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1923 Archives: Tobacco Gifts & the ‘War’ on Virgin Birth

The following news briefs were first published in the January 5, 1924, issue of The Living Church. The Diocese of New York’s “ecclesiastical warfare” was touched off by a mid-November Pastoral Letter issued by the House of Bishops, which robustly affirmed the doctrine of the virgin birth. A group of “modernist” clergy from some of Manhattan’s prestigious churches, led by the Rev. Dr. Leighton Parks of St. Bartholomew’s, fiercely attacked the letter as fundamentalist, provoking a controversy with their bishop, the Rt. Rev. William T. Manning, a conservative high churchman, who had been one of its principal authors. The main long-term impact of the controversy was that the liberal clergy discouraged their wealthy congregants from contributing to the construction fund of Manning’s great project, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, which remains unfinished today.

Ecclesiastical Warfare in New York

The so-called truce in the Modernist war was rather a hollow mockery. It could hardly have been otherwise, for the Christmas season emphasizes the very heart of the present controversy. The champions of each side naturally laid stress on their interpretation of the doctrines involved and could not be said to have been strictly neutral in the expression of their views.

Bishop Manning’s Christmas sermon at the Cathedral was confined to a simple reaffirmation of his belief in the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, and was not controversial in any sense. Dr. Parks’ sermon of December 16th was distributed last Sunday to his congregation. It contains two appendices: one on “The Evolution of the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth,” and another on “The Scholarship of the Bishops.” The first deals with so-called Catholic tradition, which finds its culmination, he says, in the modern affirmation of the Roman Church (1854) promulgating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. The reference to the bishops’ scholarship is a criticism uttered more in sorrow than in anger, and asserts that a modern bishop, whatever his capacity for scholarship, has not the time to devote himself to it, but must try to keep pace with the demands of efficient administration instead.

It is a pleasure to turn from the ecclesiastical warfare to record the fact that, as the papers tell us, charity and not revelry marked the observance of the Christmas season this year. There was perhaps less poverty and misery to relieve, but nevertheless the public gave liberally to every worthy cause. It is to be hoped that the celebration of the New Year will be similar in character.

The usual Christmas Eve commemoration of the author of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” was held by the children of the Chapel of the Intercession, who marched in procession from the church to the grave of Clement Moore in Trinity Cemetery and heard the immortal poem recited there. A large wreath was placed on his grave and another on the last resting place of Alfred Tennyson Dickens, son of the author of the Christmas Carol, who lies in an as yet unmarked grave in the same cemetery.

The Chester Mysteries Presented at St. Mary Magdalene’s, Toronto

The Chester Mysteries were effectively presented at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, last Sunday after evensong. To give a play in the chancel of the church was unique in Toronto’s history, and many were unable to gain admittance, while many remained standing. Shepherds in rustic garb watched their flocks by night on the hills of Bethlehem and heard the Alleluias which announced the birth of the new-born King. The Wise Men from the East, in their costly apparel, were shown observing the star and offering their gifts of frankincense and myrrh to the mother and Holy Child. In the chancel, where the sacred story was depicted, tapers burned softly, and the lights throughout the church were dimmed. … The beautiful anthems and carols sung by St. Mary Magdalene’s choir from the rear of the church gave the proper significance to the sacred drama which so exquisitely depicted the Christmas scenes of long ago. On the afternoon before the play was presented for the children.

Boston Christmas Services Better Attended Than Ever Before

“The best attendance that we have ever had at our Christmas services” was the enthusiastic comment of a Boston rector, when questioned. His experience must have been typical of most of the Massachusetts parishes this year, for reports from all over the diocese indicate a generously Churchly Christmas spirit. The weather was ideal, and Christmas Day was far enough removed from the Fourth Sunday in Advent, that Sunday church attendance did not take the place of the services on Christmas Day.

