Uniquely Medfield: Rev. Guy Miner and the Church of the Advent
This week's history highlight with Medfield Town Historian Richard DeSorgher.
The Church of the Advent, Medfield’s Episcopal Church owes its beginnings to the Rev. Guy Miner, who assumed responsibility as a priest 114 years ago this week, on September 18, 1898.
His duties were to serve the congregations in Franklin and Medway. In the Medway congregation were several Episcopalians from Medfield. Suggestions were made that a service should be conducted in Medfield.
Using the hall in Monks Block, known as Snow’s Hall, (corner of North and Main Streets), 60 people gathered for the first service of what would become the congregation of the Church of the Advent. Monthly services were held in the Snow’s Hall in Monks Block until the end of the year when they began holding services in the Grand Army of the Republic Hall (now Zullo Gallery) where the congregation continued to meet until October of 1905.
Rev. Miner would use the trolley that ran from Medfield through Millis, Medway and Franklin to service his four churches. During severe snow storms he actually used snow shoes to get from town to town.
Sarah Lawrence, a wealthy Medfield summer resident from NYC, attended the services. Seeing the need for a church of their own, Lawrence provided the funds to purchase land on Pleasant Street. The purchase took place in 1901 but nothing was done to develop this site until June 1903 when ground breaking ceremonies took place for the new church. Miss Lawrence herself removed the first spade full of dirt. Volunteer labor excavated a cellar for the laying of a foundation for a future building.
As there was no money at hand, no work was done until the following summer when Miss Lawrence returned from her winter home. She urged work to begin immediately on the Church building and offered to finance it. With continued funds from Miss Lawrence, the entire building was completed and ready for occupancy in October of 1905.
The structure was of wood with a stucco and fieldstone exterior of English Tudor design. The interior furnishings included an altar donated by St. Ignatius Church in New York, Miss Lawrence’s parish. Stained glass windows, including the famed Bethlehem window, were given as memorials by several members of the congregation. Col. Edwin V. Mitchell, owner of the hat factory here in town, donated the organ.
Rev Miner served the church until 1923. At that time William G. Perry of North Street who designed Colonial Williamsburg as well as the Medfield town library designed a new area to serve for worship services and to seat 90 persons, and the former church building was renovated for a parish hall. The cornerstone was laid on October 17, 1926 and the building was dedicated a year later.
Under Rev. Louis Van Ess and Rev. Philip Baird the Transept was added at what was then the front of the church and the old church was made into the parish hall. The altar was moved to the east wall of the new addition and a new front entrance now faced Pleasant Street instead of Main Street.
The church would continue to grow during the 1920’s under Rev Davis and Rev. Jobe. Rev. Seitz would serve the parish for 14 years during the 1930’s and 40’s. They were followed by Rev. Payzant. He was followed by Rev. Brock who spent the next nine years devoting himself to the many demands of a growing church in which attendance was on the increase. With this influx of new residents, the church population swelled to 134.
By 1960, the parish rolls had doubled, making another addition to the church imperative. The addition was designed and build in 1960 under the guidance of Rev. Robert Derr. It was flat-roofed and modern in design, containing a full kitchen and a large parish hall, church offices and classroom area.
The original church and the 1926 addition were renovated as a nave and transept, bringing seating capacity to 200. A new free standing altar built to the north retained the marble altar stone from the original altar.
Rev. Derr also brought a social conscience to the parish. He supported a small group of parishioners who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama. He joined the march on Washington, D.C. and sponsored speakers on social issues.
Rev. Flanders replaced Rev. Derr and expanded the role of the layity, having lay readers, chalice bearers and lectors. Students began to play an important part, involved not only with the services but with many of the parish activities. In the late 1990’s, renovations added a steeped roof to the exterior of the parish hall and major renovations to the interior hall and the church itself. A new pipe organ was built and installed in 2003.
In June 2011, a stained glass window was dedicated to the memory of The Reverent Guy Miner, first priest. It is located in the alcove of the original entrance to the church.