after the Hancocks, and together they formed a dynamic music team. He no doubt appreciated the emphasis on “responsible discipleship” that he had inherited from the era of Dr. Morris, and, with the ready assistance of the choir, he was soon to transform and complement that by a renewal of beauty and holiness in eucharistic worship.
On the following Sunday, December 10, 1972, the principal service was still Morning Prayer. On that day, Father Andrew’s first sermon as rector made clear his own priorities, aims, and responsibilities for the parish. Preaching on the text, “Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart” from 1 Kings 3:9, he said:
I come as your eleventh priest and rector, your servant, your minister, your friend….My prayer is to be given an understanding heart as I face the years ahead with you. “Priest and rector,” the service described me. Priest first. My duties in these two words are clear. Loyalty in worship to God takes first place in my life. God first: God first, as Michael Archbishop of Canterbury used to say to himself getting out of his seat in the great cathedral when the Queen was there. It was to the altar that he gave his first bow….God first then, in worship, in the daily prayers I shall offer for you and all your loved ones to whom my attention has been called; for sickness, for grief, for despair, for thanksgiving, in joy, in bereavement, for your dead, for your children yet unborn. You will find me at the altar most mornings, for that is how I run my life. At it, offering the Eucharist for you….That is the first duty of a priest.
This assertion of the priority of worship came as no surprise to those who knew the earlier past of Saint Thomas Church or to those who knew Father Andrew’s own background. The search committee knew the churchmanship of the man they nominated, and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, his mentor, was already well-known as the greatest modern product and exponent of Catholic Anglicanism. Now at age forty-two, John Andrew would henceforth be living in New York, in the middle of a city plagued with social ills, in response to which he would have ample opportunity at a place like Saint Thomas to incarnate the traditional Anglo-Catholic axiom that Christ lives both in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and also in the poor of this world.
Reflecting later upon his twenty-four years at Saint Thomas as XI Rector, John Andrew summarized the opportunity that had been given to him:
I inherited a great and glorious history of music at Saint Thomas, the only residential choir school left in America, a strategic location in the center of New York City, the busiest place in the world, and, above all, a superb building designed by a Catholic Anglican for Catholic worship in the Anglican tradition. The challenge was to make the worship as beautiful as we could, with God’s grace, and to combine it with a Gospel preached as intelligently, cogently, and courteously as possible. This done, the people just might respond. And they did.
In the mid-1970s Father Andrew invited the Rev. Gary Fertig, then serving as Assistant to the Dean of Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin, to become his senior curate and primary associate, later vicar, a relationship that lasted for most of Father Andrew’s time at Saint Thomas. Arriving in 1977, Fr Fertig was valued by Fr Andrew for his efficiency and decisiveness, and the rector would soon entrust to his vicar a great measure of leeway and initiative to do the actual running of the parish, rightly sensing him to be absolutely loyal, single-minded, highly motivated, matter-of-fact, and without hidden agenda.
Fr Andrew came to be known as something of an expert in the choice of curates, considering his own rectorial skill to be that of a “prime delegator” and, in his own words, “always looking for somebody better at doing something than I was, for the sake of complementarity.” That he chose so well is attested, in part, by the significant parochial appointments to which so many of them were eventually called as rectors. Gary Fertig after eighteen years became the rector of the Church of the Ascension in Chicago; Stuart Kenworthy went on to become the rector of Christ Church, Georgetown; Douglas Ousley was later canon at the American Cathedral in Paris and then rector of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue; Dorsey McConnell moved on to the chaplaincy at Yale and then to the Church of the Epiphany in New York City; Richard Alton went to St. Mark’s in Philadelphia, and there were still others.
