Category Archives: Deaf Ministry

St. Paul’s Church in 1910: “A Centre of Social Service in Albany”

On Sunday morning, October 23, 1910, the Albany Argus dedicated half of the front page of its second section to a long piece on St. Paul’s Church. Titled “A Church at Work: Social Service at St. Paul’s,” the article described St. Paul’s in glowing terms as “a Centre of Social Service in Albany,” with detailed descriptions of fourteen parish activities.

The congregation that the newspaper describes is certainly energetic. But what is most impressive is that this description could be written of St. Paul’s in 1910. Only ten years earlier, a New York Times columnist had described St. Paul’s as “a church in Albany that is the very reverse of rich and marked by the signs of decrepitude sometimes incidental to advanced age.”[1]

Albany Argus 23 Oct 1910, page 9

This transformation may be attributed in large part to the parish’s new rector, Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks. When he arrived in Albany in 1906, Brooks immediately began a program of rejuvenation, starting with a campaign to repair and beautify the church.

By late 1907, that effort was well under way with major enhancements to the church nave and a new enthusiasm for parish outreach.

Since then [late 1906] two windows had been put in place, two were now being constructed, a baptistery had been erected, the chancel enlarged, the organ reconstructed, two tablets had been erected and the credence table rebuilt. Meantime the Sunday-school had doubled its offerings for missions, the parish had met its apportionment and had also made various gifts for charities.[2]

The 1910 Argus article describes the motivation behind all this new activity. It seems likely that the following, connecting St. Paul’s efforts to the guilds of the medieval English church, must have been written by Brooks himself.

Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks

The church at work nowadays is an interesting development in Christianity, and one of the most active an interesting examples of it in Albany is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The old and original idea of a church was a collection of people who paid a minister to preach the gospel on Sundays, and a Sunday-go-to-meeting place in which to congregate and listen to the minister’s preaching, But very far back in the history of the Church of England the development of the church at work is interestingly chronicled in a history of the English guilds, in which it is set forth in very early English that: ‘The pouere men of the parisshe of seynt Austin begunnen a gylde in helpe and amendment of here pouere parisshe churche.’[3] So it came about that the help and amendment of parish churches soon made them a meeting place on other days than Sunday, and as the guilds grew the temporal purposes of the churches broadened.

Now the calendar of the month for such a church as St. Paul’s would include a list of activities happening on nearly every day of the week to astonish an old-fashioned churchman of the once-a-week variety.

Here are the highlights from the social services listed in the 1907 Argus article:

Harry Van Allen

Services are held on the first Sunday of each month, and literary and social meetings are occasionally held. As the missionary resides 100 miles away, his visits arc necessarily short and infrequent, and it is not deemed wise to undertake to do too much, but the results of the mission work, even under such restrictions, seem to be highly satisfactory, and the mission itself is one of the most peculiar and interesting agencies tor good connected with St. Paul’s.

St. Mark’s Church Design
  • St. Mark’s Chapel. The article describes the work of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew organizing a chapel in Pine Hills that grew into St. Andrew’s Church. After St. Andrew’s became an independent parish, the Brotherhood turned its attention to “the new Delaware avenue section that has grown so enormously in the last year or so.” As we have seen in an earlier post, the chapel survived only for a few years more, closing in summer 1913 when they lost the lease.

The results of attendance at the Sunday school and the afternoon service have justified the opening of the chapel. Sunday school is held on Sunday afternoon at 3:15 and a service with sermon or address at 4:30. The building, which was formerly a storehouse. has been remodeled and made comfortable, heated by a hot-air furnace and lighted by electricity. Undoubtedly as the district grows the chapel will grow until St. Mark’s will become a church by itself.

  • St. Paul’s Cadet Corps. This must have been short-lived effort. I have been unable to find other references to it in Albany newspapers of the 1910s and 1920s.

St. Paul’s Cadet Corps came into existence last November and grew to a body of 50 well-drilled soldier boys under command of Major Charles B. Staats of the Tenth Regiment N. G. S. N. Y., who has drilled them Friday afternoons at 4 o’clock. The purpose of this organization is to teach the boys of the parish the life of the soldier. The boys are taught the setting-up exercises at the beginning, and later on will go to the State armory for drilling and instruction in the manual of arms. Through this corps it is hoped to produce a lot of boys who will have a soldierly bearing, who will walk erect and have a knowledge of the life a soldier in all its varied aspects.

The first meeting of the corps this season was last Friday, and there is a fine outlook for the year.

  • Men’s Guild

The Men’s Guild is a sort of club for service, which has an annual banquet, an annual “moonlight excursion,” and regular meetings at which addresses were made during the year by the following: Judge Randall J. LeBoeuf, on “Alaska,” Police Justice John J. Brady, on “Juvenile Delinquents,” State Forest, Fish and Game Commissioner James H. Whipple, on ”The Preservation of Our Forests,” Prof. Jesse D. Burks on the “The Mountain People of the Philippines,” Major R. R. Biddell, “War Reminiscences.”

  • Parish Aid Society. This group provided work for women in sewing aprons, towels, dusters and other small items at home. The society gave the materials, and then offered the finished product for sale to members of the church. The Society also organized a “woman’s exchange” in which women could advertise willingness to care for children or the elderly, or to make baked goods.
  • Church School

The church school of St. Paul’s is 84 years old. Among the children who learned their lesson of the day at St. Paul’s were the late Bishop Satterlee and the present bishop of Los Angeles. The kindergarten was substituted for the primary department two years ago and with the full kindergarten equipment of chairs, tables and materials. The work among the children has been especially successful. The enthusiasm and loyalty of the school grows, and the “mite box” offering for mission was the largest of any school in the diocese last year.

