Dearly Beloved in Christ,
The changes announced in the May Rector’s Chronicle are underway, and the transitions have been smooth and gracious. Fr. Jonathan Erdman, his wife Andrea, their daughter Sarah and newborn son Joseph had a good send-off Sunday, June 20. Fr. Michael Spurlock, his wife Aimee, their son Atticus and daughter Hadley have moved in and are starting life with us. Anthony Jones has begun as Verger, and David Daniel is taking a long overdue vacation before he starts his “Dave in the Nave” ministry of outreach, beginning in August. Around midsummer Fr. Joel Daniels and his wife Lystra will move into the clergy apartment in the Choir School formerly occupied by the Erdmans. A superb Class of 2010 eighth graders have been graduated from the Choir School. And my wife Nancy has completed the second leg of a three-part pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome called the Via Francigena. Before she and I leave for our annual vacation retreat to Monhegan Island, Maine, I want to share a few grace-notes with you concerning former Rectors of Saint Thomas, and then bid you a good summer’s rest.
A WORD FROM THE RECTOR EMERITUS
Father Andrew has made a wonderful recovery from his accident in March, when he was struck by a pick-up truck while crossing the street (with the light) near his home. He sustained serious injuries which required a lengthy hospital stay, continuing physical therapy, and, on his part, a good deal of courage and perseverance. He has asked me to include this message:
“My dear St. Thomas family: So many thanks!
“The weeks of isolation from here and from you all have been costly, but the Lord has seen to it that his grace has supervened, as it always will if we ask for it. The avalanche of messages by mail and telephone unleashing a tsunami of powerful intercession from everywhere imaginable; dozens of gifts of flowers that filled the house where I’ve been living since my hospital incarcerations – the free offer and gift to me of my cherished successor and his wife, my favorite Florence Nightingale – candy-store-full of things to eat, and a disciplined army of visitors from all over the Christian spectrum and beyond.
“Who could not prosper from the Grace of this time? My recovery has been swift and remarkably full. It has surprised my doctors and therapist friends as well as the people I’ve been amongst. I’ve taken unwanted weight off. I’m enjoying a relaxed schedule. But my delight is to be back with you, enjoying the renewal of my life as grandfather of this remarkable parish family.
“God bless you all. Yours affectionately, John Andrew.”
Father Andrew has also been good company for me, while Florence Nightingale was trekking from Besancon in southeast France through Switzerland to Milan in northern Italy.
CAUSA FINITA EST
On this past June 22, having finished a long endeavor in concert with the family of the Rev’d Cornelius Roosevelt Duffie, the Vestry and I fulfilled an ancient obligation to our beloved founder (1823) and first Rector. This is the attempt, which we and the Duffies on that day discovered not to be possible, to translate Mr. Duffie’s remains and those of his wife, Helena Bleecker Duffie and their son Charles William Duffie, from a vault in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, into the sanctuary of Saint Thomas. Our first Rector, his wife and son were originally buried in the chancel of Saint Thomas when it was at the corner of Broadway and Houston Street. When Saint Thomas moved from that location to its present one, the bodies of the Duffies were moved to the Green-Wood Cemetery vault on January 5, 1869. It was always the intention of the parish to return the remains of our first Rector, his wife and son to the chancel of the new Church. [Mr. Duffie had a second son, Cornelius R. Duffie II, who became a priest and Rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist, now called the Church of the Epiphany on the Upper East Side. He also had two daughters, Helena and Maria, who did not marry.]
At least since 1967, Rectors of Saint Thomas have communicated with the Duffie family to try to make good on this obligation. At last, on June 22, we were able to enter and to examine the Green-Wood vault where the remains of the Duffie family lie. Since it is impossible to identify particular remains with names, we have determined that our obligation must be considered fulfilled. Our first and founding Rector, his wife, and their son Charles will be memorialized in the sanctuary floor below the High Altar at Saint Thomas, where they will be remembered with honor and gratitude. Green-Wood Cemetery has given us some dust from the Duffie vault to repose below the floor beneath their names, together with some prayers and texts used at the grave site.
I left a document in the vault, together with a letter from the Duffie family, which provides future generations with an explanation of the June 22 vault opening. It concludes: “Let the reader understand our good intentions, and know that Saint Thomas Church and the family of Cornelius Roosevelt Duffie remain united by bonds of love and thanksgiving; and that our founder and his family remain in the perpetual prayers of Saint Thomas Church in the City and County of New York, a parish of the Diocese of New York, within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by our Lord and God Jesus Christ.”
The ceremony to memorialize our founding first Rector, his wife and son will, God willing, occur on this next Remembrance Sunday, November 14, at the 11 o’clock Solemn Requiem Eucharist.
Having recently been captivated by the late Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, I’m at a bit of a loss to find fiction to take to Monhegan. Some of you have given me some recommendations which I’ll follow. But that dark Swedish trilogy is really something. The Girl, let the reader be warned, has a lot of terrible violence, but it is not gratuitous. The Girl herself, Lisbeth Salander, is a genius computer-hacker with a binary mind and sense of justice – one of the most unlikely heroines ever – who has a strange appeal all her own. The Girl is brilliant, heart-felt, and just.
Faithfully your Priest and Rector,
Andrew C. Mead