In her “Peace Pentecost” sermon at our Cathedral Church of St. Paul, poet Denise Levertov (1923-97) emphasized the connection between contemplation and action: “If we neglect our inner lives, we destroy the sources of fruitful outer action. But if we do not act, our inner lives become mere monuments to egotism.” At Emmanuel she founded a Peace Group to foster the links between spiritual thought and action among her fellow parishioners.
Earlier in the decade she had been attracted to Emmanuel by our social-justice activities, beautiful music and liturgy, and rector Al Kershaw, who counseled her. “He assured her that doubt was part of spiritual growth and the darkness she encountered might increase her sense of dependence and lead her to God,” says her biographer Dana Greene citing Denise’s diary entry for June 13, 1988.
The Rev. Paul Philip Levertoff
Denise’s father, Paul Philip Levertoff (1878–1954), an early proponent of Messianic Judaism, took holy orders in the Anglican Church and preached wearing an alb with a tallit and kippa. In 1922 he become director of what is now the London Diocesan Council for Work among the Jews and edited its quarterly journal, The Church and the Jews. He was a prolific writer on theological subjects in Hebrew, German, and English and translated into English the Midrash Sifre on Numbers (1926) and the Zohar (1933).
Dana Greene. Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life. Urbana IL: U. of Illinois Press, 2012.
Denise Levertov. Making Peace. Breathing the Water. NY:New Directions, 1987.
Donna Hollenberg. A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov. Berkeley: U of California Press, 2013.
Paul A. Lacey and Anne Dewey, eds. The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov. NY: New Directions, 2013.
Pauli Murray, who was a vestry member, entered the General Theological Seminary. She considered Emmanuel to be her sponsoring parish, which “sent me forth as a member of your congregation with your blessings and prayers to begin my training for the Sacred Ministry”.* The Rev. Alvin L. Kershaw had helped her discern a call to ordination.
Once I admitted the call of total commitment to service in the church, it seemed that I had been pointed in this direction all my life and that my experiences were merely preparation for this calling. In spite of my own intellectual doubts and the opposition to women’s ordination which was widespread within the Episcopal Church at the time, I took the fateful step of applying to the Right Reverend John Melville Burgess, bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, for admission to holy orders. (Autobiography, 1989, p. 427)
*From her sermon preached at Emmanuel on March 3, 1974.
The Rt. Rev. William Lawrence, D.D., Bishop of Massachusetts (1893-1927). Photo credit: WikiCommons
Our fifth rector, The Rev. Dr. Phillips Endicott Osgood, said in his sermon: “We are stewards of an inheritance, interpreters of a tradition”. Organist Dr. Albert Snow composed an anthem for the service. Bishop William Lawrence praised our first four wardens:
Edward Sprague Rand (1st senior warden), a trustworthy, public-spirited lawyer
his uncle William Richards Lawrence (1st junior warden), who had bought the land for our church
Benjamin Tyler Reed (2nd senior warden), who founded in Cambridge the Episcopal Theological School, which became the Episcopal Divinity School
The Reverend Elwood Worcester delivered an address, “A Plan Providing for the Prosperity of Emmanuel Church,” on Sunday, February 6, 1916. Worcester made an appeal to increase the number of pledging parishioners from 300 to 500 and expressed his confidence that the congregation would respond with faithful and systematic support for the parish.
“Emmanuel stands for as much as any church I know. It was built and it has been maintained by the love and sacrifices of its people. Countless blessings have come from it to us. Some of the best things of our lives have come to us here. Some of the holiest associations hover around this building. Let us then do our part…to continue these blessings to our children.”