A List of Curantes and Honorary Assistants during the XI Rectorate
The Reverend Canon Henry A. Zinser, M.Div., 1972-1975
The Reverend Paul C. Christopherson, resigned in 1972
The Reverend Thomas M. Greene, M.A., S.T.B., 1973-1977
The Reverend J. Douglas Ousley, M.R.E., M.Th., 1973-1978
The Reverend Leslie J. A. Lang, S.T.D., Honarary Assistant, 1975-1990
The Reverend Samuel B. Bird, Jr., B.A., 1976-1978
The Reverend Gary P. Fertig, B.A., M.Div., 1977-1995
The Reverend Ronald Lafferty, B.A., M.Div., 1978-1982
The Reverend Stanley F. Gross, B.T.E., Honarary Assistant, 1979-1980
The Reverend Gordon-Hurst Barrow, M.Div., Honarary Assistant, 1981-1995
The Reverend Gordon Duggins, A.B., M.Div., Th.M., 1983-1985
The Right Reverend Dorsey McConnell, B.A., M.Div., S.T.M., 1985-1991
The Reverend Robert H. Stafford, M.Div., S.T.M., 1985-1991
The Reverned James P. Nicholls, M.Div., M.S.Ed., Honarary Assistant, 1986-1986
The Reverend Stuart A. Kenworthy, M.Div., D.Min., 1986-1991
The Reverend Howard Stringfellow, M.A., M.Div., 1986-1992
The Reverend Duane W. H. Arnold, Ph.D., 1991-1994
The Reverend Ivan Weiser, Honarary Assistant, 1991-1993
The Reverend Daniel G. Ade, M.Div., 1992-1994
The Reverned Frances LeBlanc, M.Div., 1993-1994
The Reverend Richard C. Alton, M.A.R., 1994-1996
The Reverend David F. Sellery, M.Div., 1994-1999
Principles for Preaching
John Andrew was already known to be a good preacher before he came to Saint Thomas, and the high quality of his sermons during his time was remarkable. Three volumes of them were published and were widely distributed as selections of the Episcopal Book Club as well as for general sale. It is sometimes erroneously thought that “good preachers are born, not made,” but John Andrew put much thought and care into sermon preparation. The advice he often passed on to his assistant clergy began with the admonition that they should spend at least a half-hour in preparation for every minute that they planned to preach. He urged them to read the sermons of the great preachers, to study every book about how to preach they could find, to keep their eyes open to the world around , and to start their preparation on the Monday before the Sunday. Above all, as their aim in preaching, he urged them to reflect upon the summary of purposes attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo: Placere, Docere, Movere: to please, to teach, to move.
Here are Fr Andrew's principles for preaching at Saint Thomas, which he outlined in the foreward to his book, My Heart is Ready: Feasts and Fasts on Fifth Avenue, 1995:
Preaching is treated with respect here by those of us who do it and those who share in it. Frankly I have to slave at sermons. You would think that after thirty-eight years in the priesthood certain things would come more easily, like preaching. I do not find this so. I am haunted by the fear of sounding stale. Notice that I did not say repetitive. A preacher must be repetitive, in order to bang nails firmly home. I make no apology for that. The art is to represent the thrill of the gospel imaginatively, cogently, and accurately. It takes all I have to try to maintain this ideal.
People help: their experiences, their fears, their frustrations, their fulfillments, and their triumphs of grace in their lives are a wellspring of inspiration. “All my fresh springs shall be in thee” is a phrase from the psalms that I know to be true in my life as a priest and friend and teacher and preacher. Seeing Christ living in my beloved family members here at Saint Thomas is a great corrective for dullness and self-concern. Books help, too. I always have several going at once, all different: theology, biography, poetry, art, mystery novels, history.
But you have to be on the look-out for parables too, and they sprout everywhere: in shop-window displays; on the sides of buses; in street exchanges between myriad kinds of humanity; in situations where there is humor to be found; on the television; around the supper table; in museum exhibitions or in the theater. I think you get into the habit of picking up on things; certainly my friends will observe that I might pocket such and such an incident or remark for a sermon. “Take care!” they warn. “He’ll use it in the pulpit!” Often, true.
You can gather that though I regard sermon preparation as a burden, it is never a chore. It is, I suppose, a costly delight; I love it but it takes its toll. And it is an honor. One good word is not as good as another, and every word has to be written and balanced and assimilated. There is a curious accolade of honor bestowed on the person who can “preach without notes,” as if somehow the message is worth more for its invisible source of delivery….I can see why, but I can’t do it myself.
Not least am I helped by my colleagues, often much younger than myself. The presence among us at Saint Thomas of a lively and very amusing young priest with real homiletic punch has earned by gratitude increasingly in the two years he has served here. I look forward to hearing him preach every time he preaches.