  • Altar Guild

An Altar guild sounds ecclesiastical rather than energetic, bur the Altar guild of St. Paul in the course of Iast year held five regular meetings and a number of entertainments that raised the balance due of the amount pledged toward the improvement of the chancel in commemoration of the eightieth anniversary of the founding the parish. It held a linen sale, a rummage sale and gave two plays, beside furnishing flowers for the altar and distributing them to the sick at the close of the services.

  • Periodical Club

A church periodical club is a bright idea. As this little paragraph of the club urges: “The matter of sending a periodical, a paper or a magazine to some distant point to a missionary or to a mission station is a very simple and inexpensive thing. All the society asks is that your send a paper or magazine after you are through with it and pay the postage. The expense is slight. The pleasure and the delight you may give a missionary may not be measured. Why not begin with the New Year and use this simple means of making some on happy?

  • Girl’s Guild. Apparently, the St. Paul’s chapter of the Girls Friendly Society (which a few decades later became one of the most dynamic of the parish’s activities) had not yet been organized.

Meetings of the Girls’ guild are held every Friday evening from September until June, and last year lessons were given for five months by Miss Hills, of the Albany Academy for Girls.

  • Mothers’ Meetings

Weekly meetings of the mothers were held during last winter and four dozen garments made for the Child’s hospital, the season closing with social evening and refreshments.

  • Junior Auxiliary

What does a junior auxiliary do? That of St. Paul’s church held 15 meetings last year, dressed 30 dolls for mission boxes, and gave a cake sale.

  • Women’s Auxiliary

The Woman’s Auxiliary to the board of missions, St. Paul’s branch, sent boxes to North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and to nearby villages in this State.

St. Paul’s Jay Street Parish House, 1920
  • Parish House: These activities refer to the older section of the Parish House, built in 1883. The portraits are now a part of St. Paul’s parish archives.

The demands of the future of the church will lie in the direction of an enlarged parish house where work among young people may be carried on efficiently, and this has been ensured by the purchase of vacant lots adjoining the church property. One of the interesting features of the parish house is the emphasis of the personal element in the making of a church by the collection of portraits of the men who have helped to make the church from the beginning portraits of rectors, wardens, vestrymen, uniformly framed and hung on a line about the four sides of the room, the parish family from 1827 to 1910.

  • Systematic Giving: this supplemented income from pew sales and rentals. A campaign to add $100,000 to the parish endowment and to free the pews did not start for another ten years.

Systematic giving enables St. Paul’s to carry on its activities without financial handicap. Each subscriber sends to the rector a pledge card containing the amount pledged per week and the name and address of the subscriber. A package of envelopes bearing the date of the Sundays in the year is then sent to the subscriber and these are then placed upon the offertory plate, with the amount pledged for each Sunday, as each Sunday of the year rolls around. The amount pledged by each subscriber is a confidential matter between the subscriber and the rector.

  • The article also briefly mentions that the church library has a circulation of upward of 900 books, a summer school cooking class and Christmas dinners for the poor.
Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks

The Argus article ends with a final statement of the theological motivation for these activities:

St. Paul’s ought to be a centre from which those forces which count in the Christian life should go forth and be identified with the institutions of our city which have as their aim the good and the welfare of our fellow men. We are thankful that there are men and women in St. Paul’s who count it a privilege to be of service to humanity in its largest and broadest sense. There should be no narrow parochialism nor spirit of sectarianism among us, but rather breadth of mind and Christian charity.

[1] “Topics of the Times,” New York Times 21 Jan 1900.

[2] “Tablet Unveiled in St. Paul’s, Albany N.Y.,” The Churchman, volume 96, number 16 (26 Oct 1907), page 649.

[3] Brookes may have been referring to the guild established in 1380 in the parish of St. Augustine, Norwich.

Centennial of the Harry J. Van Allen Tablet

Harry Van Allen Memorial Plaque

It was one hundred years today that the brass tablet honoring the ministry of Harry John Van Allen, first deaf priest in the Diocese of Albany, was installed near the baptistery of St. Paul’s Lancaster Street building. The service that Sunday afternoon featured a sermon by our rector, Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks, an address by Oliver Allen Betts, principal of the New York School for the Deaf in Rome, and a musical program by St. Paul’s choir. Mr. Betts interpreted the service and the music for the many deaf persons who attended. The tablet was unveiled by Harry’s daughter, Mary Oliver Van Allen. The tablet was originally paired with a bas relief of Harry, which, unfortunately, we no longer have.[i]

In his sermon, Dr. Brooks “upheld Dr. Van Allen’s life as an example for all persons.” I’m pleased that the tablet is still prominently displayed near the chapel door, still reminding us of Harry Van Allen’s life of service.

Harry Van Allen

As an aside, I’d like to expand on a point made In a previous post in which I told something of Harry Van Allen’s impressive record as missionary to the deaf in the dioceses of Albany and Central New York. I mentioned briefly that Bishop William Croswell Doane had initially been reluctant to accept Van Allen as a candidate for holy orders. This is a controversy we know about only thanks to two articles in The Silent Worker, a publication of the New Jersey School for Deaf-Mutes. The first, from October 1895, reports:

We are informed that Mr. Van Allen, formerly an instructor in the Pennsylvania Institution, having studied for the ministry, applied some time ago to the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Albany, for ordination. The Bishop thought that it would be against the rules of the church to ordain to the ministry a man who is deaf, and he expressed his intention to bring the question up before the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

We have followed the reports of the Convention, so far as published up to our going to press, but have seen not notice of such action.

There was, at last date, a proposed canon on ordination in committee, but the text was not given in the reports.

