Friday, 1 April 2011

The Beacon Street Years from 1892 until 1970: History of The Mount Vernon Church of Boston...Part Five

I present more from Mrs. Marjorie H. Gillette's 1967 church history presentation.
The years covered here are 1947 to 1958 and show the church as it transitions from the fourteen year ministry of Reverend Carl Heath Kopf to the Reverend Dr. Dwight Smith for the next five years and then on to the Reverend Chalmers Coe for a two year stay.

The church continued its long tradition of interdenominational co-operation and the congregation hosted many a Sunday guest preacher at the pulpit during this period.

At some point from the late 1940's to early 50's, the beautiful murals on the rear of the apse wall were unveiled permanently for all to enjoy.

Sadly, the 1950's found Mount Vernon Church facing declining numbers and a need to reinvent itself in a Boston with changing demographics.
The Reverend Dr. Smith spoke very plainly in his resignation letter of early 1953:

"The familiar family church pattern to which we have all been accustomed to is no longer appropriate to our constituency in an area where families are comparatively few and there are large groups of single people to whom the church should minister."

Reverend Coe would come next and put his entire being into the task of trying to bring in new members from the surrounding area with a healthy focus on students as well. The introduction of a team approach to ministry, numerous guest speakers at the Sunday evening Youth Fellowship meetings and mid-week prayer services were all tried during this period.
By mid- 1956, Reverend Coe was exhausted and disheartened...he had worked so hard and felt unable to carry on. He left and the church went into a two year interim period.

During all this time many familiar features of church life carried on as always.
Music was alive and well under the direction of organist, Charles Nicholls.
The Sunday Youth Fellowship met most Sunday evenings and hosted many speakers from all faiths.
The ladies of the church met on Tuesdays to do sewing and various handicrafts for charities.

An interesting note belongs here. Mrs. Smith hosted her own radio program for children during her time at Mount Vernon Church and her husband, Reverend Dr. Smith moderated a weekly radio panel discussion of news events by the clergy.

Mrs. Marjorie H. Gillette's 1967 notes for this period:

Part 5

Dr. Dwight Chichester Smith accepted a call to Mount Vernon Church on January 1, 1948 to become its seventh minister. He was born in Elizabeth, N. J. in 1900. After his graduation from Yale University in 1922, he taught English at Yale in China for two years. This valuable experience in the Orient was followed by graduate study at Yale Divinity School where he received his Divinity
zr Degree in 1927. During this period he carried on part-time work, teaching at Yale and Wesleyan Universities and giving pastoral service at the Dwight Place Church in New Haven and in the church at Redding, Connecticut. Following his ordination, Dr. Smith served as minister of the First Congregational Church of Bellingham, Washington, from 1927 to 1939. He was minister of the United Churches of Olympia, Washington, from 1939 until he came to Mount Vernon Church in 1948. However, during the years 1934 to 1936 he was on leave of absence to Scotland, where he studied at Edinburgh University and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dr. Smith came to us as one of the leading preachers of the Northwest. He had a deep interest in world-wide Christianity, and a practical concern for interdenominational cooperation.
Mrs. Smith (Josephine Wood) was trained in medical social work. She had a
unique talent writing and producing religious radio programs. Their children, Cynthia, Dwight, Jr., and Andrew are married. Andy has become a minister.
Dr. Smith resigned on January 22, 1953 and went to New York City as Executive Secretary of the John Milton Society, where both he and Mrs. Smith are still continuing with active lives and responsibilities.
Dr. Edwin Booth, professor Biblical History at Boston University, served as
interim minister until the Rev. Chalmers Coe took up his duties as our full time minister on March 15, 1954. He had come from the Congregational Church in Amherst, Massachusetts. He remained with us for two years, leaving in 1956 to take a teaching position in Hartford Seminary, Hartford. Mr. Coe designated Mr. Robert Holtzapple Jr. as assistant minister in 1956. He also served as leader of the Youth Fellowship. Leaving Trinity College, Mr. Coe accepted a call as minister to a large church in Columbus, Ohio, where he has five assistants.
Dr. Edwin Booth graciously accepted a call to serve us again as an interim pastor in 1956 and filled our pulpit until he met with an automobile accident in 1957.
At this time, Dr. Harrell Beck graciously filled our pulpit. He came from the Boston University School of Theology.

More to follow....Charles:-)