I also need to pay tribute to Sunday congregations who have challenged us preachers with their keen attention and critical support, their intelligence and their encouragement. We have a great deal for which to thank God.
Read and listen to some of Fr Andrew's sermons preached at Saint Thomas since 2006, during his time as "junior curate" at Saint Thomas, a time when Fr Andrew was invited back by Fr Mead to participate in the ministry of Saint Thomas in his retirement.
Embellishments in Worship
Rather like Dr Morris (X Rector) in this respect, Fr Andrew was inclined to make innovations to worship in non-controversial ways. All this can be seen in the transition to eucharistic centrality as well as in the introduction of the Reserved Sacrament, incense and icons.
The transition to eucharistic centrality was accomplished in the early and mid-1970s, although the ideal was one that the parish had already known under the rectorate of Dr Brown (VII Rector) in the late nineteenth century. Saint Thomas already had a daily Eucharist in the early morning when John Andrew arrived, and his first move was to augment that service by another, daily at 5:30pm, for people finishing their day of work. Next, the Wednesday mid-day Eucharist was expanded to every day of the week at that hour. Finally, for the main service on Sunday mornings, the logical development was to shorten choral Morning Prayer and follow it immediately by the Eucharist beginning at the offertory. This movement toward Mass offered seven days a week, every day of the year, continued and expanded under his successors, so that today the Eucharist is typically offered nineteen times per week.
Other embellishments, hardly contested, included a certain elaboration of ceremonial, more elaborate vestments such as copes and chasubles, use of the traditional rites for Holy Week and Easter Eve, and display of all the sacred vessels upon the altar at the feasts of Christmas and Easter. These and still other changes were accomplished with a minimum of adversity and with as few vestry votes, as little public announcement, as possible. It was John Andrew’s hunch—and he was proven right—that if the deepest religious longings of his parishioners already coincided sufficiently with his own, then more could be done if less was said.
A similar approach made possible the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, especially needed in view of the increase of eucharistic services and the concomitantly increasing desire of parishioners to receive the Sacrament at home or hospital when they were ill. Fr Andrew early discovered that the large double-cupboard near the altar rail opening out to the side chapel had been constructed by Bertram Goodhue to be serviceable as an aumbry, so he had the direction of the doors changed to face only the high altar and an upholsterer to line the cupboard with linen. Then he commissioned a hanging silver lamp from Watts and Company of London, suppliers of all the parish’s vestments and furnishings during his tenure. Watts also provided the thurible boat for the incense, which was likewise introduced with little fanfare and little opposition (and at first at very moderate amount!). To the few who did raise questions, Fr Andrew later recalled that he replied: “It’s a marvelous opportunity to express outwardly the worship to which we are already committed inwardly, but if you don’t like it, if it doesn’t work, I will withdraw it.” Of course he never did—because most people liked it and agreed.
Development of Our Unique Choral Heritage
As Fr Andrew Mead, XII Rector and Fr Andrew's immediate successor, wrote in 2001: "One of the chief accomplishments of John Andrew's rectorship, and one of the main reasons for his success in attracting greater numbers to Saint Thomas, was the provision, by the more fully developed liturgy and schedule of services, of a proper format for the talents of our Organist and Master of Choristers, Gerre Hancock."And so it was that under John Andrew and Gerre Hancock, the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys continued and developed its own work of beautifying and expressing in song the worship of the parish. Living in the cultural center of New York, the boys of the Saint Thomas Choir School experienced the finest opportunities for learning while contributing to the worship at Saint Thomas Church on a regular basis. In addition to choral liturgies, recitals and concerts brought a significant number of people through the doors who might not otherwise have any contact with the church or with sacred music. Through recordings on records, cassettes and then compact discs, the choir's music spread throughout the world. It is fair to say, then, that beginning in the 1970s, music at Saint Thomas began to flourish as never before.
To Gerre Hancock, Fr Andrew would pay high tribute, describing him as remarkable man and a superb musicologist, organist, and master chorister: “Gerre’s hymn accompaniment is famous, as are his improvisations. It is not at all unusual for him to be visited by church musicians from the far corners of the world. His rapport with choristers is extraordinary; his partnership with his parish priest, in church liturgies, is looked upon by many as a role model for musicians and priests alike.”