The question was settled in favor of the deaf, so far as the diocese of Pennsylvania is concerned, some twelve years ago, we think, when the late Henry Winter Syle presented his learned and well-reasoned argument in support of his own application to be ordained by Bishop Stevens.”[ii]

followed by this update two months later:

We learn that Bishop Doane of the Diocese of Albany has, after careful investigation, changed his opinion that a deaf man cannot properly be admitted to the ministry, and has decided to ordain Mr. Henry (sic) Van Allen. We are very glad to hear this, as Mr. Van Allen will, we are sure from our knowledge of him, be a useful and acceptable minister to the deaf.

The Bishop’s willingness to change a conviction formed on insufficient consideration does him honor.[iii]

William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany (credit: Library of Congress)

Bishop Doane’s own description of Harry’s ordination to the diaconate mentions the question of the “fitness” of ordaining a deaf person, and concludes with an aside that may explain his reluctance:

Friday, December 16th [1898], in the Cathedral, I ordained the Rev. Harry Van Allen to the diaconate. Dr. Silliman presented him and Dr. Pendleton preached the sermon. The Rev. Dr. Chamberlain interpreted the service, being one of the three clergymen devoted to the deaf-mute work. There were present beside, the Rev. Canon Fulcher, the Rev. Dr. Sill, and Messrs. J. N. Marvin, Paul Birdsall and Hegeman. Dr. Pendleton’s sermon added greatly to the interest of the service, both in its vindication of the fitness of ordaining a deaf-mute to the sacred ministry, nd in its statement of the work that has been already accomplished among them.

While I have no question that such an ordination is perfectly justified, I felt bound to instruct the deacon, who is able somewhat to use articulate speech, always to repeat the words in the administration of Holy Baptism with his lips, in addition to saying them in the sign language.[iv]

Harry Van Allen (courtesy Gallaudet University Archives)

It appears, then, that Bishop Doane was not in agreement with those bishops who, believing “that impairment of one of the senses was an impediment to ordination,” had opposed the 1876 ordination of Henry Winter Syle.[v] Rather, Doane, was concerned that the words of a sacrament (for a deacon, baptism) be spoken aloud. Because Harry Van Allen had become deaf at age 9, he spoke intelligibly, and was able to comply with this requirement.

[i] “Bronze Tablet Erected in St. Paul’s Church to Memory of Dr. Van Allen,” Albany Knickerbocker Press 14 Jun 1920.

[ii] The Silent Worker, volume 8, number 2 (October 1895), 9.

[iii] The Silent Worker, volume 8, number 4 (December 1895), 8.

[iv] “The Bishop’s Address,” Journal of the Proceedings of the Thirty-first Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Albany (Albany: Weed-Parsons Printing, 1899), 45.

[v] Episcopal Church, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (New York: Church Pub. Inc., 2010), 542.

St. Paul’s in Albany’s South End: the Old Engine House

St. Paul’s was originally founded in Albany’s South End. While we chose to leave that neighborhood in 1839, we established an important presence there thirty years later, when we created our Free Mission Chapel on Madison Avenue in 1867. This post discusses the intertwined reasons why St. Paul’s chose the Madison Avenue location for its Chapel, and why, after fourteen successful years, we chose to leave.

St. Paul's Ferry Street Building as it looked in the early 20th century

St. Paul’s Ferry Street Building as it looked in the early 20th century

The first home of “St. Paul’s Church or Congregation in the City of Albany” was  at what is now the corner of South Ferry Street and Dongan Avenue. The parish was organized as an outreach to that rapidly growing part of the city, and most of the early congregation was drawn from the neighborhood. Purchase of the property and construction of the building were too great a burden for the congregation. By 1830, only a year after the building was completed, debt and mounting interest payments were already threatening to overwhelm the young congregation. The parish struggled along on South Ferry Street until 1839, when creditors forced the vestry to sell the building. The leadership of St. Paul’s decided to leave the neighborhood and to modify a theater on Pearl Street as their church home, starting what they called “a new venture” in the center of Albany.

Trinity Church (image credit: Albany Group Archive)

Trinity Church (image credit: Albany Group Archive)

The decision to abandon the South End was not unanimous: a number of St. Paul’s families, including those of two vestry members, started a different “new venture.” Choosing to remain in the neighborhood, they formed a parish and named it Trinity Church. The new congregation was not strong or wealthy in its early years, but by 1848 they were able to build a handsome building on what is now Trinity Place, where they remained until they were closed in about 1980. As the only Episcopal congregation in Abany’s South End, Trinity will play a role as our story progresses.

St. Paul's Second Building on Pearl Street

St. Paul’s Second Building on Pearl Street

St. Paul’s stayed at the former Pearl Street Theater for twenty-three years, only leaving in 1862 after what had been an upscale residential neighborhood became Albany’s business district. We moved to our third home on Lancaster Street, a structure originally built as the Dudley Memorial Reformed Church. Five years after moving to Lancaster Street, St. Paul’s decided to establish a mission chapel. Vestry minutes record the purchase on December 20, 1867 of the former fire house on the south side of Madison Avenue, just east of Green Street, for a cash deposit of $1,500 and a mortgage totaling $2,366.16 “on behalf of the Missionary Society of the Church.”[i] The rector at the time says that this was “in response to an earnest desire to enter upon some mission work in the city.”[ii] But what were the Mission’s purposes and what were the reasons for the timing of purchase and the location selected?

The chapel’s name suggests the purposes for this new outreach: it was called a Free Mission Chapel. Like the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, this was to be a free chapel, meaning that seating was open to all, without the requirement to pay pew rents, the most common method of financial support for churches at that time. And it was to be a mission chapel, serving the underserved: the unchurched, the poor, recent immigrants. Importantly, it would also be a home for the deaf ministry, which had been active at St. Paul’s since early in that decade.

