[Episcopal News Service] When people mark the 100th anniversary April 15 of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Anglicans and Episcopalians will be among them.
Memorial services are planned on both sides of the Atlantic to commemorate the loss of the 1,514 people who died when the ship sank nearly five days after it left Southampton, England on its maiden crossing bound for New York. Seven hundred and ten people survived after the ship struck an iceberg.
In Southampton, Episcopal Diocese of New York Bishop Mark S. Sisk will be a guest of Southampton Bishop Suffragan Jonathan H. Frost at events marking the anniversary. Sisk will preach at the 100th anniversary commemorative service at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Church at 2 p.m. local time on April 15.
On Long Island, New York, at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Sayville the 10 a.m. Eucharist will be dedicated to “in memory of Edith Corse Evans and those aboard the RMS Titanic who perished with her on April 15, 1912,” according to the parish’s website.
Evans and her sister, Lena Cadwalader Evans, often spent summers with their grandfather, Israel Corse Jr., in West Sayville, according to the parish’s April newsletter. The family attended St. Ann’s during their stay. Corse donated the funds with which to build the rectory. Evans had booked first-class passage on the great new liner, RMS Titanic for a quick trip home from a family funeral. She gave her place on the last lifeboat to her cousin, who had children waiting at home, according to the newsletter.
A reception in the parish hall will feature an exhibit of photographs, books and assorted items about the disaster, as well as speakers from the Titanic Society, St. Ann’s Historical Society and the Long Island Wireless Historical Society. Folk music written and performed after the tragedy will also be featured. Refreshments will include some foods which were on the ship’s menu on April 14, 1912.
In Denver, Colorado, the St. Martin’s Chamber Choir will present three concerts titled “Nearer my God to Thee,” including performances on April 14 and 15 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The concerts will include Edwardian-era seafaring favorites, as well as works known to have been performed during the voyage, according to the choir’s website. “Nearer my God to Thee” is said to be the last song played by the ship’s musicians
This weekend’s services will reflect the many memorial events and funerals that took place in the days and weeks after the sinking. For instance, on April 29, 1912 Grace Episcopal Church, Orange, New Jersey, held a service for parishioner W. Anderson Walker, 47, an Englishman who lived in nearby East Orange.
And on the same day, Grace Episcopal Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, held an evening memorial service for Peter R. Renouf, Lawrence Garvey and Clifford and Ernest Jefferys. Renouf and Garvey were communicants of the parish and the Jefferys (ages 22 and 24, respectively) were brothers of Renouf’s wife, Lillian. They were both from Guernsey on Britain’s Channel Islands and were second-class passengers. Renouf, 33, was a carpenter in Elizabeth, and he and his wife were also second-class passengers.
Lillian, 31, had been rescued from the Titanic and attended the service, according to a newspaper article. It is said that 90 percent of the men in second class died due to a “women and children first” protocol that left them without seats in the lifeboats.
On May 4, 1912, a funeral service was held at Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Rhinebeck, New York, for John Jacob Astor, 47, the financier and real-estate developer who died in the sinking. His wife, Madeleine, 18, survived. Astor had been warden of the Rhinebeck church for sixteen years.
In New York, the mission of the Episcopal Church-affiliated Seamens Church Institute intersected with the loss of the Titanic. April 16, 1912 had been set for the laying of the cornerstone for a new SCI building on land at Coenties Slip in lower Manhattan, according to SCI Archivist Johnathan Thayer.
The ceremony proceeded as planned, with speakers making last minute edits to their speeches to address the tragedy, Thayer wrote recently. SCI took up a collection to donate to the victims’ families and dedicated two of the new building’s bedrooms in honor of the Titanic’s crew.
On April 18, the PMS Carpathia reached New York City’s Pier 54 with the Titanic’s survivors, including more than 200 crew members. The American Seamen’s Friend Society hosted the crew, and SCI staff assisted in the distribution of clothing and toiletries to replace the items lost in the wreck, Thayer said. Men received a full suit of clothes, boots and a cap, as well as a razor and comb, while the 20 surviving stewardesses received complete outfits. SCI helped provide refreshments and led a simple church service to mourn the friends and co-workers who did not make it back to shore.
One year to the day after the Titanic’s sinking, SCI dedicated the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse on the roof of its completed 12-story headquarters at 25 South Street. The Lighthouse remained until 1968, when SCI moved its headquarters to 15 State Street and the old building was demolished. SCI donated the lighthouse to the South Street Seaport Museum, which installed it on the corner of Fulton and Water streets. Today, SCI is headquartered in the Port of Newark.
An online exhibit of SCI materials related to the Titanic’s sinking is here.
It is said that the Rev. Thomas Roussel Davids Byles, an Anglican priest turned Roman Catholic, became a hero after the Titanic struck an iceberg off Newfoundland. According to the Canadian Anglican Journal, his sermon during mass for second-place passengers hours before the sinking concerned the need to have a “lifeboat in the shape of religious consolation at hand in case of spiritual shipwreck.”
After the collision, Byles, 42, was seen helping third-class passengers up the stairs and into the boats, hearing confessions, granting absolutions, encouraging those being lowered down to the dark Atlantic and praying with the doomed. He was allegedly twice offered a seat in a lifeboat, but he refused and went down with the ship.
Byles was on his way to New York to officiate at the wedding of his younger brother, William.