On March 14, 1996, in honor of his twenty-fifth anniversary as the parish musician, the Loening Memorial Organ in the east gallery was replaced and renamed “the Loening-Hancock Organ,” its first public music being called forth at that time by Fr Andrew with the words, “Organ, you are summoned to the service of God.”
Fr Andrew’s consistent advocacy of the music program and Choir School had its culmination, in one sense, in the years 1985-1987, with the construction of its new fifteen-story building on West Fifty-eighth Street, at comparatively little cost to the parish. The move was handled with expedition. “The Choir School is an adjunct of the church,” he wrote. “It cannot pretend to be a preparatory school first, and a supplier of singers for services, second. It exists as a living part of the church’s task for evangelism and worship.” These remarks, uttered in 1996, echoed some earlier words he had written in 1982: “This is not simply a prep school with a demanding musical program; it is a school founded to service the liturgy.”
Introduction of Icons and Our Lady of Fifth Avenue
The story of the introduction of icons to the walls of Saint Thomas Church is bound up curiously with the story of the mysterious disappearance of some rare French and Flemish tapestries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that used to hang on the north wall of the nave. The tapestries had been there since the days of Dr. Stires, and there had been much debate as to whether they helped, or actually hindered, the acoustical properties of the church itself. In any event, they were sent out to be cleaned and restored in 1979, and then after Easter they were re-hung on the wall with velcro attachments. After they had been up again for only a few days,on the night of April 19 four of them were stolen, possibly by a diminutive thief who broke through a small window on the south side of the church near Fifth Avenue. They have never been recovered nor the thieves apprehended, but there is common agreement that without them the acoustics have indeed improved! The church received some insurance money as a result of the theft, and since the walls of the church were looking rather austere, Fr Andrew decided to use part of the payment for the purchase of a large, splendid eighteenth century Baltic icon (in the Russian tradition) depicting the face of the Savior. He found it with the assistance of Canon Edward West in a Russian ship in the lower East Village, and in 1981 it was placed on the northwest corner pillar just before the entrance to the Resurrection Chapel.
Soon, another icon, a good reproduction of a Greek icon depicting the Mother of God and her Holy Child, was donated anonymously and placed on the southwest corner pillar just at the entrance to the Chantry Chapel. In both instances the icons were accompanied by appropriate votive lamps. Like the incense and other changes, the icons were introduced with little preparation and little objection and with no public service of dedication or blessing.
Anniversaries at Saint Thomas did not go unnoticed. In thanksgiving for his tenth anniversary as rector in 1982, Fr Andrew gave his own silver chalice and paten to the service of the altar, and the same anniversary was also commemorated by a parish gift that completely refurbished the clergy sacristy in beautiful woodwork designed by the architectural firm of Gerald Allen and his associates. About the same time, there was placed on the sacristy wall an eighteenth century Greek icon of “The Three Hierarchs” (Saints Basil the Great, John Chysostom, and Gregory the Theologian, all known for their associations with the liturgy in the Eastern Orthodox churches.) Still later, Fr Andrew himself would give to the church a silver communion flagon, embellished with his coat of arms, in memory of his mother, Ena Maud Andrew, who had died in 1993.
In thanksgiving for his continuing service to the parish, the congregation joined in a gift of singular choice and appropriateness: on the Eve of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity—January 17, 1991—the statue of Our Lady of Fifth Avenue was dedicated. Several images of Saint Mary the Virgin already adorned the church since its earlier stages of construction, at least two being especially prominent: on the façade she appears across from St. John the Baptist, while on the reredos she stands in her traditional rood position, under the cross opposite St. John the Beloved Disciple. But until now no image or statue of the Virgin had stood alone in the body of the church. Even more significantly, there was no Marian shrine in any Episcopal church making the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus our Lord and God, available under a title that had particular reference to New York City, where teeming multitudes regularly traversed what is surely one of the world’s busiest intersections, at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third. The interaction of church and world was underscored in the same service that evening, for it was also the very night after the United States had first bombed the city of Baghdad in the Persian Gulf War, and many of the speakers made anguished references to that and to the role that the intercession of Blessed Mary could indeed have in the pursuit of peace. To dedicate a votive statue to Mary in such times, and to name her not after some ancient and far-away apparition, but “Our Lady of Fifth Avenue,” was a bold and creative synthesis of the old with the new for which Saint Thomas Parish could be justly pleased.