The timing of this decision, shortly after the move to Albany’s west end, was hardly coincidental. The congregation had moved almost half a mile northwest, but many in the congregation would still have lived in the old city center. A newspaper article of the period suggests that in this location “[a] considerable number of families who formerly attended St. Paul’s Church when located in South Pearl Street, but who were unable to follow it to its present location, will doubtless reunite themselves with the church by attendance at this mission.”[iii]

Albany's South End (base map circa 1895)

Albany’s South End (base map circa 1895)

In addition to being close to the city center, the Madison Avenue location had another advantage: it was only four blocks from the site of the first St. Paul’s on Ferry Street. Our vestry may have hoped to reestablish our presence in the neighborhood in which we had been born, encouraging the return of those who had fallen away after St. Paul’s left the South End , and perhaps even attracting those who were attending Trinity Church.

"The Old Engine House" The former Free Mission Chapel as it looked in the early 20th century

“The Old Engine House” The former Free Mission Chapel as it looked in the early 20th century

The Mission Chapel congregation affectionately referred to their building as “the old engine house.” The former fire house was located at 62 Madison Avenue, on the south side of the street, a few doors east of Green Street. It was originally the home of Steamer 5, and later that of the Daniel D. Tomkins Engine Company No. 8. When it was officially opened, on the first Sunday of 1868, the building held 250. In 1872, the Mission’s priest-in-charge, Walker Gwynne, raised money to expand the chapel by 25 feet, increasing its seating capacity to 300.[iv]

From the beginning, St. Paul’s supported the majority of the mission’s expenses by voluntary contributions. In 1870, in declining to pay a diocesan assessment of $600 for missions, the vestry reported supporting the Mission at a cost of about $2,500 annually, as well as being “the sole supporter of the Mission for Deaf Mutes in this section of the state.”[v] The Mission’s priest-in-charge was St. Paul’s assistant rector, whose salary was also paid by St. Paul’s contributions.

In 1874, the Mission Chapel opened a night school, which taught adults the three R’s. The Albany Morning Express reported that the school “is well attended, and is a good move to reach the masses and finally lead them to Christ.”[vi]

The little chapel must have been a very busy place. By the late 1870s, the original schedule of morning and evening Sunday services had been expanded with an afternoon Sunday School, Tuesday and Friday choir rehearsals and a Friday evening service, with another choir rehearsal following, as well as the evening classes and services for the deaf.

Thomas B. Berry

Thomas B. Berry

As a sign of the importance of the deaf ministry in the Chapel’s life, its priest-in-charge from 1872 until 1874 was Thomas B. Berry, who before his ordination had taught in schools for the deaf in England, New York City and Frederick, Maryland. During his term as the Chapel’s pastor, Berry also assisted Thomas Gallaudet in work of Church Mission for Deaf Mutes around the state.

In 1879, a very active Young People’s Association had a full slate of officers and many activities (they were mainstays of the chapel choir), including a short-lived publication, “The Chapel Monitor.” A Guild of Purity and Truth for girls attracted a good many postulants (ages 10 to 12) and members (over age 12).

Masthead of "The Chapel Monitor"

Masthead of “The Chapel Monitor”

Ten years after it was founded, St. Paul’s mission showed a growing sense of independence. In 1879 “The Chapel Monitor” called for the Chapel to become an independent parish. An editorial in the second issue of the “Monitor” laid out a detailed plan that would allow this to happen within ten years. At this time, the Mission congregation was still only able to provide about one-third of the cost of operations there, the remainder coming from offerings by members of St. Paul’s. We don’t know what happened to these plans, but assume that the Chapel was not able to obtain commitments for larger donations from the Mission congregation. In 1882 and 1883, St. Paul’s was still paying two-thirds of the Mission’s costs.[vii]

1882 Annual Report, St. Paul's Free Mission Chapel

1882 Annual Report, St. Paul’s Free Mission Chapel

Although the Free Chapel was placed on Madison to expand St. Paul’s access to those living in Albany’s South End, the location also resulted in competition with St. Paul’s offshoot, Trinity Church, which was located only five blocks away. “In 1884, at the request of Trinity Church, which felt that it should have a clear field in that part of the city, the building was sold and the congregation united with that of Trinity.”[viii]

So it was that the Mission congregation was merged into the parish that had split off from St. Paul’s in 1839. The South End was better served by a parish strengthened by the Mission’s congregation and one dedicated to that part of the city. In the early twentieth century Trinity, under the leadership of Creighton Storey,  created the Trinity Institute, which more than a century later (now as Trinity Alliance) is still providing social services for the South End.

St. Paul’s, looking for a different mission field, found the far western part of the city underserved, and used the proceeds of the Chapel’s sale to fund a mission organized by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, with services conducted by our assistant rector. St. Andrew’s Mission was initially begun in 1892 in a room in the West End Loan Association on Madison Avenue, moving the next year to a house on Ontario Street.[ix] By 1897, the first service was held at St. Andrew’s Chapel and St. Andrew’s Church became an independent parish in 1899.[x]

[i] St. Paul’s Vestry Minutes, Volume 2, 19 Dec 1867 and 27 Jan 1868.

[ii] J. Livingston Reese “Historical Sketch of St. Paul’s Parish,” in The Semi-centennial Services of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, N.Y. (Albany: The Argus Company, 1877), 16.

[iii] Albany Argus, 31 Dec 1867.

[iv] Albany Morning Express, 25 Jul 1872.

[v] St. Paul’s Vestry Minutes, Volume 2, 11 Feb 1870.

[vi] Albany Morning Express, 7 Nov 1874.

[vii] “St. Paul’s Mission Chapel 1882” and “St. Paul’s Mission Chapel 1883” in St. Paul’s archives.

