1908 - 2008
As the Black population of Boston increased and became centered in other neighborhoods, Father Field's pastoral concern took him where the people were. In the home of Sarah J. Jackson at 17 Westminister Street. Saint Martin's Mission had its beginnings. Father Field, accompanied by two altar boys, would come to the South End for celebration of Mass in Mrs. Jackson's living room. From 1899 to 1908, the congregation outgrew Mrs. Jackson's living room, outgrew a storefront on Camden Street and a small wooden framed chapel on Lenox Street.
In the West End, the church of St. Augustine was formally organized by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. In 1886, a building was purchased on Anderson Street for its worship and congregational life. In 1892, a new building was erected on Phillips Street that served as the center of the congregation's life. The church of Saint Augustine served as a center for community, cultural and religious concern. The Saint Augustine's Trade School was established to teach young men marketable skills. From that center, a successful effort was launched to have the City of Boston establish the vacant Old West Church as a branch of the Public Library.
Father Charles N. Field, a stern yet loving pastor, encouraged the religious arts. In addition to the splendid worship services in the high Anglican ceremonial tradition, Father Field produced and directed Christmas Pageants and Easter Mystery Plays to teach God's passionate involvement and concern with our daily lives.
In 1908, the Society purchased the land next to Saint Martin's Chapel on Lenox Street and began construction of the present building. Later that year, Saint Augustine's Church in the West End was closed and many of its religious artifacts were incorporated into the new church building. On Saint Martin's Day, November 11, 1908, the Church of Saint Augustine and Saint Martin was formally opened with a ten-day preaching mission led by a black priest, John A. Williams, Rector of Saint Phillips Church in Omaha, Nebraska.
The congregations of two mission churches came together in one meeting place to more effectively worship God and serve the people of the community where they lived. Pastoral leadership transferred from Father Field to the Reverend Father Fitz in 1911. Father Fitz continued the tradition of community involvement and pastoral care. He was a priest dedicated to living for others. He worked at developing Saint Augustine's Camp in Foxboro where youth from our congregation and community had an opportunity for physical, educational and spiritual development.
Although the members of the congregation were poor, there was a richness of spirit that expressed itself in the way the people of the Church of Saint Augustine and Saint Martin took care of one another. Jobs were scarce for people of color, so to help out while parents went to work Saint Martin's Day Nursery was founded. For ten cents a day, children were cared for all day and received a hot meal at noontime. The longstanding relationship with the Society of Saint Margaret that began on Beacon Hill continued. Women's groups worked to aid Saint Monica's home with funds, as well as to assist the Sisters with caring for sick or aged women and their families in Roxbury.
The old wood framed Saint Martin's Chapel served as a fellowship hall and community center. Numerous guilds, clubs and organizations formed to foster the sense of extended family and concerned neighborliness that marked these years of the church's life on Lenox Street. There were plays, musicals, entertainment and dinners designed to bring people together, as well as to support the community about a God who cares how we live our lives, and to encourage young people to pursue their educational and economic goals, to become their very best.
At the heart of all this activity was the daily and weekly cycle of celebrating the Holy Mass. With all the dignity and beauty the people could establish, the Lord's supper was celebrated as a reminder of God who shares life with us in a shared meal. Beautiful religious art, splendid vestments and solemn sacred music surrounded the offering of worship. All of these served as reminders of a loving, nurturing God who calls us to discover the beauty of life, by sharing the creative activity of loving one another.
The Society of Saint John the Evangelist continued to provide for pastoral leadership in the congregation after the retirement of Father Fitz. The Reverend Oliver B. Dale succeeded him, who was assisted for a time by Father Paul Wessinger. The last of the Cowley Fathers to serve as the Vicar of the Church of Saint Augustine and Saint Martin was the Reverend Frederick C. Gross, who was assisted by Father Robert Smith. All of these priests continued the tradition of loving, pastoral care coupled with a concern that life be centered at the altar.
However, times changed and communities are growing entities. The neighborhood began to develop a new character. Many who grew up around the church moved away after World War II. Urban renewal transformed the appearance of the community. The desire for independence and autonomy was felt in the late 1960's. It was time to develop ministry in relationship to the changing time and neighborhood. For many this meant seeking a black priest to be pastor and assuming some measure of responsibility for the congregation's ministry and fiscal affairs. Encouraged by the Right Reverend John M. Burgess, the congregation separated from the Society of St. John the Evangelist and began to move toward becoming a Parish in union with the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
For the next eight years (1973-1981) the congregation worked toward this goal, guided by the pastoral leadership of a succession of vicars (Rev. Charles Victor, Rev. Don Eric Lowery, Rev. James D. Manning, and Rev. Richard Reid) and interim pastors (Rev. George Thomas and Rev. Herman Spence) and Senior Wardens (David Whitley, Eugene Andrews and Frederick C. Saunders, Sr.) Providing constant service during this period of chnage was Rev. H. Mason Palmer, who celebrated two weekly masses and ministered communion to our sick and shut-ins, particularly those who were in nursing homes.