The statue dedicated that evening was a work of art that continues to inspire devotion and prayer in the church. Depicting the Blessed Mother with the child Jesus on her lap, it is an appropriate complement to the four pairs of Chantry windows that depict great women saints in the history of the church and to the statues of the Lyon Memorial at the entrance just outside the Chantry doors. More Romanesque than Gothic in its general appearance, it is of the “Seat of Wisdom” genre, Mary’s posture, her lap and throne, representing the Divine Wisdom that has become incarnate in her Son. This four-foot bronze statue was made by Mother Concordia Scott, O.S.B., of the Benedictine monastery at Minster Abbey in Kent, crafted by her to resemble the statue of Our Lady that she had made for the undercroft at Canterbury Cathedral.
Fr Andrew’s words from an earlier, and obviously preparatory, sermon are clear about the role he saw for the Virgin at Saint Thomas in particular and in New York City in general, a role that was finally inaugurated and proclaimed in reality that evening:
My task here on noisy Fifth Avenue is to see that a widely balanced, full-blooded, whole-hearted, generous and biblical faith is taught and practiced, stretching the intellect, demanding upon the time and the minds and the self-giving of those who love Jesus, in worship, in praise, in sacrificial works of mercy. We need all the help we can get. New York needs a shrine: this crazy city needs such meeting places, silent and hidden….It may well be that a place the size of St. Thomas could do with a fine and austere representation of the Mother who gave Him to us, as a reminder of the love she carries for us all, as a symbol of patient waiting and contemplation, and as a place of quiet access and constant readiness to show Christ to the world of busy business. So perhaps Our Lady of Fifth Avenue is not out of place.
The later years of the 1970s ushered in a period of acute controversy over churchmanship difficulties in both the diocese and the national church—especially regarding proposals for revision of the Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women—from which neither Saint Thomas nor its rector were immune. In the midst of these arguments, and to his great credit, Fr Andrew brought a steady hand and a remarkably irenic approach. His leadership was shown not in advocacy or angularity but in a calm objectivity and open-mindedness. In the early fall of 1976, he wrote:
General Convention opens on Saturday, Sept 11, and as an alternate deputy to it, I have to be there at least for a couple of days. There are two urgent matters to be settled: The admission of women to the priesthood, and the final revision of the Book of Common Prayer to be accepted or rejected. I have never used the Bulletin (at least not intentionally) to air issues which can be contentious and which could divide the people of the parish and I do not propose to do this now. I want to listen to the arguments both for and against the moves which are proposed and my vote will go when I have considered the questions on their merits as they are argued in General Convention. Whatever happens in both these issues, there will be some who feel themselves so badly treated and hurt that they may want to leave the Episcopal Church. There is much emotionalism; more heat than light in some of the issues, I am sorry to say.
After the Convention was over, Fr Andrew expressed his “hope that if the Church is to have a revised Book of Common Prayer we should at least be able to keep the old Prayer Book which so many people find every bit as helpful to them as any new revision could be.” Indeed, so skillful was his handling of this controversy that parishioners and visitors on both sides of the Prayer Book question could continue to find a home at Saint Thomas. The 1928 Prayer Book continued to be the book placed in the pews, and it remained in use because of the beauty of the Coverdale Psalter, a masterpiece of classical English verse that has been a constant ingredient of the Anglican Prayer Book tradition and is still a feature of Choral Evensong at Saint Thomas.
The services themselves, however, came to be more and more drawn from the 1979 Prayer Book, skillfully adapted by Rev. Gary Fertig, but this was not overly noticeable because around the same time laminated print-cards were introduced and distributed in the pews for virtually all the services. Overall, the dominant motif was the traditional language of Rite I within the 1979 Prayer Book, but at times Rite II was followed. This solution was not quite Archbishop Cranmer’s original ideal of one people united around one book following “but one use,” yet it was a masterful synthesis that kept most of the people happy and retained the priority of beautiful worship rendered superbly.
