The Revd Peter Thompson, visiting from St Bart’s NYC, shares some of the connections with St James’s as we form a friendship and link parishes.
In 1905, a young British musician with Polish heritage was serving as Organist and Choirmaster at St James’s when an upstart congregation from New York—only seventy years old!—poached him to become their Director of Music. Leopold Stokowski’s move from London to New York is likely the first documented connection between St James’s, Piccadilly and St. Bart’s, Manhattan. I might be inclined to apologize for stealing Stokowski from you, but he didn’t stay with us for very long either. In 1908, he departed St. Bart’s for non-church endeavors, eventually becoming the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and one of the most famous conductors in the world.
We were surprised to learn of the Stokowski connection several months into us envisioning a link between St James’s and St. Bart’s, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been. There are many connections between St James’s and St. Bart’s; we seem to be natural fits with one another. Like us, you occupy an architecturally significant building that is located at a prominent address in the center of a major city. Like us, you have historical ties to the established elite but also a strong commitment to welcoming all. Like us, you take important stands on the issues of the day. Like us, you are intellectually inclined, appreciate the arts, and care deeply for those in need. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been struck again and again by how much we have in common.
What’s next? We’re still figuring out what to do with this link or partnership or friendship. At my presentation after this past Sunday’s service, we talked about setting up some kind of joint online gathering for the two congregations to meet. We might read a book together or hear from a speaker. There will likely be more trips between London and New York—both official and unofficial. (Please know that you are welcome anytime!) Our Garden Committee and your Food for the Ecozoic initiative are already talking about ways we can collaborate.
Whatever happens, I’m excited. You all have embraced, educated, and inspired me during my short time with you this September. I look forward to sharing what I’ve experienced here with St. Bart’s—and to what’s next for both of our communities!