By Robert L. Howie, Jr., Historian Emeritus and Chair, Tercentenary Committee
All Saints Day
November 1, 2015
More than 50 years ago the idea was proposed of erecting a steeple to replace the one that graced St. Michael’s from 1714-1793, when it was taken down, bring rotten. A decade ago the idea of a new steeple fired our imaginations as we began planning our 300th anniversary and our fourth century.
With the erection of the steeple, a cherished wish for many has come true, and what is old is new again. It is and will remain the most visible of our 300th anniversary gifts to ourselves, and a landmark in the Marblehead skyline. On a practical level, it will make it easier for people to find us, which has not always been easy.
While the new steeple more accurately reflects the exterior appearance of the original church, the motivation was not to look back to the 18th century, but forward into the 21st and beyond. The steeple is less historical than aspirational, an outward and visible symbol of our mission to proclaim the Gospel and to seek transformation in God’s grace.
A steeple is often the first thing you see of a church from a distance, which is intentional. A steeple reminds the faithful not only of where they should go to worship, but also that they should worship. It is part of its function. If you can see the church, then the church—and God—can see you; the steeple implies that you are safe within the protection of the church. It draws our attention upward, towards Heaven, and to God. While the weathervane has a civic function—telling us the wind direction, it also has a religious one—reminding us of God’s presence in every direction, and the extent of his creation. It also reminds us that whichever way the wind blows, we will not be blown off course, as the church is our anchor to windward.
And so it is fitting that on All Saints Day we conclude our 300th anniversary celebrations with the lighting of our steeple, a bookend, if you will, the last act of our Tercentenary. We would like to thank Steven Rosen, lighting designer; Andy Robinson, electrician; Ed Nilsson, project architect; and Jean Howe, whose generous gift enabled the installation of the lighting.
The steeple helps us communicate and proclaim to the wider community and beyond why we exist, what we believe, who we are, and to welcome one and all to this House of God. We celebrate our past as a source of continuity and strength, our present as we live out the Gospel in this place, and with the church as our foundation, joyfully set our course for the future.