The question of the ordination of women, decided by Convention in the affirmative, did not come to public notice in the parish until 1993, when Fr Andrew, despite his reservations springing from his concern for Catholic tradition and his zeal for ecumenical rapprochement, particularly with the Church of Rome, decided to support it. Under Dr Morris, women at Saint Thomas had been given the right to vote at the annual parish election and to serve as wardens and vestry members, and Father Andrew in 1989 had made the decision to invite women to serve as members of the Usher Corps and also as lay readers. Then, in 1993, he made the decision to hire the first woman curate on the staff, a daughter of the parish named Frances LeBlanc, who had been attested for ordination by the Saint Thomas vestry. There was much more objection to this appointment than he had counted on, however, even from persons on his staff who were normally supportive of change. After a number of expressions of opposition he decided that he must encourage her to move soon, early in 1994, to another placement. Commenting in retrospect, he remarked: “It was the worst experience of failure in my years as rector of Saint Thomas, a brave experiment that lamentably failed. I must take the responsibility for that, and I have regretted the failure ever since.”
Links within the Anglican Communion
One of Fr Andrew’s earliest actions as rector drew attention to the spiritual patron of the parish, to the wider communion of saints, and to the church’s linkage within the wider Anglican Communion. A concrete link with a holy Thomas other than the Apostle was established on December 29, 1974, with the dedication of a stone from the Canterbury site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket on that same date in the year 1170. When the original site was being done over to accommodate the new “Altar of the Sword’s Point” at Canterbury, an Elizabethan funerary plaque had to be removed and some of the original stone with it, of which a piece was secured for Saint Thomas Church in return for a significant contribution from the rector’s discretionary fund. The stone, Fr Andrew explained, “was placed in the chancel floor and hallowed, linking us forever with that brave and saintly man who gave his life for his faith…and was proud to share the name of our own patron saint.” It remains embedded within the pavement at the head of the chancel steps, a silent stone that witnessed the martyrdom of the most famous Archbishop of Canterbury, now located in a spot at Saint Thomas where every modern pilgrim who passes on the way to communion may feel some sense of spiritual fellowship with those who have gone before.
In still other ways as well, Fr Andrew led the parish to celebrate and appropriate its Anglican heritage. On Sunday, February 3, 1974, the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Arthur Michael Ramsey had become the first Archbishop of Canterbury to visit and preach at Saint Thomas, now the church of his protégé and former chaplain. And in September 1976 his successor Frederick Donald Coggan visited to preach on a Monday at noon to a crowded church. In fact, every Archbishop of both Canterbury and York during Father Andrew’s twenty-four years at Saint Thomas preached and dined there, as well as the Bishops of London, Liverpool, Chichester, and Rochester, the Deans of Westminster Abbey and of Canterbury and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, and other notable British churchmen. Nor was the Royal Family absent from the notice of Saint Thomas Church’s liturgical observances, for the fourth of August in 1980 saw a service of “Thanksgiving and Celebration for Eighty Years in the Life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.” The British Counsel General was in attendance and read the second lesson; also attending were clergy from local Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches. Wednesday, August 1, 1990, saw a similar celebration for the same woman’s ninetieth birthday, as Fr Andrew bade the congregation to give thanks for the woman whose “renowned commonsense is a reflection of her robust faith,” who “moves with serenity and trust, and walks humbly with her God.”
New Coat of Arms
The Year Book for 1976 records one more contact with England: “A colorful intrusion into our lives occurred in early May when Mr. John Brooke-Little, Richmond Herald of Arms, came complete with Herald’s Tabard to deliver to us the church’s new coat of arms, the first church in 800 years to be granted arms and with the unique distinction of supporters—figures standing on either side of the shield.”
The certificate of this grant from the College of Arms, consisting of Letters Patent dated December 1, 1975, now hangs proudly in the Parish House., and the arms themselves now grace many objects and items associated with the life of the church. Needless to say, this armorial device had been largely designed by Fr Andrew, as he likewise in 1976 created the parish’s motto: “O God, my heart is ready.” Taken from Psalm 108 in the classical translation of Coverdale, this verse had been the favorite scripture text of Archbishop Michael Ramsey. Because the rest of the verse ended with the musical promise of the psalmist, “I will sing and give praise with the best member I have,” it was also a text appropriate both to the parish and to the Choir School, which were already linked by the presence of the choristers on the arms they now shared in common. This psalm would also happen to the be the one sung by the choir on June 9, 1996, Fr Andrew’s last Sunday as rector.