The Reverend Charles Victor was sent to minister to our spiritual needs. He not only helped us spiritually but he made us aware of others and ourselves. During his stay, the church was accepted as a Mission of the Diocese. Mr. David F. Whitley became the first Senior Warden, and with the support of many, the church grew.
It was on November 7, 1981, at the 197th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and during the tenure of Rev. Richard Reid that the goal of full partnership in proclaiming the Gospel as a parish church in the diocese was realized. Senior Warden, Eugene Andrews addressed the convention in words that day that spoke to our pride and our sense of mission, "Thank you. You have made a dream come true... The Church of St. Augustine and St. Martin is proud to serve our community as people gathered about the altar and as people sent to serve."
As the church became incorporated under the rules and regulations of the Diocese of Massachusetts, resurgence began. 33-35 Lenox Street was purchased and converted to accomodate the St. James Educational Center. The Rt. Rev. David E. Johnson, Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, dedicated the new buidling and the new St. Martin's Chapel on October 26, 1987. Under Fr. Reid's leadership the church's outreach program made the church available for meetings of the Washington Street Coalition to discuss the ramifications of the removal of the MBTA Orange Line (an elevated structure which was a public means of transportation through the neighborhood). After several years of dedicated use, the old forced-air pipe organ needed to be replaced. Embarking on our first capital campaign as a parish, we successfully purchased a new Rogers eletronic pipe organ and dedicated it on September 27, 1992.
The resurgence continued with building renovations done on the first floor of 31 Lenox St. These rooms included the relocated parish offices, St. Martin's Chapel and a conference space that included a kitchen facility as well as two bathrooms, one of which was handicapped accessible. The conference space was named "The Well," symbolic of the community meeting place. The well was often a gathering place where aquaintances met and shared ideas in Biblical times.
Today, we continue to be rooted in the early missions that shaped us; that is "to serve the needs of our neighborhood with emphasis on education and community involvement" (Eugene Andrews, Diocesan Convention 1981). Under the leadership of Rev. Evan Thayer, our Priest in Charge, and our Vestry we continue to serve, by carrying out programs such as LEARN@Lenox (an afterschool program), contributing to Rosie's Place (a program for homeless women), and supplying backpacks and school supplies to Children of Incarcerated Parents. And we continue to offer space to other community organizations such as Ecclesia Ministries, and South End/Lower Roxbury Youth Workers' Alliance.
Recognizing that we are, for the most part, a congregation of commuters, we are redoubling our efforts to grow the membership of the church by welcoming in our neighbors. In 1983, 84 year- old Mrs. Marion Hunter Jackson, who was from the neighborhood, stated: "When you enter this church as a child... you never actually leave it." Today 93 year-old Mrs. Viola Layne exemplifies Mrs. Hunter's words having been confirmed in this church in the late 1920s and remaining a member through the present day. But Mrs. Layne also reminds us of the importance of continuing to work on the growth and renewal of this parish, reminding us that the job isn't finished, that "A lot of work has to be done." And so as we begin our second 100 years, we renew our mission to serve God and our community, with faith that the work will continue in this sacred place.
Clergy Who Have Served 1892-present
Clergy in Charge
The Reverend Charles Neale Field, SSJE
The Reverend Frank Fitz
The Reverend Oliver B. Dale, SSJE
The Reverend Frederick C. Gross, SSJE
The Reverend Charles Victor
The Reverend Don Eric Lowery
The Reverend Canon George Thomas
The Reverend James D. Manning
The Rt. Reverend Herman Spence
The Reverend Richard W. Reid
The Reverend J. C. Woods
The Reverend Hayden Crawford
The Reverend Jane Butterfield
The Reverend Antony Glenn Miller
The Reverend Katharine Black
The Reverend Evan Thayer
Other Assisting Clergy
The Reverend Dwight A. Parce, SSJE
The Reverend G. C. Gibbs, SSJE
The Reverend Walter P. Morse, SSJE
The Reverend Robert Smith, SSJE
The Reverend Paul Wessinger, SSJE
The Reverend R. A. Miles, SSJE
The Reverend Lee Grundy, SSJE
The Reverend M.C. Douglas
The Reverend H. M. Palmer
The Reverend Ellis Clifton
The Reverend Preston Hannibal
The Rt. Reverend Jonathan B. B. Hart
The Reverend Catherine Louise, SSM
The Reverend James LaMacchia
The Reverend Leopold Friday
The Reverend Martin Goshgarian
The Reverend Brian Murdoch
The Reverend Thomas W. O. Mayers
The Reverend Robyn Franklin-Vaughn
Sister Clare Marie, SSM
Sister Adele Marie Ryan, SSM
Sister Hope Margaret, SSM
The Reverend Ethan James Cole
The Reverend John Clarke
The Reverend Esten Collins