“This Week” in LAC Centennial History

There were many important and interesting events in the life of the Larchmont Avenue Church during its first century. Researched and written by Bambi Wulf, a dear late member of the LAC Centennial History Committee,  “Celebrating 100 years: This Week in LAC Centennial History” entries were published in the weekly Worship Bulletin from 2013-2014.  Here are some samples:

November 2, 1930:  The Church Sanctuary was dedicated. During the 11 a.m. worship, labeled as Dedication Services, the following words were read in concluding the Dedication by the Pastor and People.

  • Pastor: “In grateful remembrance of all who have gone before us in the faith of our fathers, without whose sacrifice and piety we could not have built, and with glad thoughts of those who shall come after us to enjoy the benefit of this which we have done.”
  • People:“To Thee we dedicate this house.”
  • An anthem, How Lovely are Thy Dwellings, followed.
  • At the time, seats in the Sanctuary were assigned, and paid for!

November 14, 1922:  Reverend Robert M. Russell, who had been called to the pastorate by unanimous choice of the congregation, was installed as LAC’s second pastor. A graduate of Westminster College and Princeton Theological Seminary, he succeeded Reverend Charles Carhart, and would serve for 17 years. The Church Budget was also raised, to $11,000, of which $1,000 went to missionary work in Siam.

November 23, 2008:  The new Konzelman chancel organ was dedicated, culminating a project that had been commissioned seven years earlier. It “sang,” with 2916 pipes and 49 ranks, each used to imitate the sound of a different musical instrument. Sung to the tune of Ode to Joy, the Hymn of Dedication began:

  • “Lord of Scripture, song, and story, on this day we dedicate
  • Our new organ to your glory, giving cause to celebrate!
  • Instruments have long been played, Lord, from the time of ancient days,
  • With acclaim that does not fade, Lord, to your glory and your praise.”

November 24, 1963:  Reverend Floyd McGuire, marking his 23rd year as LAC’s third pastor, preached a sermon on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

December 3, 1978:  The First Annual Advent Workshop took place! Still a memorable family event celebrated every year!

December 7, 1941:  The Chancel Cross was dedicated, as Pearl Harbor was moments from being attacked.

December 12, 1915:  As war raged in Europe, locally a half-page newspaper notice read:

  • Sunday, December 12th
  • Laying of cornerstone at afternoon service
  • Larchmont Avenue corner of Atlantic Avenue

The morning service on the 12th drew 160, and another 240 attended the afternoon service, straining the Church to its capacity, before stepping outside on a cold, clear day to witness Rev. Paul Stratton, Moderator of the Presbytery, lay the cornerstone. The 10 a.m. Sunday School session in the morning marked the first service ever to be held in the basement building, which today serves as the Carhart Room, named in honor of Rev. Charles Carhart, first pastor of LAC  (1914-1922). The “temporary” basement structure, which was finished at a cost of approximately $6,000, would serve as the Church for the next 15 years. In 1921, the name of Atlantic Avenue was changed to Forest Park Avenue, today the address of the Church.

December 25, 1932:  Reverend Robert Russell (1922-1939) preached a sermon that documented the strained economic conditions of the times at LAC. He warned the congregation that the mortgage was in grave danger of being foreclosed upon. In order to raise funds, members had been asked to donate any silver or gold to the Church Treasure Chest; items collected included jewelry, knives, forks, old spectacle frames, anything! The articles were sold to metal dealers in New York. Two years later, the Church remained in dire straits at Christmas time. Rev. Russell had started the Larchmont Organization for Unemployment Relief and its December, 1934 report read, “In the past year, we placed one hundred eighty-three men and one hundred sixty-one women in various jobs for days or hours…and gave out three thousand forty-one garments and pairs of repaired shoes.” Many formerly prosperous businessmen of the congregation were recipients. For several years, Rev. Russell went months at a time without pay.

December 25, 2013:  During this Christmas season, we remember the sacrifices of the past to which we owe the beauty of the Church today.

December 27, 1940:  A Holiday Dance was held in Russell Hall for “young” people. Dress was formal and the cost? $1.50 per couple

January 1, 2002:  Nineteen members of the LAC congregation, nine of whom were seniors in high school, rang in the New Year on a mission trip with Project Esperanza in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, helping their “brothers and sisters” in the Moravian Church with the construction of a community youth center. The mission work inaugurated a major supportive church-wide relationship. The group was led by Associate Pastor Jed Koball, who would leave LAC a year later, and return to Puerto Cabezas for a new call in ministry as director of operations for Bridges to Community, the organization that facilitates Project Esperanza.