[viii] George E. DeMille, A History of the Diocese of Albany 1704-1923 (Philadelphia: The Church Historical Society, 1946), 126. The transfer of deed from St. Paul’s to Frank A. Haviland is recorded in Albany County Clerk Deed Book 361, page 193, dated 14 Oct 1884 and entered 30 Oct 1884.

[ix] Albany Morning Express, 31 Dec 1892, 5.

[x] DeMille, 126.

William M. Lange, Jr., Missionary to the Deaf

Thomas Gallaudet (image courtesy Library of Congress)

Thomas Gallaudet (image courtesy Library of Congress)

Later this month, on August 27, the Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts commemorates Thomas Gallaudet, of whom it says:

Ministry to the deaf in the Episcopal Church begins with Gallaudet. Without his genius and zeal for the spiritual well-being of deaf persons, it is improbable that a history of ministry to the deaf in the Episcopal Church could be written. He has been called “The Apostle to the Deaf.”

Thomas Benjamin Berry

Thomas Benjamin Berry

In a previous post, we discussed Thomas Gallaudet’s connection with St. Paul’s Church, and how for 125 years a ministry to the deaf was a significant part of our witness in the city of Albany. We have also described two other figures in that ministry: Thomas Berry (the St. Paul’s curate who, in the early 1870s, organized the deaf ministry at St. Paul’s Madison Avenue mission) and Harry Van Allen (a St. Paul’s communicant who became missionary to the deaf throughout New York State). Today’s topic is yet another member of St. Paul’s who ministered to the deaf both here and across the State.

Harry Van Allen

Harry Van Allen









William Maurice Lange, Jr. was born in 1909. At age ten, he contracted spinal meningitis and lost his hearing. He was educated at the Albany School for the Deaf on Pine Avenue, and like Harry Van Allen, attended Gallaudet College, graduating in 1934. Lange married a college classmate, and the young couple settled in Albany, where William worked in his father’s pharmacy on Dove Street. William Lange had not been raised in the Episcopal Church, but he was attracted to the programs for the deaf at St. Paul’s Church. Through his attendance here, he found himself called to full-time ministry. While preparing for ordination, he led services as a lay reader at St. Paul’s.

William Maurice Lange, Jr.

William Maurice Lange, Jr.

With the support of our vestry, William Lange was ordained a deacon in 1940, and a priest in 1943. Both ceremonies were held here at St. Paul’s. Years later, Lange would ponder the coincidence in the date of his ordination:

Father Lange’s predecessor in this unique missionary field was the Rev. Henry [sic] Van Allen of Albany. On Sunday, Feb. 9, 1919, the latter conducted in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a service “commemorative of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mission of the Deaf, and of his work as a missionary.”

It was during that same week that Father Lange became deaf after being stricken with spinal meningitis. And it was just 24 years later, to the week, that Father Lange took over from the Rev. Van Allen.

He often reflects on these coincidences and asks himself, “Could God have been preparing me for this work?” [Times Union 17 Feb 1952]

So, in 1943, William Lange began a ministry very much like that of Harry Van Allen. From his home base in Syracuse, he officiated at an average of 275 services each year, with one thousand communicants in twenty-two congregations spread over an area of 43,600 square miles in the dioceses of Albany, Central New York, Rochester and Western New York. In 1944, he reported, “I cover over 17,000 miles a year by train, bus and shoe-leather.” By 1952, with access to a car, he traveled 32,500 miles.

The Diocese of Albany honored Lange’s service by making him an honorary canon in 1963; in 1967, Gallaudet University granted him an honorary doctorate. We don’t know much of the later years of his ministry, but he was active until his retirement in 1976, at age 67. William Lange died in Syracuse in 2009, shortly after his 100th birthday.



Mr. Starkey’s “high-church notions” divide St. Paul’s

William Ingraham Kip’s year-long medical leave (1844-1845) worked well for him and for the people of St. Paul’s: he returned in good health, and spent another eight years as our rector. Today’s post is the story of his successor’s medical leave, which ended badly and precipitated a crisis that almost destroyed the congregation.

When Kip resigned in December 1853, the vestry named as his successor Thomas Alfred Starkey, then the rector of Christ Church, in Troy, New York. Starkey arrived in February 1854. Fourteen months later, in April 1855, Starkey submitted his resignation because of ill health. He withdrew it “at the urgent request of the congregation.”[i] Then again, three years later, in April 1858, Starkey submitted his resignation because of ill health. This time, the vestry offered him a six-month leave of absence. Starkey accepted, and traveled to Europe.

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

Previous histories end the narrative neatly, if not happily: Starkey returns from his leave in early October 1858, announces that his health is still fragile and again submits his resignation. The vestry reluctantly accepts the resignation, and a few months later announces the call of the new rector, William Rudder. This is the account given in a 1877 sketch of the congregation’s history[ii], and followed by all historical essays since that time. The vestry minutes support this version, containing only their offer of a leave of absence, followed by his resignation in November.

But this neat version is incomplete, and hides the story of a significant dispute within the congregation that tells us much about the church and the times. To understand it, we need to return to the long, successful tenure of William Ingraham Kip. In his farewell sermon at St. Paul’s, preached December 11, 1853, he said:

We have Brethern (sic) been at peace among ourselves. There has been no party strife within our borders, even among the exciting times which for some years marked our church; but Pastor and People have been in one mind in all that concerns the welfare and progress of the Church. It is to this that we owe our prosperity and Oh remember Brethern (sic) that so it must always be, if you would not decline and relapse into feebleness.

