1946 – 1977: The Kring Era

1951 – Jessie Duncan Hayden Wiggin, a sculptor and All Souls member, donated $300,000 to fund the long-envisioned chapel and parish house in memory of her husband, Albert Henry Wiggin. As head of Chase National Bank, her husband was one of the few Americans to profit from the Wall Street crash of 1929 - by shorting 40,000 shares of his own bank. Although not illegal at the time, his actions led to new federal regulations, the Wiggin Act, which outlawed the practice.

1953 – The chapel in Wiggin House was completed.  Although it was part of the original design for All Souls’ fourth building at 80th St. and Lexington Ave., plans for the chapel were postponed during the financial crisis of the 1930s. When it was finally completed, the chapel was smaller than first envisioned, seating only 60 people instead of 75 to 100. Construction of a planned vault underneath the chapel to store parishioners’ ashes had to be abandoned when workers discovered a large, underground rock ledge that would have been prohibitively expensive to remove. Still, the small, simple chapel became a beloved space for weddings, musical performances, Community Choir rehearsals and church-school programs as well as for quiet, private contemplation.

1955 – Rev. Neale resigned and was appointed as Minister Emeritus. The pulpit was offered to the Rev. Dr. Walter Donald Kring, who joined All Souls as a minister under Rev. Neale.

1955 – Walter Donald Kring (1917–1999, ministry 1955–1978) became the eighth minister. Raised Presbyterian in Ohio and California, Walter Kring realized that he was not a Trinitarian when he was an undergraduate at Occidental College in Pasadena.  He got a scholarship to Harvard Divinity School, and while studying there for a doctorate in comparative religion he developed a life-long love for Far Eastern art, particularly ceramics. He built his own kiln in his backyard and made pots with Oriental glazes, one of which won a first prize in the National Ceramic Show in 1954. During the war he served as a Navy chaplain and then led First Unitarian Church in Worcester, MA, before accepting the call from All Souls. He was renowned for his lectures on world religions and for his writings, including his three-volume history of All Souls (Liberals Among the Orthodox, Henry Whitney Bellows and Safely Onward). Active in denominational affairs, he served as secretary of the American Unitarian Association, a trustee of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and president of the Board of Trustees of Beacon Press.  Besides continuing to make ceramics, he created stained glass panels and lightboxes, one of which now hangs in the Forrest Church Gallery.  He retired as minister in 1978.

1955 – Rev. Kring wrote the Right Hand of Fellowship ceremony, underscoring the church’s commitment to freedom of conscience. As part of the service, new members stand on the chancel steps and recite the Bond of Union along with the congregation. But the language of the service, in effect, absolves them of the requirement to subscribe to it, which had been in the by-laws since 1922. The service begins: “This Church is dedicated to religion but not to a creed. Neither upon itself nor upon its members does it impose a doctrinal test.”

1958 – Frederick May Eliot, the President of the American Unitarian Association, preached at All Souls, and died of a heart attack the following morning at the garden gate. He had served as president of the AUA for 21 years and had become something of a symbol of Unitarianism; he was sometimes spoken of as “Mr. Unitarian.”

1958 – All Souls “bought” a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls to be placed in the Palestinian Archeological Museum in Jordan. Following a series of lectures about the ancient scriptures at All Souls, parishioner and mining executive Thayer Lindsley donated $5,000 to be sent to the Palestinian Archeological Museum so that the museum could purchase one of the last pieces of the scrolls still available from dealers, and keep it in perpetuity. The scroll fragment contained the oldest complete copy in Hebrew of the Ten Commandments, which scholars dubbed “The All Souls Deuteronomy.”

1961 – The first woman elected as President of the Board of Trustees of All Souls was Florence McKinley.

1961 - William H. Brewster was honored for 25 years of service as organist and choirmaster.  Mr. Brewster donated a set of English Whitechapel handbells to be used occasionally at morning services.

1961 – The Unitarian and Universalist denominations merged, becoming the Unitarian Universalist Association. The two liberal religious traditions had different origins: Unitarians historically rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, while Universalists took issue with predestination, the idea that some people were damned to hell even before they were born. But the two groups also had much in common, including activism against slavery, segregation, war and child labor and in favor of the women’s suffrage and civil rights. By the mid-twentieth century, leaders of both faiths felt they would have a stronger voice if they merged their efforts, a step that Rev. Henry Bellows had advocated as early as 1865. Noted Universalists included P.T. Barnum and the poet Edwin Markham, who penned the oft-quoted lines: “He drew a circle that shut me out/Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout/But Love and I had wit to win/We drew a circle that took him in.”