January 10, 1950:  At a joint meeting of the Boards of the Church, the Building Committee presented a plan for a new educational wing (which, complete with a library, would eventually be constructed, then dedicated in the fall of 1953), and the Board of Trustees announced that pledges for the year amounted to $71,700.  Reverend Floyd McGuire also read from a letter he had received from Reverend A.L. Varady, Home Minister in Southeastern, Ohio, to whom holiday packages had been sent for miners’ children; “I wish to let you know that the kind help you and your people sent for our coal miners’ Christmas was appreciated. Things here in the mining fields are very poor, so everything meant much to our children and their parents…I am certain that our people will not forget the love and service given them.”

January 25, 1940:  More than 400 persons gathered at 8 p.m. on a Thursday evening for the Installation of the Reverend Floyd M. McGuire, who became the third pastor of the Larchmont Avenue Church. A reception, complete with music, followed in the Church House. Rev. McGuire succeeded the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Russell, who had served for 17 years, faithfully guiding the Church through the toughest of economic challenges. A community dinner for Dr. Russell had been held in his honor previously at the Larchmont Shore Club. Of McGuire’s Installation, a newspaper reported, “the ceremony was unusually impressive and should act as a spiritual tonic to congregation and clergyman alike.” It continued, “We are confident that the new pastor will come to hold…that Larchmont is a place where he need not labor in vain and where he can find true happiness and warm friendships.” McGuire would serve as pastor for the following 25 years, guiding the church through continued turbulence, home and abroad.

January 28, 1964:  The 50th Anniversary!!! celebration of the Larchmont Avenue Church was launched with an all-day session of the Presbytery of Hudson River. The meeting moderator was the Reverend Robert D. Allred, a Middletown, Ohio pastor, who had taken part in the civil rights march in Washington five months earlier. A South Carolina native, Rev. Allred had served previously at a Presbyterian Church in Ashtabula, Ohio, which had been the first congregation in the state to integrate. Russell Hall featured a display of original church photos and an evening later a dinner, attended by 225 persons, officially outlined the preparations that were underway for the anniversary events that would take place in late May. The dinner speaker, Dr. John Coventry Smith of Larchmont, who discussed The World Mission of the Church, had himself just returned from participating in a civil rights demonstration in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

February 1, 1992:  In partnership with the Larchmont Temple, LAC inaugurated the Midnight Run, an outreach service that brings food and clothing to homeless people in Manhattan. Today, 28 years later, that commitment remains strong, thanks to the many volunteer efforts of the LAC congregation. Every six weeks, in continued partnership with the Larchmont Temple, six vehicles loaded with clothing, toiletries, bag lunches and soup, make Saturday evening deliveries to those living on the streets of New York City.

February 11, 1918:  A meeting of Trustees took place specifically to address the Church deficit. Five Trustees, including Miss Lindsley, were present. A portion of the meeting’s minutes read as follows:

“. . . The chief business of the evening was the taking up and discussion of ways and means to take care of a deficit in Church support now existing amounting to approximately $130.00 . . . In the matter of the deficit, each of the Trustees present contributed $10.00 and a further list was prepared of those members of the Church who might be appealed to, to cover the balance . . . A question arose as to whether it would be good policy, due to the elimination of the Sunday Evening Services, to reduce the amount paid to Mr. Konklin, the musical director, accordingly.  It seemed the unanimous opinion that owing to the good work being done by him with the Choir that this would not be wise.”

February 11-12, 2000:  In hopes of becoming an annual event, LAC’s first Women’s Retreat took place. The retreat endures as an important annual gathering of LAC women, although modifications have been made during the COVID-19 era (2020).

February, 1941:  Church pledges had been decreasing for several years and dipped to $24,220 in 1940. But a religious upsurge began sweeping the nation, due primarily to the U.S. involvement in World War II. Two months into 1941 the fervor was significantly reflected at LAC by a profound increase in membership, attendance and the announced annual pledge. It was at about this time that the Church House and its facilities were opened to the Red Cross and its war work for what would be a four-year period.

