St. James of Jerusalem
The Muhlenberg Baptismal Font
by John Robson
The baptismal font in St. James of Jerusalem Church, made in 1846, was rescued from the deconsecrated Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion on Sixth Avenue in New York City. This church was founded by the Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg in 1845 as the first “free” Episcopal church in the USA, “free” in the sense that parishioners were not required to pay for their pew seats, as had previously been the custom.
Rev. Muhlenberg founded St. Luke’s Hospital in New York and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Smithtown, L.I. After his death, he was made a saint. After deconsecration of the church, the parish was taken over by the Calvary Church, not far away on Sixth Avenue, then into the hands of Lindisfarne Association, a research collective of artists, scientists, and scholars (1976); then Odyssey House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center (1978); then the notorious Limelight night club (1983); a boutique marketplace (2010) and fitness center (2014 to present).The baptismal font, now safely a part of St. James Episcopal Church in Long Beach, NY is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg.
Seashell Baptismal Font
By Steven Foster and Wendy Goldstein
In the spring of 1973 Dorothy Foster approached Fr. Marlin Bowman about improving St. James’ baptismal font (an oversized commercial soup pot which accepted most babies for partial immersion three times for the Blessing). The good Father recommended possibly a large seashell which would be appropriate since the parish was known as St. James of Jerusalem by the Sea. The “Yellow Pages” revealed a shell shop in lower Manhattan. And, the rest was history giving the young and not so young a unique yet fitting baptismal font. Dorothy and Spencer’s first Grandchild, Meghan Christine, was baptized in the shell font in October 1973.
Circa 1976, Fr. Marlin decided to rescue the baptismal font from the deconsecrated Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion on Sixth Avenue in New York City before it was decommissioned. Hence, our present indoor font is dedicated to the memory of the founder of the Church of the Holy Communion Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg as inscribed on the rim. The Sea Shell Font was moved to the Gethsemane Garden where visitors have been seen blessing themselves with the collected rainwater.