The “exciting times” to which he refers was the period of the 1830s and 1840s, when the English Oxford Movement’s “Tracts for the Times” were distributed in the United States. As the Episcopal Church sought to balance its theology in light of renewed interest in Catholic theology and liturgy, Kip wrote a series of lectures which he presented at St. Paul’s on Sunday evenings in the winter of 1843 and later published as The Double Witness of the Church. The lectures, relying on both scripture and tradition, distinguished the American Episcopal Church from the protestant denominations on one side and the Roman Catholic Church on the other. As Kip wrote in the Preface:

[The author] believes that this work will be found to differ somewhat in its plan, from most of those on the claims of our Church, which are intended for popular reading. They are generally written with reference merely to the Protestant denominations around us. The public mind, however, has lately taken a new direction, and the doctrines of the Church of Rome have again become a subject of discussion. The writer has therefore endeavored to draw the line between these two extremes – showing that the Church bears her DOUBLE WITNESS against them both – and points out a middle path as the one of truth and safety.[iii]

John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York 1816-1830

John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York 1816-1830

The Tractarians had little influence on Kip, who saw their works as supporting the high church theology to which he already subscribed. The Double Witness, while occasioned by the Tractarian controversy, restates the position of Kip’s mentor, Bishop John Henry Hobart, who summarized his theology when he wrote “My banner is, EVANGELICAL TRUTH, APOSTOLIC ORDER.”[iv]

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey was also a high churchman, but one of a very different sort. While the press described him as moderate high churchman, that term had acquired a new meaning, one much affected by the distinctive theological, devotional and social views of the Oxford Movement. Starkey described the movement glowingly in his 1877 sermon at St. Paul’s:

The period of my rectorship of this parish which extended from February 1854, to the autumn of 1858, was embraced within a very interesting and exciting portion of our general Church History. The long-continued stagnation in English and American Church life had been disturbed twenty years before by what is known as the “Oxford tracts movement.” In the old diocese the controversies, growing out of local causes had terminated two years before in the election of Bishop Wainwright, whose bright but brief Episcopate cheered the hearts of Churchmen, only to deepen the disappointment at its premature close. In the autumn of 1854, the same year in which I became rector of St. Paul’s, Dr. Potter, of St. Peter’s church in this city, was consecrated for the vacant seat; and I believe that I only reflect the general judgment when I say, that rarely has a difficult choice been justified by a wiser administration. It was a day of controversy, and at times, of strong and even angry feeling; but it was also a day of generous self-devotion and of brave endeavor for the church’s sake. The old stagnation had been completely broken and a new life stirred throughout all her borders.[v]

The fuller story of Starkey’s resignation is omitted from all church sources, but it was considered newsworthy by the popular press, allowing us to piece it together from newspaper accounts. The first article comes from the Albany Morning Express of October 26, 1858.

In St. Paul’s Church Sunday morning [24 Oct 1858], immediately after the reading of the Ante-Communion service, the Rev. Mr. Starkey came before the chancel and addressed his congregation. He remarked that six months ago the Vestry kindly gave him leave of absence for a period of time to enable him to regain his health. He left his congregation harmonious in feeling and united in action. After an absence of six months, and a return to his labors, he found a great charge in his temporal charge – his congregation distracted, and a want of harmony existing in the Parish. In view of his state of health and the condition of his congregation, he felt it his duty to resign his charge, and as Pastor he bade them farewell. His remarks and his determination were evidently unexpected to a large majority of his congregation, and were received with manifest surprise and emotion.[vi]

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

This news was so exciting that it was picked up by the New York City newspapers. The next day’s New York Evening Post gives a dramatic account of the previous Sunday’s events with the headline “Church Excitement in Albany: Dr. Starkie Declines to Preach,” quoting reports from the Albany Daily Knickerbocker of the previous day:

During Mr. Starkie’s absence his high-church notions have been so canvassed as to lead to some considerable feeling in the church, and he resolved to sever his connection with the church. This took place in a sudden manner on Sunday morning. “Without a moment’s notice to anybody, he walked into the church and informed the congregation that he could no longer act as their pastor. Having done this he retired and left the congregation to go home without a sermon. The reasons for resigning Mr. Starkie promises to lay before the senior warden –Mr. Tweddle—when the senior warden returns from Europe, which will be in a day or two.”[vii]

We may never know which “high church notions” were so vigorously debated (the now-archaic sense of canvassed.) The first option is that they refer to elaborate ritual practice, such as sung services, incense, sanctus bells and chasubles. In this period, however, the high church party was only beginning to be influenced by ritualism. Even twenty years later, when ritualism had spread widely, it was written that Starkey “is inclined to High Church views, but is not a ritualist in the broad sense of that term.”[viii] Starkey may however have been following ritual practices that would not surprise us at all, but that were then highly controversial. Many of these related to treating the communion table as an altar: by placing a cloth or flowers on it, or by using candles during daylight services. Another practice much debated was that of the celebrant turning to the communion table while reading the communion service, with his back to the congregation. The Book of Common Prayer directed that the minister stand at the liturgical north end of the altar (to the left, from the congregation’s point of view) during the service, as Kip is shown doing in the 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton.

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul's altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul’s altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

A second possibility is that these notions were theological, and related to one of the most contentious disputes of the time: the relative weight to be given to justification by faith as contrasted with baptismal regeneration.

And a third possibility is the notions had to do with social outreach. The only activity during his rectorship that Starkey described in in his 1877 sermon was a social ministry, the establishment of St. Paul’s Church Home, a home for “homeless and aged women” [ix]. Social ministry was an interest of the high church faction in both England the United States, but not of the old-style Hobartian high churchman. Starkey tells us that the Home did not survive his departure, suggesting that the ministry was not supported by the congregation.

