History of Advent
Over 140 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. William Babb realized that the children in the neighborhood had no Sunday School to attend. They decided to rent a store room at Barret and Broadway and open such a Sunday School. Little did they dream that it would develop into a parish. On Advent Sunday of 1870, the Rev. Doctor James Craik named it “the Sunday School of the Advent.” After rapid growth, it became evident that the school should have its own building. In spite of facing many obstacles, the Rev. Doctor John N. Norton (husband of the founder of Norton Hospital, Mary Louise Sutton Norton) consented to pay the rent for five years for a lot at 1119-21 East Broadway, if funds could be raised to erect a building. That building was completed in December 1872, and the first service held on the third Sunday of Advent. A parish organization was effected in December, 1873, and the parish admitted into union with the Council of the Diocese in May, 1874.
The modest wooden chapel on East Broadway served its purpose well. The mission Sunday School had become a parish, but for the parish to be permanent and continue the work begun, a larger and better building was needed.
The congregation had little money but much faith. Through kind and generous friends, a lot was purchased and plans were prepared by Frederick C. Withers, of New York City. Ground was broken, and the first spadeful of earth was turned by Mrs. Mary Tyler. Through her contribution to the building fund, supplemented by generous gifts from other members of her family, the building of the new church was assured.
The first rector of the parish, the Rev. Mortimer M. Benton, was largely responsible for the architecture and design of our present church. It is said that he watched almost every stone set in its place. He continued as a faithful and devoted rector for nine years. The cornerstone of the church was laid by Bishop Dudley in 1887, and the first service was held on the second Sunday after Easter, April 15, 1888. By dint of hard work, loving sacrifice, and by a generous gift of Miss Roberta Tyler, the debt of the church was paid off, and the church was consecrated on November 29, 1903.
Soon the need of a Parish House was felt, and the first steps to fill that need were taken by leasing the dwelling next to the church. The late Mrs. Dudley purchased the lot and presented it to the church as a memorial to Bishop Dudley. In 1909 the Vestry and the congregation decided to build a Parish House. They constructed the auditorium and lower floor and retained the front rooms of the dwelling for class rooms and Guild rooms. In 1924, the new front and ambulatory were added. The stained glass windows in the ambulatory depict St. Hilary of Poitiers and had belonged to Bishop Dudley. This is an irreplaceable work of art from the collection of Mr. Willement of London, author of an heraldic history of Canterbury Cathedral.
In 1974, Cherokee Triangle was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and Church of the Advent was listed as “the architectural and historical cornerstone of the district.”
The founders of the Church of the Advent established – over 140 years ago – a good and strong spiritual tradition. We the members are privileged to continue this tradition. Let us renew the spiritual leadership of the founders and provide more opportunities for our children and youth to grow through work and worship in the church.
The Church of the Advent is named for the season of Advent which begins the liturgical year four Sundays before Christmas Day. The word Advent is derived from the Latin word Adventus, which means “coming.”
Inscribed above the doors at the Church of the Advent is a Latin text from Isaiah 7:14: “Ecce Virgo concipiet et pariet Filium” which translates “Behold! A Virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son.” These words remind us of the anticipation of the season of Advent, during which we await the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ into the world. Isaiah continues: “et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel” (and his name shall be called Emmanuel).
The season of Advent calls us as a community to wait expectantly, even without knowing exactly what is coming tomorrow. We have faith that Christ’s coming will be the essence of sanctification for all people.