Links Beyond the Anglican Communion
The prominence of prayer for the unity of the church, sustained throughout Fr Andrew’s rectorate at Saint Thomas, had been at the heart of his preaching and teaching from the beginning. Invited to be the guest preacher for the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral less than two months after he became rector, Fr Andrew made explicit his ecumenical vision and commitment when he concluded:
Pray God that the time will quickly come when all that obstructs our view, our sight, our discernment, our apprehension of the Divine Will and purpose for us as separate Churches will be done away. So that in common love and understanding for Him in our Blessed Lord, in common devotion, in common worship, in the fullness of sacramental unity, we may humbly and penitently offer and bring to a broken and divided world the secret of His will, our peace together, which will prove our final blessedness.
His Holiness Pope John XXIII, the Bishop of Rome who called the Second Vatican Council and inaugurated a new era in the ecumenical life of the church, became the subject of a lancet in the far left of the last of the clerestory windows to be installed at Saint Thomas. Known as the "Temperance Window," it was completed by the Willet Studios of Philadelphia in 1973 and given by William and Shirley Burden in honor of their mother, Florence Vanderbilt Burden, who with her sons had given the first clerestory windows as a memorial to her husband and their father back in 1927. Intended to depict those who have been leaders in spiritual matters, located in the north wall, and being the fourth clerestory window given by members of this same family, it was dedicated by Terence Cardinal Cooke, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, in January of 1974. Three years later, Archbishop Jean Jadot, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, visited Saint Thomas Church on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in 1977. Other distinguished clergy of the Church of Rome, such as the Secretary of State from the Vatican, Cardinal Casaroli, and Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, also came to Saint Thomas during these years, as did the entire Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on a Sunday morning in the fall of 1985. Likewise, Fr Andrew’s involvement in Anglican-Orthodox relations was worthy of note, and he served in 1994 and 1995, at the appointment of Bishop Grein, as the chair of the New York Episcopal Diocesan Russia Committee. At his invitiation, the entire membership of the national Episcopal-Orthodox joint commission had earlier attended the dedication of the Fifth Avenue shrine to Mary.
The rector also served for some twenty years on the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission of New York, and his good relations with the hierarchy of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral just a few blocks away continued under Cardinal O’Connor. Framed portraits of Cardinals Cook and O’Connor and of Bishop Joseph T. O’Keefe, former vicar-general of the Archdiocese of New York, also hung in Fr Andrew’s office. The great outpouring of ecumenical prayer at the historic dedication of Our Lady of Fifth Avenue, then, was a culmination of years of work for the unity of the church, and not merely a momentary demonstration of good will among Christians.
Canon John Andrew, O.B.E.
Fr Andrew received prominent recognition on January 29, 1995, when he was made an honorary Canon of New York by the Rt. Rev. Richard F. Grein. No other incumbent rector of Saint Thomas had been honored in this way. As directed in the service leaflet printed for the occasion, Bishop Grein addressed the new Canon Andrew:
We, Richard Frank, by Divine Permission Bishop of New York, do admit you, John Gerald Barton Andrew, as Canon of this our Diocese of New York, with all and singular rights and privileges as appropriate both in this place and in The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, so long as your life shall last. May you minister among the People as a Canon with justice and with sanctity. May God who is mighty increase your grace.
With his “Amen” to these words Fr Andrew was linked by his honorary canonry to the cathedral church of a great diocese he had now served for nearly a quarter of a century.
Within a year, the time of the rector’s retirement would be near, and there would be many events and dinners to salute him. During the time of his rectorate Fr Andrew had received honorary doctorates from Cuttington College in Liberia, Nashotah House in Wisconsin, the Episcopal Seminary in Kentucky, and the General Theological Seminary in New York. From the Queen of England, monarch of his native land, he received the high honor of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1995. An honor from his mother church was the Cross of St. Augustine of Canterbury, which was awarded him by Archbishop George Carey in the narthex of the parish church in May 1996; a personal touch was the fact that Fr Andrew himself had been the original designer of this award at the invitation of Archbishop Ramsey in 1963.
What is Saint Thomas Supposed to be Doing?
The following is from The Best of Both Worlds, pp.147-50, by John Andrew. Originally a sermon preached on Dedication Sunday (year not given), later published in 1991.