 

1962 – Miriam Young Holden (1893-1977), All Souls member and historian of feminism, published The American Woman in Colonial and Revolutionary Times, 1565-1800. She was born in Boston and attended Simmons College. After marrying Arthur Holden, she moved to New York, where she and her husband joined All Souls and had three children. She was active in such diverse organizations as the Junior League, the Urban League, family-planning groups, and settlement-house work. She was on the advisory boards of the Women's Archives at Radcliffe College and the friends of the Columbia University Libraries, and was also a member of the National Council of the National Woman's Party. She created the Miriam Young Holden Library in New York City in order to document the roles of women in history and to help researchers further the cause of women's histories. In 1960, she wrote, “What nobody still seems to know about woman, even at this mid-point of the twentieth century, is the reality of her historic meaning as a potent agent, in creating the patterns of society which are known to history. To reveal woman’s part in the making of long history, is the purpose of my library. I am trying to collect and make available to historians, students, and writers, the records of Woman’s Role in Civilization and show what her political and legal and economic status in various centuries and countries was, and what progress she was able to make in education, science, culture, and religions.” The Miriam Y. Holden collection of 6,000 volumes on women’s history is now housed at the Firestone Library, Princeton University.

1962 – All Souls began a fund-raising drive to add several floors to Wiggin House, to create more room for the growing church school classes. Much of the needed $150,000 came from the John Lindsley Fund, administered by Thayer Lindsley, which matched other donations two-to-one. Another major contributor was church member Lee Adams, who wrote the lyrics to the “Bye, Bye Birdie.” Adams signed over one-quarter of his residual rights to the church and for many years, All Souls received a commission every time the popular musical was performed by theater groups.

 

1963 – The All Souls Players staged its first production, titled “Springtime in Manhattan,” with original music and skits, to benefit the church building fund. The amateur group featuring more than 100 church members and friends went on to perform other plays and musicals including “Fiorello,” “The Pajama Game,” “Gypsy,” “Can-Can,” “Caligula” by Albert Camus, “Saint Joan” by George Bernard Shaw and “Moby Dick—Rehearsed” by Orson Wells.

1965 – Dr. Richard Leonard of Community Church, later associate minister at All Souls, traveled to Selma, Alabama to join in protests on restrictions on African-American voting.  Civil rights demonstrators marched from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery. Three separate protest marches actually took place. At the first, demonstrators were attacked by state troopers with billy clubs and tear gas at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, which became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The second was on March 9, when marchers turned back to await a federal injunction mandating protection for them. That night James Reeb (1927–1965), a Boston Unitarian-Universalist minister who had traveled to Selma to join demonstrators, was murdered by a white mob. When the third march reached Montgomery on March 25 there were 25,000 participants. In his book Call to Selma: 18 Days of Witness, Dr. Leonard recalled that he had headed into a ministers’ meeting March 8 “without the faintest idea that by nightfall I would be in the state of Alabama, and that for the next seventeen days I would be involved in an epic struggle that would fashion the future of our country, and to an extent, the world.”

1965 – The All Souls School was founded. Church leaders thought it was extravagant to add space to Wiggin House that would only be used on Sunday mornings, and the surrounding neighborhood needed a pre-school. A day school committee helped establish an independent nursery school and kindergarten that would lease the space for use during the weekdays. The school opened with 85 children and soon became one of the most popular and prestigious pre-schools in Manhattan, drawing families from all over the city.

1966 – Mary-Sage Mackay Kring, wife of Rev. Walter Donald Kring, became the teacher of the Sunday School’s high school group. It prospered greatly, and grew to several dozen young people. In addition to learning about Hinduism and other religions in depth, they also formed a social club. Sage was a history buff and enjoyed editing her husband’s books.

1967 – In response to recent riots, the UUA Commission on Religion and Race convened an “emergency conference” at the Biltmore Hotel in New York to address race relations both inside and outside the denomination. This began the “Black Affairs” Controversy that erupted at the 1969 General Assembly in Boston. The Black Affairs Council (BAC) was formed and funded.

