Sunday, November 22, 2015

Remembering American Anglo-Catholicism: Fr. Wetherell and All Saints, Orange

In 1876, a mission of St. Mark's Church was started in an old schoolhouse at the corner of Valley Road and Forest Street. In 1885, the name was officially changed to All Saints (Episcopal) Church. Eventually, the parish purchased land and constructed the church...
All Saints, Orange, NJ, was the first full-fledged Anglo-Catholic church I saw, as Fr. William Wetherell had it.

Walking into All Saints then was my "Russians in Hagia Sophia" experience; it felt like coming home to the church so my religious expression has reflected it ever since. (And the lesson that such semi-congregationalism can be a hedge against liberalism. Fr. Wetherell's church was the same as in 1957, intact after Vatican II.) All the mystery, reverence, and folk religion of Tridentine Catholicism enhanced by things such as the rood beam and seven hanging red lamps. Three altars (big high altar and two side ones), statues and votive-candle stands everywhere, Stations of the Cross, crucifixes, confessionals, and holy-water fonts, jammed into a charming little building originally just late-1800s Protestant Episcopal. Outside, a crucifix on a wall, a statue of Mary, and the church sign announcing Sunday Mass. I think Fr. Wetherell also promoted devotions such as the Green Scapular. It sure wasn't Protestantism, the religion of the Prayer Book, even though it used the idiom of that book; it demonstrated Catholicism in English. Outsiders usually have no idea how close parts of the Episcopal Church came to Catholicism.

Fr. Wetherell was married; maybe if the ordinariate existed in his day, he would have come in.

I saw All Saints again in the late '80s; most of this was gone and it had been Episcopalianized. It's now closed. But arguably Fr. Wetherell's work was done. I have much the same experience at my Sunday Mass, sadly rare in Catholic churches but it's there if you're looking for it. Just like the Episcopal Church in Fr. Wetherell's day.

1 comment:

  1. Living in Essex County, NJ in the 1970s, I attended All Saints, Orange, on a few occasions. At the last, Father Wetherell was 'in choir' and had a guest celebrant. The congregation was very small (daylight savings weekend!). I eventually became a regular for several years at Grace Church in Newark. Years later, in the early 80s, I, along with my wife and children, dropped into Saint Clement's for the early mass in St..John's Chapel. There was Fr. Wetherell at the altar. After mass we went to a nearby diner for breakfast, and Father caught up with us. When we introduced ourselves, I didn't expect him to remember me, but of course I remembered him and his good name as well as All Saints and the old neighborhood. He was kind and gracious, and we all enjoyed his company. Several years ago I read and saw descriptions of statuary, various furnishings, and even some sacred vessels were available. As I recall, perhaps the Parish had closed, or consolidated, and 'Whomever' was selling out. It brought back a bittersweet memory of that good and faithful priest we had worshipped and dined with so many years before. May his soul rest in peace.


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