RIP: The Rev. John Andrew, former rector of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue

Posted Oct 17, 2014

ens_101714_johnAndrew[St. Thomas Fifth Avenue] The Rev. Canon John Andrew, faithful priest and XI rector of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, entered into glory at 5:20 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, Oct. 17 at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

On Wednesday evening, Father Andrew had dinner with Bishop John O’Hara, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. On his way home, Father Andrew suffered a massive cardiac episode and collapsed. He was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital but never regained consciousness.

Father Carl Turner, XIII Rector, celebrated the last rites of the church with Father Andrew Thursday afternoon. Father Andrew was not in pain and was receiving exemplary care. He was surrounded by many prayers and much love as he died.

Bishop O’Hara told us that he had a wonderful evening with Father Andrew; he was reminiscing with great happiness and especially about Saint Thomas Church. Very appropriately, he died furthering ecumenism and feeling loved by his friends and family.

Details of his funeral arrangements will be posted here in due course.

Andrew OBE, DD, who was born in Yorkshire, England, was a priest in the Church of England and served as domestic chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, a position from which he was called to Saint Thomas in 1972. As XI Rector, he had a distinguished tenure, in which his preaching, pastoral presence and leadership of the liturgy drew large congregations to the Church, an achievement especially notable during an era of general decline in the Episcopal Church. He was awarded honorary degrees from several Episcopal/Anglican seminaries in recognition of his work.

John Andrew was a friend and confidant of many church leaders both within and outside Anglicanism. He was a particular friend of Cardinal Terence Cooke and was a promoter of ecumenical relations between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

Father Andrew’s ministry was remarkable for his ability in social conversation, humor, and joyousness – for which reasons many were eager to claim him as their friend. The secret of his influence was a gift he received and passed on from Archbishop Ramsey – namely, his transparent faith in Jesus and the miracles of the Gospel.

After a brief retirement to England, Father Andrew returned to New York in 1999 where he eventually returned to Saint Thomas at his successor’s invitation to be the “junior curate” as Rector Emeritus. In this role he took part in the liturgy, in social conversation with parishioners, and in fund raising. He departs this life as a beloved member of the Saint Thomas family for over 40 years.


Comments (20)

  1. Livingston Prescott Humboldt IV says:

    May flights of angels take him to his eternal rest with the saints in glory! Fr. Andrew was a great priest, a great preacher, and a warm and gracious human being. I think he is responsible for much of the glory that is St. Thomas today. I remain a great admirer of his and have fond memories of the times I was able to be at St. Thomas during his time as rector. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

  2. David M. Lowry, HonRSCM says:

    Father Andrew was, among so many other things, a masterful supporter of music in the church. He graciously served the establishment of the Royal School of Church Music in America, welcoming Eric Routley as guest and president of RSCMA, and after Routley’s death agreed to be the President of RSCMA for a number of years. His devotion to Dr. Gerre Hancock and the all the rest of us who worked valiantly to ensure RSCMA obviously paid off. His commitment and humor was always an inspiration to the greater cause of music and liturgy in The Episcopal Church. He proudly accepted the award of HonRSCM, an award few of us have. We shall miss him and praise God for the gifts of ministry he gave us.

  3. Danielle A, Gaherty says:

    JA as I learned to call him for the many years I was a parishioner and friend of St. Thomas was a dear friend and elegant priest. I first came to St. Thomas on Easter Sunday, 1977, after many years as a lapsed RC and discovered the God I had longed for. I learned there was a place for me and others who needed to question and study and find a way to worship that reflected the glory of Christ as King and the personal Jesus that I sought, I had a deep longing to find a way to Jesus that was both beautiful and deeply provoking. JA showed me just such a way. As I continue to deepen my faith and participation in the Diocese of Connecticut, I realize that it all began with his sermon on that Easter Day. I will miss him deeply.

  4. Robert M. Quade, FRSCM, President Emeriis of RSCMA says:

    Fr. John Andrew was a giant in the world of church music, a voice from the pulpit of St. Thomas Church, a leader of the Royal School of Church Music, a great supporter of the Choir School at St. Thomas and Gerre Hancock, Master of the Choristers at St. Thomas Church for many glorious years. He was in many ways my personal ‘long distant’ pastor and I will miss him so greatly. May throngs of angels greet you in your heavenly home and enjoy the fellowship they will have with you my dearest friend.

