Celebrating 175

January 10: William Moody Morrison

William M. Morrison was a native of New Hampshire, the ninth of fourteen children. He moved to Alexandria, Virginia at an early age, where he became a teacher. Here he met and married his wife, Louisa Berry, with whom he had nine children. After teaching for a while, Morrison started in the book business and operated the leading bookstore in Alexandria for several years. He published the principal textbooks used at the nearby Virginia Theological Seminary.

Morrison relocated to Washington about 1837 with the same occupation and took into partnership his son and nephew under the firm name of “W.M. Morrison & Co.” His business establishment at 475 Pennsylvania Ave NW was considered one of the finest in the nation’s capital, an iron-front three-story building, 157 by 23 feet, and wholly occupied by them. The company supplied some of the books for the new White House Library, created during the Fillmore Administration. William Morrison was associated with Epiphany from its inception. He was elected as one of the parish’s first wardens. Morrison’s last child Emma was baptized at Epiphany shortly after her birth on Christmas Day 1843.

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January 9 – Dedication of Dormer Windows Stained Glass (1979)

High above the hammer beam rafters of Epiphany’s interior are six dormer windows that came into being with the 1874 renovation of the church, which replaced a flat ceiling with a “more churchly roof.” The major purposes of the windows were light and ventilation. A century later with electricity and air conditioning in place, it was decided to replace these clear windows with stained glass. The windows were designed as a group to interpret the story of creation as told in the book of Genesis. Each window has its own symbol of the Creator God in the circle at the top and the panels below interpret a specific day of creation.

All six windows are the design of Rodney Winfield of St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Winfield is probably best known as the artist of the “space window” at Washington National Cathedral, which contains a piece of moon rock brought back by Apollo 11 astronauts. The creation windows are all memorials and were dedicated at the morning service on January 7, 1979, the First Sunday after the Epiphany. Depicted here is the window depicting the fifth day of creation when God created the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.

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January 8 – John Huntington Crane Coffin (1890)

A native of Maine, John Coffin (and his twin sister Sarah) grew up in a very religious, loving, and social family. At Bowdoin College, John Coffin excelled in mathematics. He graduated in 1834 and fifty years later would be awarded an honorary LL.D. degree by the same institution. A classmate of Coffin’s described him “as of singularly sweet disposition – affable, gentle, and of fine grain. There was a rare union in him of goodness and genius.” As with many of his ancestors, Coffin heard the call of the sea and this translated into a lifelong career in the U.S. Navy. In addition to serving at sea, he also performed land duties at the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Naval Observatory. His expertise was in navigation and astronomy. He was a charter member of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

During an assignment in Washington in the early 1840’s, John Coffin made the acquaintance of Louisa Harrison. Their marriage at the Church of the Epiphany was the first wedding in the new church. Earlier, Louisa had given the church the two lots of land on G Street as the site for the new building. Most of the Coffin’s six children were baptized and confirmed at Epiphany. John served on the vestry for several decades and was the treasurer from 1869 until his death on January 8, 1890. Professor Coffin had lived through seven Epiphany rectors and had witnessed the church’s growth from a small mission congregation to a prominent religious institution in the nation’s capital.

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January 7 – Garnell Stuart Copeland (1977)

Garnell Copeland was 13 years old when he startled San Francisco’s virtuoso organist Newton Pashley by repeating from memory the Bach toccata that Pashley had just played. Copeland was 26 when he became Epiphany’s organist and choirmaster. Copeland was just 34 when he died in an ambulance after being attacked by three assailants on the steps of his Capitol Hill home. His attackers were never identified. The night of his death, Copeland was returning from the evening service of the Feast of Lights. Six weeks later, a memorial concert at the Kennedy Center drew 2000 friends and admirers.

In 1968, Copeland gave the dedicatory recital on Epiphany’s new Aeolian-Skinner organ. One of the pieces on the program was his mentor Leo Sowerby’s work, “Pageant.” The elderly Sowerby, in the waning months of his life, came to hear the young prodigy play. Ten years later, Epiphany dedicated in Copeland’s name two particularly fitting memorials. One was a horizontal rank of 49 pipes, for the organ Copeland helped design. The other was one of the new creation-themed stained glass windows incorporating the notation from the Copeland/Romig hymn “Epiphany.” The inspiration was from the Old Testament Book of Job where it states that at creation, “the morning stars sang together.”

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January 6 – Founding Meeting (1842)

A meeting called to discuss local missionary work was held in the basement of Trinity Church (3rd & C Streets, NW; no longer in existence) on December 15, 1841. It was sponsored by the diocesan Domestic Committee of Church Missions with active support principally from Washington’s Trinity and St. John’s Churches. At this meeting “it was deemed expedient to commence action through a mission church.”

When those attending employed the Rev. John W. French as City Missionary, they charged him with making an extended survey of the city, to discover all those who might be brought into the Episcopal fold or, as French put it, “to find everyone shut from the means of grace.”

Three weeks later on January 6, 1842, the Feast of the Epiphany, a group of about thirty individuals gathered at the home of Mrs. Sarah Easton (19th and I Streets, NW) and agreed to found a new congregation that would become known as the Church of the Epiphany.

