The Revd J. E. Cocke, the longest-serving vicar in the Church of England.
“I ONLY ATTENDED low-church evangelical congregations for a few years after I became a Christian, but those were tough times for me, and more than once along the way I wondered if I had made a big mistake by trying to follow Jesus — at least, through trying to follow him alongside other people, in church. It wasn’t that I thought I was better than them — in fact, I usually thought I was worse. I especially felt I was too emotionally incompetent to be an evangelical. I mean, the pastor would tell me how happy I ought to be that Jesus had saved me from my sins, so I tried to be super-happy, but I could never quite get where he thought I needed to be. And then five minutes later he’d tell me how grieved I should be when I realized how deeply sinful I am, and I’d try to make myself appropriately sad at what I, through my rebellion, had done to God — but if I couldn’t climb the mountain of happiness I also couldn’t make my way down into the depths of the pit of sadness. Again: emotionally incompetent.
“It was only when I began to worship in the Anglican tradition that I felt the burden lift. Because that tradition gave me the right words to say — words that Christians had prayed (in one language or another) for two thousand years, words that had stood the test of time, that had been crafted by people whose walk with Jesus was longer and stronger than mine would ever be. Instead of trying to feel a certain way, I just needed to focus on saying the right words, and in that way training myself to live inside them.
“Even more important, the tradition was so wonderfully patient with me! It didn’t ask me to comprehend the tragedy of my sinfulness immediately. Instead, it said “Here you go, we’re starting this season called Lent now. You’ll have forty days to meditate on these matters, and we the Church will help you at every step.” And then when Easter came the liturgy said to me, “You can’t celebrate this in an instant — in fact, we’re going to take fifty days to live into the miracle of the Resurrection and the new life we have in Christ.”
“I cannot possibly overstate what a gift the ancient liturgies and the ancient calendar of the Church have been to me. They have quite literally made it possible for me to be a follower of Jesus. Now, I am sure that if I had never come across the ancient faith God would have found ways to nourish and bless me, but how much smoother my path has been thanks to these old and well-trodden ways. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for them.”
– Alan Jacobs
Source: Alan Jacobs, excerpts from my Sent folder
For our 200th installment, the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s, together with the whole of the foundation, ca. 2004.
Church of St. Christopher by the Sea, Gibson Island, Md.
Church of the Redeemer : Chestnut Hill, Mass.
(Diocese of Massachusetts)
DESIGNED BY HENRY VAUGHAN, the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill (1913-1915) is a skillful combination of a large city church and a small country parish, retaining the attributes of both (the church has a seating capacity of 350 within a nave that measures 123 by 50 feet). The warm local brownstone, the late Decorated body of the church, and the Perpendicular tower make the Redeemer an almost textbook example of the change from the colorful complexity of the Victorian Gothic to the disciplined and restrained correctness of the Modern Gothic style. This is especially evident when the present structure is compared to its 1891 predecessor, with its open, meeting-house plan covered in shingles and capped by a spire.
Vaughan’s large double-aisled Church of the Redeemer has a variety of features, like pinnacles buttresses, a circular stair tower, and the elaborate reticulated west window, all of which a re skillfully integrated to give an impression of harmony. The architect’s control is evident in the west window, where the complex tracery is framed by the large area of blank wall.
The most successful portion of the Redeemer is the tower. The tower originally proposed for the church… is almost identical to the one Vaughan designed for the Church of the Mediator in New York two years before. This designed also recalls Bodley’s St. John’s, Epping, of 1889, a fact that emphasizes the continuing close relationship Vaughan maintained with his mentor.
When the estimated cost of the Redeemer, exclusive of tower, organ, glass, and furnishings, was found to be $80,000, it was decided to postpone the construction of the tower. Though and additional $20,000 was offered by two parishioners, “after consultation with the architect,” it was decided that a tower could not be built for such a sum. In May of 1916, exactly one year after the church’s consecration, the Building Committee was instructed to obtain an estimate for the tower from Vaughan, though it was not until June of 1918 that all drawings pertaining to the church were “procured from the estate of Henry Vaughan Architect.”
These papers include blueprints of the original design for the tower, as well as ink drawings of the tower as it was actually built. Dedicated by Bishop Lawrence on October 31, 1920, the “Victory Tower” retains the basic three-stage Perpendicular configuration of the original design, but with significant modifications. The simple battlements are replaced with stepped ones, the buttresses are extended up to the pinnacles, and the double belfry openings are replaced with a singly one. Beneath the parapet, forming the corbel of a secondary pinnacle, is the shield-carrying angel found at St. Swithun’s at Magdalen College, Oxford, of 1880 that Vaughan used almost as his signature. The result is a more refined, less chunky, and far richer Perpendicular tower than the earlier design. The use of the Perpendicular tower grafted onto the slightly earlier Decorated nave is a stroke of genius, for Vaughan’s composition captures the transitory moment when a declining style foretells the ascendancy of a newer style.
The interior of the Redeemer is one of Vaughan’s most majestic spatial compositions. Vaughan’s use of side aisles (which are merely passageways and are as tall as the nave), internal buttresses, and continuous nave-chancel ceiling, makes reference to some of his later city and collegiate churches (for example, Good Shepherd in New York and Western Reserve Chapel in Cleveland), and the “hall church” effect is not unlike Bodley’s Epping Church of his masterpiece, St. Augustine’s, Pendlebury. The four-bay nave and the two-bay chancel lie beneath an unbroken roof line, but Vaughan avoided a tunnel-like impression by setting off the side aisles with tall stone arches which reach nearly to the roof plate (there is no clerestory). A small morning chapel is nestled to the side of the chancel at the east end of the south aisle. Characteristically, the power of the Redeemer’s interior relies on stately proportions and the contrast of the plain walls of the nave with the rich, decorative treatment of the chancel.
The Church of the Redeemer, like almost all of the architect’s parish churches (for example, St. Mary’s Dorchester), shows that Vaughan succeeded in providing a suitable framework for Christian worship–monuments dedicated to the glory of God–both suited to contemporary needs and strongly rooted in tradition. Once again, the words of Bishop Lawrence eloquently speak of Vaughan’s aims and convictions:
While religious faith is revealed in life and creed, it also is expressed through our churches. Hence the construction of a church of beauty and dignity in this diocese is welcomed as a symbol of the living faith of the people and their appreciation of the dignity and beauty of worship.
Source: William Morgan, The Almighty Wall: The Architecture of Henry Vaughan (New York: The Architectural History Foudation, 1983), 46-53.
The Revd Kit Sherrill, vested for Morning Prayer in Southport, Me.