March 4, 1929:  By early 1929 the time had come to build the long-deferred Sanctuary to complete the Church House, dedicated four years earlier. But at this time, Reverend Russell was invited by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church to accompany its Secretary on a visit to the West African Mission of Cameroon. Even though the project of the new Sanctuary was in the offing, the congregation, sensitive to the honor afforded him, agreed that Dr. Russell should go and included his expenses in the budget. But immediately upon his return, a General Council was appointed to assess the matter of the Sanctuary’s structure, and on March 4, a comprehensive report of the Council findings was presented at a Board of Trustees meeting. Quoting from the Trustees’ report, the findings were “approved with eclat,” and on March 24, the congregation voted to proceed with the Sanctuary’s construction (at an estimated cost of $220,000!).

March, 2007:  With the help of the Membership Committee, a St. Patrick’s Day fundraising dinner netted $13,800 to buy tools for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. The funds were sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which used the money for reconstruction efforts in the 9th Ward of New Orleans.  A month later, when floods would devastate areas of LAC’s own neighborhood, $9,200 was raised, primarily through the church rummage sale, for local flood relief. Later in September, when a hurricane destroyed the crops of coastal Nicaragua, some $22,000 was raised and sent to Bridges to Community. In all, the Church and Society Committee distributed over $83,000 during 2007 for a variety of needs both at home and away; it served as a poignant representation of LAC’s ongoing legacy of service in Ministry, which began with the church’s foundation and now stretches into its 106th year.

Sunday, March 18, 1955:  At 6 pm, the “Church Membership Class” (which would be received into membership one week later) attended its ninth, and final, consecutive weekly meeting. As Mildred A. Neumeister, Director of Religious Education, had outlined in a letter to every class member, each was to review – and be able to write from memory – the following by March 18:

  • The Books of the Old Testament
  • The Books of the New Testament
  • Psalm 23
  • The Beatitudes — Matthew 5:1-12
  • The Ten Commandments — Exodus 20:1-17
  • The Great Commandment — Luke 10:27
  • The Apostles’ Creed

Instructions in Neumeister’s initial letter had included, “Please bring your Bible, your study book (price – 60 cents) and pencil to each class session. You are expected to be present at each session and on time.” It continued, “For March 18, you will write 100 words or so on, ‘Why I Want to Become a Member of the Church.’”

Tuesday, March 26, 1946:  Have you ever looked at the great West Window in the back of our church? It towers high behind your pew. On this date, LAC entered into a $10,000 contract with D’Ascenzo Studios of Philadelphia for the construction and installation of the great West Window. It would depict The Christ of the Resurrection as a memorial and tribute to members of the Armed Forces of World War II. The finished project consists of five lancets, the central one depicting an inspiring upright figure of the Christ standing on a mountain. Today, close to 70 years later, the original window remains, with an inscription across the robe of Christ reading, “Lo, I am with you always.”

  • In the three Quatrefoils at the top of the window are, from left to right;
  • the Peacock, symbol of immortality,
  • the Crown, symbol of Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and
  • the Pelican-in-her-Piety, symbol of sacrifice.

Images of the 11 Apostles are sprinkled about the four other lancets that flank the central Christ figure. The inscription at the window’s bottom reads, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It took one year for the glass makers to complete and install the great West Window. It was dedicated during Palm Sunday services the following year, March 30, 1947.

Thursday, March 27, 1980:  “Do you know the difference between a Temple, a Synagogue, a Church and a Cathedral? What is the use and meaning of the Altar, the Sanctuary, the Ark and the Cross?” These were questions that invited congregations to take part in the 20th Annual Larchmont Interfaith Seminar and its house-of-worship tour. Encompassing the theme of “House to House,” participants began at 8:45 am, traveling by bus to four Larchmont houses of worship and listening to different forms of prayer.  The cycle included St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Larchmont Avenue Presbyterian Church, Beth Emeth Synagogue (now Congregation Sulam Yaakov), and St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, where a noon luncheon concluded the travels. Reverend Richard B. Martin, in his 3rd year as Senior Pastor at LAC, served as its host and speaker during the tour’s stop here. Rev. Martin would serve another 17 years as LAC Senior Pastor, becoming the church’s second longest serving Senior Pastor to date.