While the vestry minutes of November 1, 1858 record the vestry’s acceptance of Starkey’s formal resignation, they do not describe the issues that led to his resignation. What is clear is that Starkey’s resignation, did not end the dissension in the church. The Albany Daily Knickerbocker continues, accurately predicting the further problems to come:

The resignation of Mr. Starkie will, of course, increase the bad feeling existing at St. Paul’s. The result will be a grand division and a new church. Who will succeed Mr. Starkie at St. Paul’s remains to be seen. Some vote in favor of the Rev. Mr. Rudder. The friend of Mr. Starkie will be opposed to this – some of them looking upon Mr. Rudder as a sort of intruder, invited to Albany to make mischief. How the matter will finish up will be known when the senior warden arrives.[x]

William Rudder had been engaged as an interim in June to preach until August 1, 1858; in August, that contract was extended until December 1. During this period, Rudder was assisted by  Starkey’s curate, Frederick P. Winne.

Frederick P. Winne

Frederick P. Winne

Rudder is vague about how he came to be called as interim from St. John’s Church, Quincy, Illinois, where he had been rector from 1857 until 1858. In his 1877 sermon he says that in 1858 he found himself in Albany as a result of “an accident on a western railroad,”[xi] was invited to preach at a friend’s church (presumably St. Peter’s, whose rector was Thomas Clapp Pitkin) where a member of St. Paul’s search committee heard his sermon, and invited him to fill St. Paul’s pulpit until Starkey returned.[xii]

William Rudder

William Rudder

The Rudder faction made their feelings known publicly. An undated newspaper clipping reports the gift on November 10, 1858 of a portable communion set service by “some of the congregation, who had listened with pleasure and profit to his impressive discourse.” A letter from the fourteen men is quoted, as is Rudder’s response. The fourteen include only one vestryman, Edward E. Kendrick, the cashier of the Bank of Albany. Interestingly, they also include four employees of the Bank of Albany, two of them Kendrick’s sons.

By late December 1858, chaos reigned, as the Albany Morning Express reported:

For several months past the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church has been engaged in a most unpleasant controversy, and as a matter of course, the members of the congregation have become implicated in the difficulty, there being two factions or divisions in the Church, directly antagonistic to each other. Since the commencement of the troubles, we have purposely refrained from alluding to them, nor do we intend now to recapitulate them at length. The questions in dispute between the two parties having become matters of public interest, we have therefore concluded to refer thereto. The origin of the division we do not know with certainty, Of its existence there can be no doubt, in fact it is not disputed. The resignation of the Rev. Mr. Starkey, and the reason therefor, is not unknown to the public. From that time, the difficulties increased, one faction being very desirous of calling the Rev. Mr. Rudder, and the other as much opposed to it. The cause of this opposition we do not intend to discuss. It is sufficient to know it exists. Frequent meetings of the Vestry were held at some of which the belligerent manifestations were made by and between the members. If we are not misinformed – and our authority is undoubted – language was frequently used and epithets indulged in that were far from creditable to those having the temporal management of a Church of God. So bitter were, and arethe feelings between the parties, that charges of direct falsehood have been made, without the least hesitation, and complaints preferred that de do not feel at liberty to allude to. On Monday evening meeting of the Vestry was held to choose a Rector, and a motion to select the Rev. Mr. Rudder was negatived, four of the members being in favor of it and six opposed to it. So the Church remains without a head, and the warfare continues. The result will undoubtedly lead to the secession of one of the two factions from the Church, and perhaps may even result in its dissolution entirely. – Such a state of affairs is certainly to be regretted, and very discreditable.[xiii]

This impasse was resolved during April 1859. That month, there was a major turnover in St. Paul’s vestry, with only one warden and three vestrymen reelected. Among the three continuing vestrymen was Edward E. Kendrick (a member of the Rudder faction that gave the communion service), who was elected junior warden. It is likely that Kendrick and the other three who were returned were the four who had voted for Rudder in December. The congregation also elected six brand-new vestrymen. On April 30, 1859, William Rudder was called as rector; he accepted the call in May, and became rector on June 1, 1859.

Edward E. Kendrick

Edward E. Kendrick

St. Paul’s had somehow been able to find a way through this crisis, with no sign of a major defection by the Starkey faction. Provided with a supportive vestry, Rudder was able to serve as rector until 1863. While Starkey’s Church Home for Women did not continue, Rudder did initiate a successful ministry to the deaf, and shepherded the congregation through the financial crisis of 1862 and the decision to move to Lancaster Street.

[i] “Our City Churches – IV. St. Paul’s (Episcopal) – J. Livingston Reese, Pastor,” Albany Evening Journal, January 28, 1871.

[ii] “Historical Sketch of St. Paul’s Parish: From a Sermon by the Rector,” pages 9-17 of The Semi-centennial Service of St. Paul’s Church (Albany: The Argus Press, 1877), 14.

[iii] William Ingraham Kip, The Double Witness of the Church (New York: D. Appleton, 1844), x.

[iv] John Henry Hobart, An Apology for Apostolic Order and Its Advocates (New York: T. and J. Swords, 1807), 272

[v] “Sermon of the Reverend Thomas A. Starkey, D.D.” pages 55-63 of The Semi-centennial Service of St. Paul’s Church (Albany: The Argus Press, 1877), 56-57

[vi] “Resignation of the Rev. Thomas A. Starkey,” Albany Morning Express, October 26, 1858.

[vii] “Church Excitement in Albany: Dr. Starkie Declines to Preach,” New York Evening Post, October 27, 1858.

[viii] “Rev. Thomas A. Starkey,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, November 22, 1879, 204.

[ix] “Sermon of the Reverend Thomas A. Starkey, D.D.,” 61.

[x] “Church Excitement in Albany: Dr. Starkie Declines to Preach”

[xi] “The Sermon of the Reverend William Prall,” pages 32-42 of The Semi-centennial Service of St. Paul’s Church. (Albany: The Argus Press, 1877), 33.

