A TOUR OF ST. ANDREW’S
I am sure many of you have given tours of your home to friends and family members when they visit for the first time. It’s exciting to tell people what changes you have made and things you have done to make your home just the way you wanted it. Well, that’s the way I feel when I talk about St. Andrew’s.
Over the years I have conducted many walking tours, given talks and written a lot about our church but it has been a few years and many of you are new. It might be time to take that walk again. Over the next few weeks on the Sundays that I am the verger I would like to take you through different areas of St. Andrew’s. I want to tell you how and why the rooms were built the way they are, what changes have been made and interesting things that have happened in the past 110 years.
Let’s start as your walking to the front door. A hundred years ago you would have been standing on a dirt street, with a small grassy area to the front of you and sand stone steps leading to the red doors. The wall, sitting area, and iron railing were only added about ten years ago. I must tell you that those things did cause me to get into a bit of trouble. At the time we were doing a large landscaping project. These were changes on the original landscaping plans and required a permit which I forgot to get, since work had already started I got called before the historical review board. As I entered the room trying to figure out how I’m going to explain this. I looked around to see a priest, two deacons, three lawyers and the whole vestry behind me, we got our permit. The stone steps we use now are a fairly new addition, after over a hundred years the original sandstone steps had become very worn and uneven, they are now the foundation for the new paver stones.
The front doors are the original ones built in John Phillips factory, which was located just about a block from here. The red color, we use burning bush red, is a traditional color for many church doors. It marks the holy ground that lies just beyond those doors. It is really like a billboard telling people that beyond those doors there is a peaceful and holy place, a place of refuge.
As we go through the doors we are now in the narthex, which means an entrance hall or gathering space. It’s a little small but it does seem bigger since a few things have been taken out. This area is just the beginning, on the original plans, this front section of the church was called a battlement tower, but since the bell was installed it’s called the bell tower. Our bell tower is about forty feet high from the ground to the highest stone. Two rooms are above the narthex, that’s where the funny little steps go. The first is just an open area and then you go up a ladder to the bell room.
The second floor of the bell tower has always brought up some ideas of what it was used for. Some say it used to be the rector’s office but it was never used for this purpose. Although I have told three rectors that is where their office was but they never believed me. Others have said it was a room for a sexton that took care of the church furnace but this wasn’t the case either. Then I was asked if the vergers slept there. I responded that unlike Quasimodo we do not sleep in the bell tower but it would be nice to have a place to take a nap when I’m here all day.
The third floor is the bell room. It is interesting that even though this room is about twenty-four feet above the first floor it is about four inches larger in length and width. This is because as the tower got higher smaller stones were used. You would think that a church would have plans for a bell when it was being built but that wasn’t the case at St. Andrew’s. Our bell wasn’t installed until October 12,1975. Father Ron Lynch, the vicar at the time, saw a need for a bell and asked a long-time member, Edith Jones, to consider purchasing one. A 29-inch, 500 lb. Brass bell was ordered from the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore Maryland. It arrived in May and sat in the front yard about six months until the men of the church figured out how to get it up three stories. After cutting holes big enough for the bell to fit though and installing timbers for the bell to sit on, a block and tackle was used to pull the bell up to the top floor. Our bell is rather unique because it has two clappers. A regular clapper that the bell hits when it is swung, that is what you hear every Sunday and a tolling hammer that hits once with every pull of the rope. It is used for funerals, on Good Friday and other special events. Now when you come in to the narthex and look up you will know why the wood panel is there.
The next time we will talk about the Nave.