Sunday, April 5, 1970:  The Reverend Calvin DeVries delivered his first LAC sermon, The Transforming Friendship, at the 9:30 and 11:00 morning services. Called by LAC after an extensive eight-month search that included a 21-member Pastor Nominating Committee, ‘Cal’ became LAC’s fifth full time senior pastor. As reported by the nominating committee, “The Rev. Mr. De Vries (be sure you call him Cal, not Calvin) is Midwest born and reared (Sibley, Iowa), but by no means without experience in the eastern precincts. Though he will be coming to us from the First Presbyterian Church in Danville, Ill., where he has been a senior pastor since 1962, he was, for five years before, pastor of Sherwood Presbyterian Church in suburban Washington D.C.”  The Installation Service was held in the church three weeks later, at 7:30 p.m., April 26, 1970.

Palm Sunday, April 7, 1968:  The pulpit colors on this day were black, for this was a day of national mourning. It was three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Children of the church school participated in the service by processing down the church aisle with palms. They remained for the entire worship service as the church ministers, led by LAC’s fourth fulltime senior pastor, the Reverend Dr. James G. Emerson Jr., shared jointly in delivering The Tear in the Palm:  Sermon of Memorium. An excerpt: “Palm Sunday is always identified with the children, the processions, the waving of the palms and the cheering of the crowds. Yet this year, somehow, the eye is caught by a text that is as much a part of the parade as the palm – ‘When Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it saying, would that even today you knew the things that make for peace.’”

Easter Sunday, April 22, 1984:  At 6:30 a.m., more than 300 folk braved the cold and wind and gathered with one another upon a grassy knoll of Manor Park to celebrate the 20th annual Easter Sunrise Service. The Reverend Richard B. Martin, pastor of LAC, welcomed those who huddled together, in winter coats and scarves, to “this lovely, beautiful place.” Youth representatives from four Larchmont churches, including LAC, St. John’s, St. Augustine’s and Sts. John and Paul, led worshipers in such songs as Morning Has Broken and I Danced in the Morning. As reported, “Music of the hand bell Choir of the Larchmont Avenue Church rang out over water which was choppy, but sparkling.”  At service’s end, congregants shared a “Peace Be with You,” in a communal hand shaking, as they left the park for a light breakfast at St. John’s.

Sunday, April 25, 1999:  For more than a year, LAC had been without a permanent Senior Pastor, following the departure of Reverend Richard B. Martin in the fall of 1997. On this Sunday, the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Freeport, Long Island, the candidate to become LAC’s new Senior Pastor, delivered the worship service sermon, Abundant Beginnings. An abundant beginning indeed it was. Following the morning service, a congregational meeting overwhelmingly approved the recommendation of the nine-member Pastor Nominating Committee to call that Pastor, the Reverend William Crawford, to be the church’s new Senior Pastor. Three months later, Reverend “Bill” would begin serving as LAC’s seventh Senior Pastor, a calling that continues today, fifteen years later. Reverend Crawford was formally installed during a 4 p.m. Service of Installation on Sunday, October 17, 1999.

May 8, 1957:  An invitation was mailed to each member of the LAC congregation. It read:

  • Help Bring to Larchmont
  • Greater Spiritual Understanding
  • by attending the Billy Graham New York Crusade

Referred to as “the greatest spiritual revival in history,” evening “rallies” would take place at Madison Square Garden from May 15 – June 30, six nights a week, with the evangelist Billy Graham preaching. LAC was one of 1400 churches in the metropolitan area, “lending its whole-hearted support to this great movement for spiritual reawakening.” The church had reserved a special section of 50 seats for each Monday and Thursday evening of the crusade and had arranged for bus transportation to and from LAC. All church members, along with friends and neighbors, were urged to attend. “Join this joyous Crusade,” the invitation concluded. “Rededicate yourself to Christ. Bring his love and inspiration back to your community and your family.”

Sunday, May 14, 2006:  It was a Mother’s Day that Douglas Kostner says he can never forget!  During the morning Worship Service, he performed the Offertory Anthem, Rise Up, My Love, dedicating it to LAC as he began his tenure as our new Director of Music.  A 12-member Search Committee had spent eight months, culling through some five-dozen resumes (including a few from abroad), in order to find a replacement for Judith Brown, who had retired as Minister of Music after 25 years. Seven in-person interviews, and auditions, were conducted before Douglas was identified as the top candidate. Armed with a Masters in Music in Organ Performance, he arrived with 19 years of experience in both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches – and in temples – having most recently served at the First United Methodist Church in Stamford. He was heralded as an organist, a composer, and an arranger, and within one year, he would quadruple the size of LAC’s Children’s Choir. But, as today’s Larchmont Symphonia proves, he also brought along a fine expertise in instrumental music!