What is Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue supposed to be doing? Very possibly, four things. I submit to you that we are here to suggest, to remind, to invite, and to inspire.
For good or ill, we have taken our place among the riches of the world, the financially and economically powerful of the world, the top jewelers of the world, one of the foremost modern art collections in the world, to suggest that over mankind’s creativity and grandest achievements and over superlative technical skills and the expressions of the artistic soul of humanity arches the judgment of God. Calmly and without ostentation, Christ on his cross looks down on Fifth Avenue from above our main great doors, his eyes surveying the glory of all that inventive and successful evidence of human possession. Beneath his feet the words in great letters: “Thou Art the King of Glory, O Christ.”
All you need to do is lift your eyes. Much lower than the skyscrapers and seemingly insignificant among the soaring buildings stands this suggestion to one of the busiest streets in New York, that there is another dimension to this world that has to be accounted for: the power of the love of God. The arms of Christ are outstretched for us, in welcome.
The suggestion is given in the outstretched arms, in the open eyes, and in the words of homage from the Te Deum that triumph and failure, joy and pain, victory and death are not as widely spaced as some would like to think, that such things as suffering, betrayal, and human weakness are as much involved in the glory of Christ’s sovereignty as success and power and “arriving” on Fifth Avenue. This suggestion of a wider dimension is emphasized in Christ’s arms outstretched to embrace every fortune in the human endeavor that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, RSV).
Second, this place is here to remind. There is not one of us in the Christian family who does not need the memory jogged on occasion about who we are and whose we are. We have a heritage to acknowledge, a relationship to live up to. Saint Peter makes this point with force in his first letter: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, and a people claimed by God for his own, to proclaim the triumphs of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NEB). If any of us as Christians has an identity crisis, that is all we need to know. The heritage is noble. It is clearly stated: we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, a people singled out with a vocation, with a proclamation to make, not an admission to be wrung out of us. We are called to make this proclamation as members of a priesthood and a royal priesthood at that, a priesthood of which sacrificed service and lifelong loyalty to people are integral parts. This priesthood calls for more than individual responsibility; it entails a corporate awareness, a family membership, and today’s celebration of the feat of our dedication to Saint Thomas is designed to emphasize it. We are not subscribers to philosophy; we bear a divine tattoo, a family responsibility to people beyond our ranks, to bring God to them and to bring them to God with us.
And so the third task we are here to perform is to invite. We need to evangelize, to attract and convince people by the heritage we possess to join us. We need to uplift Christ so that people may long to know more about him, to know him and to love him, to love him and to serve him, to serve him and to live for him, to share our destiny in him.
Mere words recited won’t achieve this. They never do. I am probably more wicked than most of you in feeling quite unmoved by men shouting at me on Fifth Avenue that my sins which are many can be washed away; the flailing arms and the Bible raised and haranguing tones do little for me. But a welcome, a smile can work wonders for me in a place like this when I come in to worship, to see what the worship is like. And a place like this must not only look beautiful, it must be beautiful in its reassurance to the new and shy and lonely that they will be welcome and that they are wanted. They have a right to know that this place is prayed in. I am convinced that if we persist in our struggle to get the worship right, so that the atmosphere of this superb place rings with the worshipful love of Christ and resounds with concern and patience and joy, then it will be a vessel for all our activities for others in this city and beyond its bounds that proclaim Christ’s kingship over us. Souls will feel invited to belong to the Christian family of forgiven sinners.
Invited, then inspired. Inspired not merely by this wondrous place and what goes on officially in it but by what it has always stood for: sacrificial generosity….The need to give did not stop after the money poured in to build this glorious place. The need is with us still, for God’s work still has to be accomplished, and still we need to give seriously, sacrificially, steadfastly. It is when we are giving more than we thought we ever could, more than we think we ever should, that our heritage mysteriously displays its integrity; for an ungenerous Christian is a contradiction in terms. When we commit ourselves to this hard road, we are doing no more than following the steps of the one whose divine tattoo we bear, who gave of himself to the point of shedding his most precious blood for us and our salvation. This costly self-giving spirit of his, unselfconsciously seen in us, is what will inspire, for it is the real thing, the authentic ingredient in the life of a Christian community and in the soul of a Christian individual.