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by Ray Allen

Part 2 - The Hannah Sisters

Chapter 5 - Sundays at St. Mary’s

St Marys
St. Mary's Episcopal Church on Oak Street in Milton is one of the town's real treasures. Built in 1867, it was a community project from the very beginning. All the carving and the pews were hand-crafted by a member. All the stained glass windows, the chimes, the organ--each item was donated by parishioners. Today, after over 150 years, the historic furnishings are all treasured, and when something new is needed, a current member steps up to continue the tradition of donations.

On Sundays, we were dressed up and taken to Sunday School, right across the street at St. Mary’s.  We went to Sunday School at our Methodist Church in Miami, and I remember wondering if this church would be different.  The Hannahs had always been Episcopalians, and Grandmother Allen proudly told us why.  Her immigrant ancestor, Matthew Hannah, had been one of the earliest residents of colonial Pensacola, and he was from England.  She explained that The Church of England was called The Episcopal Church in America, and the Hannahs had been important in the Church of England even before old Matthew had sailed to the new world.  We wondered if all this was true, but never questioned her.  She went on about the fact that Matthew Hannah was so important in early Pensacola, that he was asked to translate the official papers when the Florida Territory was handed over or sold back and forth between Spain, France and England. She told us he was the only man in town who could speak and write all those languages. Of course, she was talking about north Florida before statehood, and we were wide-eyed hearing her stories.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Milton was a small gem of a building, and today is a treasured landmark.  What it lacked in size, it made up for with elaborate carving inside and out and really beautiful old stained glass windows.  Jayne and I were taken in, assigned to our age-group Sunday School classes and left on our own to meet the teachers and local kids who were there.  Everyone at Sunday School was very nice to us, and I remember really enjoying it.  One thing I remember vividly is the literature we were handed during the classes. Each Sunday, we got little folders with illustrations and Bible stories that were used in the lessons.  One Sunday, my teacher handed out the folder, and it was all about a saint I had never heard of.  I’ve never forgotten his name, but I’ve also never heard it since: St. Polycarp.  He was some medieval acetic who was shown as a thin bald pious man.  It made an impression on me when the story said something like, “St. Polycarp was a great man, but is less remembered than many of the Saints since his name is not popular today.”  I was sort of sorry for him, but I thought to myself how correct the information was.  I certainly didn’t know anybody named Polycarp. 

St. Mary's

Sometimes, during the week, we walked across to St. Mary’s with one or more of the Hannah sisters so they could do their regular volunteer work.  When it was empty, the church made a big impression on me.  It was silent and plush. There was a definite atmosphere of importance in the air, and I was on my best behavior.  Sometimes we helped arrange flowers for the altar.  But the most interesting thing I remember was one time when Grandmother Allen had been assigned to change the vestments.  She told us that, and of course, we had no idea what she meant.  It meant that she was to change the big velvet hangings up behind the altar.  I learned that certain colors of velvet signaled certain seasons and feast days in the Episcopal calendar, so the proper display of these vestments had to be strictly followed.  One set of colored hangings were for lent, another for Christmas, and so forth. The day I helped her take some of them off the rods they hung from, and then put different ones up, we put up the red ones.  Like all the others, they had gold embroidery on them with the symbols of Christ. They were particularly heavy and beautifully made. We handled them very reverently, and I remember thinking I had participated in a really important job.

Chapter 6: Southern Cooking and Canning, with Help
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Return to Chapter 4: The Food - From Formal to Fish Fry

Copyright 2007 Ray Allen - Used by Permission
3/1/07 L.C.

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