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January 5 – Warren Edward Mace+ (1991)

The Rev. Warren Mace was associate rector at Epiphany for over a quarter of a century.  Even after retirement he continued his ministry as “associate rector emeritus” until his death. When he first came to the parish in 1949, he had the thought of staying only a few years. Once he got to know the place, he became fascinated with the challenge that a downtown city church presented. For 30 years, Mace also served as the Episcopal chaplain at Washington Hospital Center. After his retirement, the hospital’s department of pastoral care established an interdisciplinary lecture series in his name.

The parish’s affection for Warren Mace was strong, celebrating his ministry at the 15- and 20-year marks. To celebrate the latter, the parish funded a trip to Europe for Mace and his wife. One parishioner described Warren’s “warm friendliness, always open door, and ever present interest in each of us.” Another found Warren “always there like a rock, the one to turn to when the going gets rough.” Warren Mace served through three consecutive Epiphany rectors. He died on the eve of Epiphany, the feast day of the parish he served so faithfully.

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January 4 – Sarah Harrison Easton (1844)

Unlike their male counterparts, there is limited mention of the founding mothers in church records, but their contributions cannot be underestimated. On January 6, 1842, Sarah Easton hosted in her home the meeting of people who decided to form a new Episcopal congregation, later to be known as the Church of the Epiphany. Her father had been a close friend of George Washington and her late husband had been a churchwarden at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square.

It’s hard to know what drew Sarah Easton into Epiphany’s founding circle, but her commitment to the cause seemed strong. Sarah lived through the first two years of the faith community’s existence. After having witnessed the founding, organizing, and the cornerstone laying of the new church, Sarah Easton died on January 4. She was buried from Epiphany on January 6, 1844, two years to the day after the congregation’s founding meeting.

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January 3 – John William Ferrill (2012)

Jesuits are known for being excellent educators and there is no better example of their efforts than John William Ferrill. His early studies were at St. Ignatius High School and the University of San Francisco, both Jesuit institutions. After obtaining his BA in Philosophy in 1943, John joined America’s greatest generation and served his country with distinction in the U.S. Navy. His service earned him a Purple Heart and the Navy Commendation Medal.

While his military career provided him with educational opportunities, John pursued studies on his own to increase his understanding of Christianity. He completed coursework at the University of the South and Virginia Theological Seminary, receiving a diploma in Theological Studies from the latter in 1991. John and his wife Ruth, a Protestant, found common ground for their faith journey in the Episcopal Church. Epiphany was a parish that welcomed them during trying times in their lives. Following his passing on January 2, a celebration of John’s life was held at Epiphany with memorial contributions designated for the church’s ministry with the poor, a fitting tribute to a life-long student of Jesus’ teaching.

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January 2 – Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (1892)

The Army’s general order upon the death of Montgomery Meigs stated, “There are few whose character and career can be more justly commended or whose lives are more worthy of respect, admiration, and emulation.” Meigs is considered the master organizer that helped the Union win the Civil War. Following Lincoln’s appointment of him as Quartermaster General, Meigs orchestrated equipping an army of 20,000 at the onset of the war to an army of 600,000 in 1863. As an engineer, Meigs was responsible for such DC improvements as the Washington Aqueduct, which brought fresh water to the city for the first time, the House and Senate extensions and the dome of the U.S. Capitol, and the Pension Building (today’s National Building Museum).

During his life, Meigs kept a shorthand diary of his public and private life. His church affiliation seems to vacillate between St. John’s, Lafayette Square and Epiphany. On a Sunday in January 1857, Meigs writes, “Mr. Hall preached this morning, the new pastor of Epiphany, Mr. French’s church. He is a good preacher. I should think a good man, earnest in his style, as he preached for an object, not to make fine words.” Several weeks later, Meigs records, “We had a communion service this morning. I feel my own unworthiness. I partook of it with a hope that I might be made more careful and more effective to my duties toward my God than I am.” The entry on April 18, 1858 states, “we have taken a pew in Mr. Hall’s Church of Epiphany.” (The term “taken a pew” refers to the practice at the time of renting a pew for a family’s use as a means of providing income for the church.) This is a month before his oldest two children were confirmed at Epiphany. In 1864, Meigs’ third son was confirmed at Epiphany, just weeks after his first son had been killed in the war.

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January 1 – New Year’s Day Greeting (1904)

The Rev. Randolph McKim served as Epiphany’s rector (clergy person in charge of a parish) for 32 years (1888 – 1920). Although ministering to a large congregation at the time, McKim seemed to maintain a caring, personal relationship with his flock. Every January he would publish his New Year’s Day greeting to the parish via Epiphany’s newsletter, the Parish Guide. The following example from 1904 provides some good advice even for us today.

“A Happy New Year to you all, dear friends. May each day bring a blessing to every one of you. Perhaps it will sometimes come to you in disguise, but if it does, be of good cheer, for often the richest are thus bestowed. If God sends you joy and gladness remember that it is a sacred trust to be used to lighten the lives of your fellow men and if He in His wisdom sees fit to let you be tried, do not forget that it is to the bravest and most trusted that the hardest tasks are given. Do not waste time in lamenting last year’s failures, but with strong resolve press eagerly forward to redeem them in the future. Cultivate a habit of thinking of other people. Let no day pass without in some way helping another. It is not great deeds of charity which bring happiness into the world, but the countless little things which are so easy to overlook and neglect. And it is in the doing of these trifles that one finds his own happiness and is permitted to draw near to Christ. Let us resolve not only to do more but to love more, not our own merely but every one, and let us earnestly say each morning, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

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