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A Beautiful Thing

June 28th, 2018

Dear Trinity Family,

Sometimes an opportunity to do something unexpected arises. This is the way of the Spirit.

Sometimes an invitation to be a part of the wider Church comes. This is the way of the Body of Christ.

Sometimes beautiful things come our way.

I want to tell you a story about a beautiful thing.

 In 1868, just a year after the founding of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, MA (now the Episcopal Divinity School or EDS), Robert Mason commissioned the building of St. John’s Memorial Chapel on the seminary campus. Shortly after the chapel was built, the children of Robert Mason gave a sandstone baptismal font in his honor. The inscription around the font was taken from the gospel of Matthew, Suffer the little children to come unto me. The font lived in St. John’s Memorial Chapel for over a hundred years, equipping the chapel to baptize many children and adults into the Body of Christ. Among them were the children of laity, deacons, priests, and bishops who have served in this diocese and beyond. My son was baptized in the font in 2011.

On June 8th, just three weeks ago, I attended the de-consecration of St. John’s Memorial Chapel. The seminary property is being sold, and some segment of the school is merging with Union Theological Seminary in New York City. This is the seminary’s second merge, the first being with Philadelphia Divinity School in 1974, but in that case it was Philadelphia that had to give up their property and Chapel.

There was much heartache and regret around the de-consecration of St. John’s Memorial chapel on June 8th. The sadness followed into the next week when the chapel doors opened again to allow people to come in and take away the contents of the building. I went and found a few sacred objects for my home and for Trinity.

While there, I asked about the Baptismal Font, hoping it was going to Union along with other important objects or at least to a church to be used for baptism. But the plan was to allow the auctioneer to count it among the items of value (not to be given away for free or retained) and so it had been appraised at $1500 and slotted for auction.

Wanting it to be in use for baptism, I asked if we could bring it to Trinity. I sent a picture to Nancy Hagner who loved it and joined me in finding ways to move it to Concord. Within less than a week the following happened; we were told we could have it for $1000 if we could move it soon, the vestry approved having it at Trinity, eight individual donors (Trinity parishioners, EDS alumni, and clergy) pooled donations to raise $1000, and members of the vestry and parish offered to move the font.

This past Sunday night, a small (but mighty) team of us went to The Episcopal Divinity School and retrieved the font (discovering that it comes in four very heavy but manageable pieces).  

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We set it up in the narthex of our main church, so that the beauty of baptism (and the Community of Saints) may be part of our welcome to those who enter in.

Our wooden font has been in the narthex until this week, and has, for now, been moved. The wooden font was given in memory of Eleanor Hosmer Friedman in 1962 when the Main Church at Trinity was built. It is a beautiful font whose construction mirrors the simple modern lines of the church. Over the years it has fallen over a couple of times (in part because it was light enough to fall when bumped into, not an issue with the heavy sandstone font). Thus, the wooden font is cracked and in need of repair. We treasure it and will find ways to care for it even as we bring the “new” font into use.

Over the coming months, as we re-consecrate the stone font, explore repairs on the wooden font, and steward this small piece of the history and mission of our broader Church, we ask you to join us in imagining new ways. There are conversations to be had around baptism and how we set up our own sacred space with the inclusion of the St. John’s Memorial Chapel Font. I look forward to these conversations. Already they have opened up new ways to see and discuss the Sacrament of Baptism, the stewardship of sacred objects, our place among the institutions and traditions of the wider Church, and the changing ways of modern faith practices mixed with the treasure of our traditions. Already unexpected conversations and ideas have surfaced.

Sometimes an opportunity to do something unexpected arises. This is the way of the Spirit.

 

Sometimes an invitation to be a part of the wider Church comes. This is the way of the Body of Christ.

 

Sometimes beautiful things come our way.

 

Yours in Christ,

 

~Becky

 

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