Strangers and Pilgrims: A Centennial History of the Laymen's Club of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

By Bates, J. Barrington | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Strangers and Pilgrims: A Centennial History of the Laymen's Club of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine


Bates, J. Barrington, Anglican and Episcopal History


Strangers and Pilgrims: A Centennial History of the Laymen's Club of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. By Francis J. Sypher Jr. (New York: Laymen's Club, 2012, Pp. ix, 169. $35.00, cloth.)

Founded in 1908, the Laymen's Club began in the period when worship services at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City were conducted in a temporary chapel in what is now the cathedral's crypt. Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the chapel had previously been one of the most successful and admired exhibits at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. It was disassembled, moved, and reassembled in New York in 1898. After the architect Ralph Adams Cram took over the design of the cathedral from the firm of Heins & La Farge, the chapel fell into disrepair. It was once again disassembled, moved, and reassembled - first on Long Island and later in Winter Park, Florida. It now serves as the keystone exhibit at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, where it is known today as the Tiffany Chapel.

This story is among the interesting historical tidbits chronicled by Francis Sypher in his Centennial History of the Laymen's Club. The club is among numerous similar societies throughout the Episcopal Church in the early twentieth century. These clubs organized nationally under the aegis of such groups as the Seabury Society, the Laymen's Missionary Movement, and the Federation of Parish Men's Clubs. The cathedral was part of a triumvirate of Episcopal institutions to rise in the Morningside Heights section of upper Manhattan Island, St. Luke's Hospital and Columbia University being the other two. Not formally incorporated until 1920, after the Great War, the Laymen's Club established a ten-point charter to "create, promote, and stimulate interest in the influence, growth, and completion of the Cathedral Church" (23). The árdeles of incorporation suggest that members of the club may have considered acquiring real estate or building a clubhouse of their own, but such ideas never came to fruition. …

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