Asylum Hill Congregational Church Re-Dedicated Its Newly Restored Sanctuary

10/06/1985 |

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The church rededicated its newly restored sanctuary at its Sunday service.  The service included a festival procession featuring the choir, organ, handbells and music for trumpet, all under the direction of Richard Einsel.  Daniel George, a tenor soloist, performed “Elijah” by Felix Mendelsohn.  James Kidd led the service, and Bernard Drew returned from Arizona to participate as well.

Neat Little Tidbit

Daniel George was one of the lead contractors on the restoration project.  He had been the soloist at the church for 10 years (not clear when or why he left), and his son Justin was born while he was singing one Sunday at the church.

John Canning, who also worked on the restoration project, had recently completed work on the governor’s office at the State Capitol.

Trust but Verify

The Courant article, which focused on the church’s decision to remain in Asylum Hill, came out the day before the rededication service.  It isn’t likely that anything happened to cancel or postpone the service in the following 24 hours, but still.

Put into context

The rededication of the restored sanctuary was viewed as the culmination of a process begun with a vote taken by the congregation to remain in Hartford, circa 1973 according the article but more likely earlier than that, as Bernard Drew had participated in similar discussions in the church.  The church began a capital campaign to restore the sanctuary in 1980, and that campaign coincided with a vigorous recruitment campaign that appealed especially to suburbanites.  By 1985, the church had raised $250,000 and doubled its membership from 500 to 1,000.

Additionally, Kidd told the reporter that the church now had three full-time ministers and that it was planning to hire a fourth.  This fourth minister would focus on single adults and youth.

Questions to pose

What was Templo Gloria?  The article states that AHCC formed Templo Gloria as part of an outreach effort among the city’s growing Latino population and that it contributed $50,000 annually to support it.  Edwin Marcano had been hired in 1984 to conduct this outreach, but it isn’t clear if he then led Templo Gloria.

Speculating without Facts

James Kidd was bullish in his assessment of the church’s decision to stay in Hartford:  “Many inner-city Protestant churches continue to decline.  Very few are the exception, and we are a dramatic exception.”  It should be noted that his neighbors – Asylum Avenue Baptist Church, the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, and Trinity Episcopal Church – are all also “commuter churches” and that both Asylum Avenue Baptist and Trinity Episcopal considered leaving the city before ultimately deciding to stay.

It is interesting to note that while Drew came back, Walter Wagoner did not – and Wagoner was a lot closer by (Greenwich, I think).  Since Wagoner began the church’s intellectual renaissance, his absence raises questions about whether he ultimately agreed with the direction in which the church headed or not.

Sources

Neyer, Constance, “Asylum Hill Church to Reaffirm Its Commitment to Urban Setting,” Hartford Courant, October 5, 1985, page AB1D.

Asylum Hill Congregational Church

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