||Tillie and the Church. Circus stories in the village
history, "A Place Called Terrace Park", evoked this whimsy from John R. Yungblut,
Rector of St. Thomas Church from 1939 to 1951, ...... With tongue in
cheek or a salt cellar handy, read on.
This is a story about Tillie, the most
distinguished of the troupe of elephants in the John Robinson’s Circus that
used to have its winter quarters at Terrace Park, Ohio. This unusual
circumstance of a little village annually hosting a circus menagerie
naturally gave rise to many stories. One that does not usually appear in
the canon of accepted tales is the following. Some who know it maintain
that it is slightly exaggerated, but others, while admitting that it is
apocryphal, insist on its authenticity in every detail.
Now Tillie was taken on a
daily exercise walk by her trainer with two other elephants, tail in trunk.
She chanced on more that one occasion to witness the choir of St. Thomas
Church forming to march in procession into the church for worship. After a
time, Tillie conceived an inordinate desire to lead that impressive
procession. After all, she had led the circus parades for years.
Some say an additional
motivation was that Tillie was a feminist and was driven to usurp a role
traditionally reserved for males. But I can’t vouch for that. Anyway, she
finally got up enough courage to confront the Rector with her petition.
Being a pastor with some repressed passion for the theatrical, his active
imagination went into play, and it was not long before he gave his consent.
It was harder to convince the Vestry of the church for permission to depart
from custom in this way, but they were ultimately persuaded on the ground
that the spectacle would increase attendance and consequently enlarge the
Sunday offerings needed to complete the ambitious building plans.
When the Altar Guild was
requested to make the appropriate vestments, there was a temporary negative
stir on the part of those who held that the amount of material required to
vest Tillie would make new cassocks and surplices for the entire choir. But
the voices of dissent were overridden, as most were excited by the
challenge. Moreover, the dissenters were mollified when the decision was
made that Tillie’s voice did not qualify her to sing in the choir, save
perhaps to provide trumpet sounds as a prelude to the Easter Service.
Tillie, meantime, had completely disarmed the other acolytes, who were all
on her side. They did not even object to Tillie serving as the number one
crucifer because it was obvious that with her trunk she could carry the
cross higher that any of them.
alteration had indeed to be made to accommodate Tillie’s girth in the
limited area reserved for the choir stalls, but it was not difficult to
persuade one of the “angels” in the congregation to volunteer the necessary
After some preliminary
dress rehearsals, all was ready for the installation of Tillie as first
string acolyte, crucifer. On this occasion no one was more calm and
restrained than Tillie. She lumbered down the aisle with the greatest
dignity and at precisely the right pace, neither too fast nor too slow, and
in perfect rhythm with the opening hymn. When she came in front of the
altar she genuflected in the most natural, graceful way. After all she had
been trained to curtsey in her circus performances for years.
She always considered the
climax of her part in the service the extinguishing of the candles at the
conclusion of the liturgy. Most of the congregation as well found this the
high point of the ritual. She would genuflect and, on rising, extend her
trunk in a great arc and go whooossshhh, never failing to blow out the
candle the very first try. In crossing to the other side of the altar to
blow out the other candle, she would genuflect again in front of the cross,
before extinguishing the second candle.
Though I am grieved to
tell the end of the story, honesty compels me to do so. After performing
for many years in this manner, “going from strength to strength in the life
of perfect service,” one might say, Tillie grew ecclesiastically ambitious.
She made the crucial mistake of applying to the bishop for holy orders.
Whether or not the bishop felt threatened by her great popularity in the
Diocese, so some conjectured, and despite the fact that St. Thomas’
congregation increase by leaps and bounds, the bishop excommunicated
Tillie. And so it was that this unique service came to an end.
Article in March 1993 Village Views.
||List of Clergy at St. Thomas Church from the book
"St. Thomas Episcopal Church 1876-1976": 1870-1873
*The Reverend Charles H. Kellogg; 1873 The Reverend Thomas R. Street;
1873-1879 The Reverend John Newton Rippey; 1879-1882 The Reverend Thomas
J. Melish; 1882-1885 *The Reverend James Foster; 1885-1886* The Reverend
Samuel Herbert Boyer; 1886-1890 No record; 1890-1892 *The Reverend Harry
Von Glenn; 1892-1896 No record; 1896-1898 The Reverend George E. Edgar;
1898-1901 *The Reverend John Howard Melish, *The Reverend Robert Bonner
Bowler Foote,* The Reverend Lawrence McKendree Idleman, *The Reverend
Thomas Jenkins (30 years later became Bishop of Nevada),* The Reverend
Richard Graham,* The Reverend Charles F. Chapman; 1901-1904 *The Reverend
Charles W. Spicer; 1904-1907 *The Reverend John Haight; 1907-1910 *The
Reverend John Benjamin Myers; 1910-1915 *The Reverend Francis H. Richey;
1915-1917 *The Reverend Guy Emery Shipler; 1917-1921 *The Reverend George
Thomas Lawton, 1921-30 *The Reverend Maxwell Long, 1930-1932 The Reverend
William B. Dern; 1932-1938 The Reverend Thomas Mathers (of Milton
MA. His first parish after graduating from Cambridge Theological
Seminary); 1939-1951 The Reverend John R. Yungblut; 1952-1968 The Reverend
Kenneth Clarke; 1968- The Reverend Robert D. Gerhard. The
Parish was served by many lay readers during the first 50 years. The
men most frequently mentioned were Edwin B. Thayer and Abner L.
Frazier. Associate rectors from 1955 to 1776 were: Peyton Reed,
Emmet C. Smith, Thomas R. Smith, William A Baker Jr., V. Alistair Votaw,
Howard S. Meeks, Frederick P. LaCrone and Jon C. Shuler.
Clergy after Bob Gerhard were Don Waring and Tom
Wray. For more information on St. Thomas Church up
to 1976 refer to the above quoted book. A
complete list of rectors is available here.