Sunday, May 17, 1914:  United by faith in their desire to establish “a church in the Reformed tradition,” 40 people gathered at 39 Larchmont Avenue, the home of Miss Emily Earle Lindsley, to form the congregation that would become the Larchmont Avenue Church. Rev. Charles Carhart preached the sermon to the congregants, nine of whom were children; two weeks later, the congregation’s Sunday School would be inaugurated.

Miss Lindsley, an artist and daughter of a Presbyterian minister, had foreseen the necessity for a new church four years earlier as vast areas of Larchmont were being developed by realtors; it took her the four years to convince the Presbytery of Westchester of the community’s need. Subsequent worship services took place in the carriage house of Miss Helena Flint, where a pulpit was improvised from an old newel post that supported a drape-covered drawing board. It all but mirrored the first meeting places for Sabbath worship of the early settlers who had often congregated outdoors, at times under awnings of sails tied to trees, until “time, strength and materials could be spared” for the proper shelter.

May 27, 2008: The story behind LAC’s first female minister!  During a meeting of Session, the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee reported its review of over 100 candidates for the position of new Associate Pastor. The seven-member Committee, elected in November, 2007, had been narrowing the search by conducting 41 phone conversations, while encountering “excellent” candidates. Ten weeks later, during a special Sunday meeting, the Committee would present more than an “excellent” candidate, the Reverend Julie Emery, not only as the day’s worship service preacher, and as new Associate Pastor, but also as LAC’s first female minister! Wrote the Committee: “Reverend Julie Emery comes to us from the Kearsarge Community Presbyterian Church in New London, N.H., where she has served for three years as Minister of Youth and Education. She holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theology Seminary, receiving the Jagow Prize in Preaching and the Bryant M. Kirkland Prize for Excellence in Practical Theology. Strong advocate for service and mission, she is a passionate preacher who seeks to make Scripture relevant in our everyday lives.”

Ordained with the Presbytery of Lake Michigan in 2005, Rev. Emery would be installed at LAC on October 26, 2008.

May 31, 1914:  Mr. Gilbert Terry, who served as its first “superintendent”, organized the Larchmont Avenue Church Sunday School. Two weeks earlier, 40 people had gathered to worship and officially establish the church; nine of the congregants had been children. By the winter of 1914-15, eighty-two children were enrolled in the Sunday School, plus eleven teachers and officers.? They met in a small studio, heated by a large pot-bellied stove. Chairs were arranged in circles for each class, jamming the limited space.  Aware that accommodations were completely inadequate for both a growing Church and Sunday School, and that action should be taken before another winter, Mr. Terry queried in his first annual report:  “But friends, I ask you, if they are all present at once what can we do with them?”  Over the next fifteen years, before a permanent Church structure was in place, the Sunday School population would continue to grow, and to eventually become the largest in Westchester County, all the while meeting in such accommodations as balconies, basements and furnace rooms. And today? Under the careful supervision of Louise Moore Williams, who is serving in her 14th year as Director of Christian Education, our Sunday School is comprised of 126 students and 48 teachers, happily with the furnace room a long distant thing of the past!

June 7, 1914:  The congregation, which had gathered for its first worship service in Miss Emily Lindsley’s home three works earlier, voted unanimously that “formal organization be sought without delay and that the Presbytery of Westchester be asked to organize the congregation as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Presbytery appointed a commission of nine to organize the church. Three weeks later, it met at Miss Lindsley’s home at 3:00 P.M., received letters of members coming from other churches, and six persons by confession of faith. The Larchmonter-Times reported, “In spite of threatening weather, a congregation gathered which overflowed the capacity of the studio, fully a quarter of those in attendance being outside the broad doors, on the porch and under the trees. It was a thankful and a hopeful company when the Moderator declared: ‘I therefore, by the authority of Westchester Presbytery and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ do pronounce and declare that you and your children are now regularly organized as the Presbyterian Church in Larchmont under the Presbytery of Westchester.’”