1967 - Dr. George B. Markey began as Organist and Choirmaster, when  William Brewster retired after 25 years.  Dr. Markey was also director of music at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, and an internationally known organist and professor of organ at the Westminster Choir College and director of the Guilmant Organ School in New York. He was married to concert singer Arletta Jane Page, and served at All Souls until 1976.

1969 – The church celebrated its 150th anniversary with many guest lectures and sermons and a commissioned work for chorus and classical guitar by noted American composer Daniel Pinkham. The celebration also included a gala dinner-dance at the Hotel Pierre, attended by 200 members and guests. At the time, a committee appointed to plan for the church’s future also advocated giving laypersons a greater role in the Sunday service. The tradition was born of having a church member open the service with a welcome and speak for three or four minutes, usually about what drew them to All Souls. “Opening Words” continues to be a cherished part of the service to this day.

1971 - The stained glass altarpiece created by Rev. Kring was moved to the chancel altar, while the debate continued about whether the cross should remain up in the chancel. Rev. Kring preached a sermon that Sunday entitled, “How Religion Can Bind the World Together.” He had designed his altarpiece with a definite philosophy of comparative religion in mind; the ten symbols of the major world religions are touching each other, indicating the great family of mankind. The cross remained in place on the wall above the altar until 1978 while the congregation discussed at length what should replace it.

1971 – Gobin Stair, director of the Beacon Press, along with UUA President Rev. Robert West, approved the publication of The Pentagon Papers for the first time in book form. No other publisher was willing to risk publishing such controversial material. This prompted an investigation of UUA finances by the FBI, leading to a subpoena of UUA accounts.

1974—The All Souls Opera Company debuted, performing Puccini’s “La Boheme” in Friendship Hall.  Formed by church member Trudy Meehan, the company recruited professional opera singers who needed production experience. Later performances included Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutti” and “La Cenerentola” by Rossini. Although well-received, the company could not compete for patrons or ticket sales with the great opera companies of New York and was discontinued in 1976. 

1976 – Mary-Ella Zippel (later Holst) was hired as Director of Religious Education. Ms. Holst had taught church school classes since joining All Souls in 1964. Her passion for teaching, fundraising, research, organization and hard work also propelled her to the top ranks of many other groups, including the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the UU Women’s Federation, the Annie Eaton Society, the All Souls Women’s Alliance and the All Souls Historical Society. Ms. Holst became DRE emeritus in 1987 but continues playing key roles at the church, including giving a series of Bellows lectures on the All Souls ministers, published in book form in 2019 as part of the Bicentennial Celebration.

1976 – Walter Klauss (1936 -- ) succeeded George Markey as Organist and Choirmaster. Later promoted to Music Director and then Minister of Music, Mr. Klauss elevated All Souls’ musical renown to new heights with both classical offerings and innovative arrangements including “Shenandoah,” sung with the choir stationed throughout the sanctuary. He also appeared as an organ soloist and guest conductor at musical festivals around the world, founded the choral group that became Musica Viva NY and helped launch the career of a young soprano who auditioned for the choir named Renee Fleming. Mr. Klauss retired from All Souls in 2014.

1977 – Sandra Mitchell Caron (1935-1999), All Souls member, was elected Moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Sandy Caron, an attorney and Administrative Law Judge for the City of New York, was the first woman to hold the UUA moderator position, the organization’s highest volunteer post. She served in the role until 1985, when she became the first woman to run (unsuccessfully) for UUA president.

1977 – Founding of the Friday Soup Kitchen. This was All Souls’ first feeding program, offering a nourishing lunch, including seconds and take-out, to an ever-growing number of hungry people. Meals have been served every Friday of the year since then, including holidays. It was led for 14 years (1999–2013) by All Souls member, Ashley Garrett. Carole Weiss took over as leader in 2013.

1977 – The All Souls Concert Series, featuring the All Souls Choir and guest instrumentalists, was founded by Walter Klauss. Later known as Musica Viva NY, the critically acclaimed 30-member choir is “driven by the transcendent power of choral and instrumental music … its imaginative programming offers joy, solace and renewal in a complex world,” according to its web site.  Now an independent non-profit organization, Musica Viva NY still consists of the All Souls Choir and performs four concerts a year at All Souls.

© All Souls Historical Society 2020

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Unitarian Church of All Souls

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