- About Grace
Icons of Grace: the Dunlop Altar
On June 7, 2016
by Dick Corbet
One of the oldest icons we have at Grace Church is the altar from our original church building (now Eliot Unitarian Chapel at Argonne & Taylor).
This is now the main altar in the Chapel of the Apostles (in the undercroft/lower level at Grace Church).
The altar was dedicated in 1891 in honor of the first rector of Grace Church, the Rev. George Kelly Dunlop.
Finding our first rector was no easy task, according to Grace Church, Kirkwood, Missouri: Its Story, by Shirley and Adele Seifert:
In 1860, soon after the consecration of the new building, the Vestry appointed a committee to… collect money to pay a rector…. “For one year
only,” they specified cautiously.
In June the committee reported that “they had raised $455 with such ease that they believed that $600 could be collected,” and suggested $500 as a salary for a rector.
The first person called declined the job and they had no other prospects for quite some time. H.I. Bodley, Grace’s founding member, continued to serve as lay reader for eleven more years from the time he had started lay reading in his home parlor in 1854. According to church records, Bodley never missed a Sunday in attendance (unless he was called out of town for his insurance business).
Easter Sunday, 1864 was a momentous day. Harry Bodley announced that the final debt of the new building was paid off! It was now time again to try to hire a rector. This time their call was successful, and in September 1864 the Rev. George K. Dunlop from Lexington, Missouri began a long and fruitful pastorate at Grace Church.
The “temporary rector” position became permanent in 1865 and the Vestry began raising money to build a rectory to house the Rev. Dunlop, his wife and their nine children. The Vestry had now also raised his salary to $700 per year. They also set a fundraising goal of $6,000 for the Rectory to be built at the corner of Adams and Taylor.
Over the next few years, the Rev. Dunlop had his annual salary increased to $1,200. He requested another increase in late 1879. The Vestry could not meet his request but agreed to pay him any surplus from the annual budget. Before this roadblock could be resolved, another opportunity arose for our rector: Dunlop was elected Missionary Bishop of the Territories of Arizona and New Mexico at the 1880 General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
The new position was met with mixed feelings from the congregation (Grace Church):
The news must have been a shock to church and parish. After sixteen years, this strong man was as much a part of the church structure as one of its supporting arches. He and his family were part of the town. Only pride eased the pain of parting.
Grace Church was proud. So was the entire community.
Dunlop left Grace after 16 years of service, growing its membership from 50 to 150. He baptized 260 persons and presented 181 for confirmation. He officiated at 47
weddings and 123 burials.
Historical records from New Mexico (Old Santa Fe: 1916) recall Bishop Dunlop’s unwavering sense of mission as he moved his ministry west:
The Reverend Dunlop assumed the duties of Missionary Bishop of the District of New Mexico and Arizona on March 21, 1881. Nothing seemed to daunt him, no distance too far to travel, no difficulties too great to overcome, no weather too severe to stop him. He traveled all over New Mexico and Arizona in carts, on horseback and on foot in all kinds of weather, summer and winter, in the face of Indians, a great financial depression and practically no church facilities or property.
Bishop Dunlop died March 12, 1888 and remains an icon in New Mexico’s oldest Episcopal Church (Old Santa Fe: 1916):
Mourned by all who knew him, he was buried in St. Paul’s Church in Las Vegas, NM (under the Altar). The magnificent Altar there of White Italian marble, with columns of polished Mexican onyx was given in his memory by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Diocese of Missouri.
The Rev. George Dunlop is the first and only Grace Church Rector to be consecrated as Bishop. Diocesan publications recorded the dedication of his memorial altar at Grace Church on Whitsunday, 1891. The beautiful oak altar was given by the ladies of the parish.
Wow – what a double entendre. An icon is typically a painting, but also may be cast in metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth, painted on wood, done in mosaic or fresco work, or printed on paper or metal.
Or in the more modern sense, an icon is a symbol – recognized to be representative of something.
If you look around Grace Church, you’ll find many such icons – symbols representative of something tangible but also the Grace of God.
Perhaps our most recognizable icon is the reredos behind the altar (featured in Bread for the Journey, spring 2015).
This has one of those double entendre meanings: it is a tangible iconic symbol for Grace Church, but also the three units of this sculpture represent the Grace of God:
1) the bread and the wine representing Jesus Christ,
2) the family relationship strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and
3) the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God as symbolized by the eye.