Three developments of note in connection with the Christmas observance in Massachusetts were quite perceptible this year. First, an increasing number of parishes had a midnight celebration of the Holy Communion. For most of the Massachusetts parishes this service is something new. Such parishes as the Advent, All Saints’ Church, Ashmont and St. John’s Church, Roxbury Crossing, have offered this service for many years, and Boston people have always shown their appreciation by attending generously. About ten years ago Dean Rousmaniere started the midnight Christmas service at the Cathedral. Since that time more and more parishes have done the same. This year, more than ever before, the parishes of the diocese had this Celebration, usually beginning at 11:00 or 11:30 p.m. and closing at 12:20 a.m. Parents especially find this service most helpful. And those who work late at night appreciate the tremendous relief through this new opportunity of receiving their Christmas communion at the time when they need it most.

The Christmas pageant was another marked development this year in some parishes. Especially noticeable was the number of pageants written by members of the parishes in which the pageants were given. The Church is now making a real contribution to sacred literature through the writing of many reverent pageants and Christmas plays.

The third significant note in Massachusetts this year is the increasing number of parishes that are planning for a Watch Night service for New Year’s Eve. Some parishes, for the first time, are planning an hour of informal singing of hymns, the use of a few appropriate prayers, and a timely address. Other parishes have a midnight Celebration of the Holy Communion, beginning at 11:30 p.m.

Philadelphia City Mission’s Christmas

“Tobacco and other gifts were distributed among those at the Home for the Indigent”

Christmas Eve was an extremely busy day at the City Mission in its work among the sick, the poor, and the prisoners. Hundreds of Christmas baskets of food were distributed among the poor in all parts of the city, each basket containing also toys, where the families included children. The clergy on the City Mission staff distributed thousands of Christmas cards among the prisoners at the Eastern Penitentiary and the County prisons, and among the sick and the poor in the city’s homes and hospitals, as well as at the Home for Consumptives at Chestnut Hill. Tobacco and other gifts were distributed among those at the Home for the Indigent, Holmesburg. In addition to the regular Christmas Day religious services at the various institutions served by the City Mission, there was an early morning carol service at Byberry, where the city takes care of its mild mental cases. The carol singers went from building to building, bringing cheer and gladness to the inmates. During the week the City Mission cooperated with organizations of Churchwomen from a number of parishes in giving all the patients at the Philadelphia General Hospital a Christmas entertainment and Festival.

Chicago’s Christmas Observance Shows Unwonted Tendencies

There seem, now-a-days, to be tendencies, apparent especially at Christmastide, to ignore the proper order of the Christian year in favor of the ease and convenience of the members of the congregations of various churches. The popularity of the Midnight Celebration, for instance, seems to be robbing the principal celebration on Christmas Day itself of the attendance that it should have, and to such a degree that in some churches no services are attempted later than early in the morning—none towards the middle of the day. Further, in some cases, the “midnight” services are begun at eleven o’clock, and even at 10:45, evidently for the convenience of the people, rather than as a due celebration of the Mysteries before Almighty God. Other indications of this subordination of the use of the Church to the convenience of the congregations are shown in the holding of children’s festivals, etc., on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and at other times that could be considered semi- penitential, to say the least.

One feature of Chicago’s celebration of Christmas was the broadcasting, at midnight, of a carol service for the benefit of the MacMillan Arctic Expedition, which is now eleven degrees from the pole, on the schooner Bowdoin, in Refuge Harbor, near Etah, Greenland. The Rev. Gardiner MacWhorter, of St. Edmund’s Church, read the gospel and said the collects at this service.

New Bells in Augusta

St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia will install a set of Meneely chimes in time for the Christmas-tide. The fund for the chimes was raised principally by the women of the parish, and some of the bells have been given as memorials or thank-offerings. They will be dedicated at the morning service on Sunday, December 23rd, and, at the close of the prayer of dedication, the doxology will be played upon them. Mr. Ernest A. Meneely of West Troy, N.Y., a member of the firm making them, will be in Augusta, and will personally attend to the installation. He will also play them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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