Saint John’s: Forty Years Ago

As we have recently reminisced about where we were when man first landed on the moon forty years ago and have been reminded of the remarkable gathering at Woodstock, I wondered what was going on at Saint John’s in 1969? Nothing so momentous, but it was an interesting year.

The Reverend Leon B.G. Adams was into the fourth year of his ten year term as rector. It was a special year for him as he and his dear wife, Gladys, were happy to welcome their first grandchild into the world. Sylvia, the eldest of their three children, and her husband Roger Heider, a member of a parish family, gave birth to Robert Leon in March. In May, Father Adams had the distinct joy of baptizing his own grandson at Saint John’s.

Our first Seabury-Western seminarian, Charles B. King, Jr. completed his internship in May. He and his wife Alice gave birth to their first child, Christopher Mark, also in March. In an eventful year for Charles: he graduated from seminary and was later ordained to the diaconate by the Bishop of Albany in June and to the priesthood in December. Father King spent his entire ministry in the Diocese of Albany, serving small, mostly rural congregations. He is now retired and living in Ft. Edward, where he is Vicar of “tiny” Saint James Church and serves the Bishop as his advisor on Canon Law. He and Alice added three more children to their family, and Alice remains a Cubs fan.

In February seminarian, Wayne H. Carlson, preached on Theological Education Sunday. He and his wife, Diane, had been worshiping Saint John’s since the end of October, 1968, and in June he became our official seminarian. They came from Nebraska, and after ordination, Wayne returned there to begin his ministry. He later came back to the Diocese of Chicago, and is now Rector of The Church of the Holy Family in Park Forest. He is a friend of Kara, and attended her installation as our Rector.

Reverend Gerald Francis Burrill was the Bishop of Chicago in 1969, and oversaw the Diocese’s Companion relationship with the Diocese of Southwark in the United Kingdom. Saint John’s was linked to Saint Mark’s parish in Mitcham, Surrey, and Father and Gladys became good friends with The Reverend Roger Hawkins and his wife. Visits and gifts were later exchanged. Saint Mark’s gift to us was the lightweight damask green vestment set with red ornamentation. The symbols on the chasuble are the Lion of Saint Mark and the Eagle of Saint John–although they could be the Lion of England and Eagle of the United States–upholding a Celtic cross. We donated funds to enable Saint Mark’s to install flood lighting to illuminate the steeple and cross of their building–a long desire of the parish. Angela McCormick and her family were visiting her parents in July and they attended a service at Saint Mark’s, where Angela unveiled a plaque noting the gift from Saint John’s. Her family drove across Mitcham Common en route from their home to London so were familiar with this church and it’s steeple, and subsequently thought of St. John’s when making this trip, especially at night, when the cross really stood out!

Hugh Colburn recently told of his Wedding Day, which started off with a motor-cycle accident, so he decided to get a car accident lawyer to help him with this. He and Carol had their marriage blessed at Saint John’s in January. Hugh comments that he was still not feeling up to par, even then. 1969 was an eventful year for the Nelson family. Curtis and Carol [now Conway], were settling into their new parish home, and three of their four–at that time–children were baptized in January. In May, Curtis, Carol, Scott, Stephen, and Todd were confirmed. Carol became active in the Altar Guild, where in addition to being a vestry member, she ministers today.

Charles L. Siebert was treasurer and with a vestry comprising at that time of twelve members plus the wardens and rector, administered an annual budget of $26,677.00. The monthly income and expenses were in the range of $2,000.00. The parish had borrowed $20,000.00 in 1966 to purchase the neighboring property on Kostner Avenue. The old rectory on Kenneth was sold. In 1969, $6,030.72 plus interest was still due and this mortgage was being paid off in $166.09 month installments. The silver receiving basin and collection plates we use today were, appropriately enough, later given in memory of Charles L. Siebert.

Some other statistics from forty years ago: there were seventy families and twenty-eight individuals not in families; average attendance at 8:00 a.m. was thirty-eight and at 10:00 a.m. was eighty.

Several memorial gifts were received that year, the most notable being our “two Saint John” stained glass windows on the west wall of the church. Saint John the Baptist is portrayed in the window behind the font. He is clothed in the traditional animal skins and sandals and carries a sword. Ecce Agnus Dei–”Behold the Lamb of God” is inscribed above him and at his feet is the fish symbol with the acronym IXOYC–the initial letters of phrase Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior in Greek. On the north side, behind the usher’s station, the window portrays Saint John the Apostle. John, in robes, is holding the cup with serpent, which refers to the legend of the attempt on his life with a poisoned chalice. The symbols in this window are the Alpha and the Omega, representing the everlasting nature of Christ’s divinity.

With regard to our worship, the lengthy process of the revision of The Book of Common Prayer had begun and during the year we had been introduced to various trial liturgies. Nancy Raich who had been our organist/choir director for seven years retired at the end of the year.

It has been very interesting to delve into the parish archives to generate these memories. I think The Reverend Canon Charles B. King, Jr., must have been quite surprised to hear (thanks to the wonders of the internet) from someone at Saint John’s after all this time!

Angela McCormick
Parish Historian

2 Replies to “Saint John’s: Forty Years Ago”

  1. Kara WS

    Thank you for the great history Angela! I can't help but comment that this is a pivotal year for me – I was born in 1969! That was before women could be priests in the Episcopal church and I think women were only allowed on vestries in 1967? but I can't verify it…

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