[xii] “The Sermon of the Reverend William Prall,” 33-34.

[xiii] “St. Paul’s Church,” Albany Morning Express, December 29, 1858.

Harry Van Allen, Missionary and Printer

As you enter the door to St. Paul’s chapel, if you glance to your right, you will notice a brass plaque, one of only two from the Lancaster Street building to be displayed in our present church home.

Harry Van Allen Memorial Plaque

Harry Van Allen Memorial Plaque

You may be touched, as I have been, by this memorial to the first deaf person ordained in this diocese, and one whose ministry, both lay and ordained, was connected with this parish.

When Harry Van Allen came to his first service at St. Paul’s in 1894, he had already accomplished much for a young man of twenty-eight. Deaf since the age of ten as a result of scarlet fever, Van Allen had first attended the school for the deaf in Oneida County, and then the institution now known as Gallaudet University. He had taught printing for three years at the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb (where he also served as editor of their newspaper, Mt. Airy World), and had worked as a printer in several central New York cities. But Harry Van Allen had a vocation as well as a career. Since his days in Philadelphia, he had served as a lay reader in Episcopal churches, conducting Bible classes for the deaf. In 1894, he was appointed missionary to the deaf by the Albany diocese’s newly-organized Commission for Church Work Among Deaf-mutes, whose secretary was St. Paul’s rector, Freeborn G. Jewett.

Van Allen moved his young family from Johnstown to Albany, obtained a job at Riggs Publishing and Printing, and began an energetic round of visits to churches throughout the diocese, leading classes and conducting services. Just as important, in a period when deaf people were isolated, Van Allen’s services drew them together for mutual support and encouragement. Van Allen also provided practical assistance not otherwise available, including translating, counseling, and help in finding jobs.

To add to a schedule that few of us could maintain, Harry Van Allen also began to study theology and church history and applied to Bishop Doane as a candidate for ordination. The bishop at first rejected his application, but after discussions at the General Convention of 1895 decided to accept him as a postulant. Harry Van Allen was ordained deacon in 1898 (with the recommendation of St. Paul’s vestry) and priest in 1902.

Harry Van Allen (courtesy Gallaudet University Archives)

Through these years, Harry Van Allen was listed in the Albany City directory as “missionary and printer,” as he continued his printing job during the week and on Sundays traveled across the diocese. In 1900 he added the Central New York diocese to his responsibilities and shortly afterwards moved his family to Utica. In 1916 he also took on Western New York, extending his mission field from Albany to Buffalo and from Ogdensburg to Binghamton.

At a celebration of the twenty-fifth year of his missionary efforts held at St. Paul’s just a few months before his death, Harry Van Allen estimated that in those years he had traveled 150,000 miles and reached more than 1,500 deaf men and women. We see him in the final photograph as he must have often stood, overnight bag in hand, about to board another train or interurban car, heading off yet again to serve “the deaf to whom he ministered.”

Harry Van Allen (courtesy Gallaudet University Archives)

Harry Van Allen (courtesy Gallaudet University Archives)

Thomas Gallaudet, “Apostle to the Deaf” at St. Paul’s

In The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, today’s date, August 27, honors Thomas Gallaudet, known as the Apostle to the Deaf. Among saints so honored, he is the only one who was associated with St. Paul’s Church, and who sparked what has been called “one of the most peculiar and interesting agencies for good connected with St. Paul’s,” a ministry to the deaf that lasted for over one hundred years.

In the early nineteenth century there was no organized education for the deaf in the United States. In 1815, a Hartford, Connecticut businessman, seeking an education for his deaf daughter, paid Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s way to Europe to learn about advances there. When Gallaudet returned, he brought the source of what would become American Sign Language and French techniques for teaching the deaf and he was named principal of the Hartford School for the Deaf, the first school for the deaf in the United States.

But Thomas H. Gallaudet, for whom Gallaudet University is named, is not the person we remember today. It is, rather, his son, Thomas Gallaudet, an Episcopal clergyman who in 1852 established St. Anne’s Church to serve the deaf of New York City.

Thomas Gallaudet

Thomas Gallaudet

From that base Gallaudet reached out to other cities: first Philadelphia, then Baltimore, and, in 1860, Albany. Here, Gallaudet was welcomed by St. Paul’s new rector, William Rudder, who as an undergraduate in Hartford had known of the Deaf School.

Between 1860 and 1872, the Rev. Thomas Gallaudet or one of his associates traveled to Albany each month to conduct services for the deaf and to translate sermons at regular services into sign language. As this outreach expanded beyond the northeastern United States, Gallaudet formed the Church Mission for Deaf-Mutes, for which he served as General Manager for many years.

Albany Evening Journal 9 Mar 1861

Albany Evening Journal 9 Mar 1861

Preaching at St. Paul’s fiftieth anniversary in 1877, Gallaudet proudly described the Church Mission’s activities across the country, and reminisced about the years which St. Paul’s had extended a “helping and guarding hand” to the deaf of this part of the state.

As further support for the Church Mission, this congregation in 1872 called the Rev. Thomas Benjamin Berry as assistant to the rector and as priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s Mission Church on lower Madison Avenue.

Thomas Berry

Thomas Berry

Before his ordination, Berry had taught at schools for the deaf in England, New York and Maryland. Berry’s ministry at the Mission Chapel included monthly services and a Sunday School class for the deaf, and he also assisted Gallaudet in ministry throughout the state as an associate of the Church Mission.

Thomas Berry left St. Paul’s in 1874, continuing his work with the deaf in Wisconsin, South Dakota and central and western New York. But Berry’s departure was not the end of St. Paul’s ministry to the deaf. That ministry lasted until 1976, spanning more than half of the time that we have been a congregation.