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:-)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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

I present more from Mrs. Marjorie H. Gillette's 1967 church history presentation.
The period of 1933 to 1947 was one of excitement and growth for the church.
The Reverend Carl Heath Kopf was vibrant and forward thinking for his day.
His thoughtful approach to the social and political issues of the 1930's and 40's earned him much praise and deep respect all over the city and the wider USA. His radio program on WEEI also allowed Mount Vernon Church the opportunity to reach out to the city in a new, creative way thus bringing many new members into the church fold.
Reverend Kopf was very active and was called upon as a beloved guest speaker at many functions in the city as well as all over the country.
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of Mount Vernon Church in 1942 was the BIG event of the 20th century for the church and a book was published to mark this very special occasion.
One Hundred Years of Mount Vernon Church 1842-1942 by Pauline Holmes still stands as the ultimate volume on The Mount Vernon Church of Boston and the role it played in Boston and beyond.

Part Four

The Reverend Carl Heath Kopf was born in Buffalo, New York, on August 6, 1902. He was graduated from Princeton in 1925, later studying law and finally changed to religion. He came to Mount Vernon Church in 1933, and remained with us until 1947. Coming back from a summer vacation in Europe in 1938, he wondered what could be done "to reach the vast numbers of people who had lost interest in religion: The result of this determination was a series of Sunday radio talks over Station W.E.E.I. "From a Window on Beacon Street."
He was the author of three books:
"Windows on Life"
"Fellowship of Prayer"
"Personal Crisis"
At the time of his tragic death he left a half finished book called, "Five Major Battles".
He left Mount Vernon Church in 1947 to become the minister of the First Congregational Church at 10th and G Streets in Washington, D. C. In 1954, he was elected President of the Washington Federation of Churches. In 1956, Princeton awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Mary Chalfant Kopf was his constant inspiration and help during his whole career. She continues in her gallant spirit. For the past few summers she has been giving a course at Star Island Conference Center in Bell Ringing. She plans to be there again this summer. David, John and Ann are married and are settled in different parts of the country.
Dr. Carl Heath Kopf was a preacher, a pastor and a religious leader. His broad understanding and sympathies, together with his courageous and appealing witness, made him respected and loved as a man whose lived religion makes it possible to say without reservation: Carl Kopf was a Christian Minister, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. His tragic death on July 1, 1958 was a shock to all who knew and admired him.

More to follow....


ps...Please feel free to contact me with questions or further information on Mount Vernon Church of Boston.