  5. Jake Lathrop says:

    Fr Andrew had an outstanding ministry, which I particularly valued during many weekends in the Big Apple and especially when I was fortunate to live there for a year or two, and worship at St Thomas’s several times a week.

    I wonder if most of us could remember even one of the hundreds/thousands of sermons we have heard over the years? Fr Andrews’ sermon on Easter Day in the mid/late 70’s has never left me: he spoke of the Resurrection not as an event that occurred of significance primarily to church folk, with its many ramifications for history, the church, the faith and so on – but as a living, breathing truth that continues to this day.

    I so recall his sonorous, frank voice, full of faith, giving examples of that continuation – a marriage grown stale whose partners find new strength and fresh love; an addictive situation where the victim can overcome his quick-to-grave journey and enjoy new life; the rediscovery of a deep friendship that had foundered on the shoals of geographical separation or casual neglect.

    His examples were far more eloquently phrased and many than the few I have paraphrased, but their power was enormous for me, and for several unchurched friends who had basically “come for the show.” And of course that day of days is indeed quite a show at ST5A!

    I think it was Dom Gregory Dix who towards the end of the famous passage that concludes “The Shape of the Liturgy” wrote of Chloe, an Anatolian Christian in the early AD whose burial place was marked that “she found Jerusalem.” Dom Gregory reflected that how wonderful it would be if, centuries on, our lives had been such that our friends and neighbours would not have doubted that we too had found the Heavenly City.

    I feel sure that few whose lives he touched for good doubt today that John Andrew of blessed memory has arrived at Salem. It is a comfort to remember that there he will be united with the great +Cantaur, Michael Ramsey, whom he served prior to coming to ST5A, and whom he loved and to whom he referred in most (it seemed to me) of his sermons. Jesu Mercy, Mary Pray

  6. Fr. Gaylord Hitchcock says:

    A great priest has been lost to the Church Militant here in earth. Father Andrew was a great priest and preacher whose extraordinary leadership of St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue, raised that parish to hitherto unimaginable heights of glory. I remember also a wonderful retreat for priests he led, using as his basis “Children’s Letters to God.” He was an extraordinary priest and Christian gentleman whom I was privileged to count as a friend and priestly brother for many years. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

  7. David Gutteridge says:

    It was my privilege to work at the Choir School of St Thomas, Fifth Avenue, at the end of the 1970s on secondment from Chichester Cathedral for a year. Fr Andrew had already established an extraordinary ministry to New Yorkers and ex-patriate Englishmen and women alike. He was always kind to me, intellectually rigorous in his preaching and his leadership, pastorally astute, and generous to his friends and to his staff. Like his Chichester colleague Canon Roger Greenacre, John’s role in restoring positive relationships between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches locally and between Lambeth Palace and the Vatican (over recent years through a friendship with Cardinal Tauran) must have pleased Our Lord who prayed that his people might be one. May he quickly be raised to the eternal banquet.

  8. Don Lundquist says:

    “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Farewell dear John in your rising to glory with the saints in Heaven. With our best love for nearly 40 years together in comradery, both in Church and also in the Venerable Order of St. John, Joe Walsh and Don Lundquist

  9. Fr. Paul Clayton says:

    Fr. John was a most gracious priest and friend, whether at his altar, in his pulpit, at Diocese of New York Ecumenical Commission meetings while he chaired its Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, or at our rectory dining room table, or aboard our sloop sailing with my wife and me on the Hudson River. We shall deeply miss the joy of his life and faith, and his total commitment to Anglican – Roman Catholic dialouge and reunion. May he rest in God’s peace and rise on the last day in God’s glory.

  10. Harry W Shipps says:

    I am one of those who want to claim Father Andrew as a friend. In addition to being a Man of God, he was a wonderful host and a splendid cook. When I think of St. Thomas Fifth Ave. I will always think of Father Andrew. God Bless.

    +Harry W Shipps

  11. Edward Gill says:

    I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Father John Andrew when I tuned into the St.Thomas’ webcast today. I wrote to him recently to wish him a happy retirement and tell him what an inspiration his sermon have always been to me; his sermons were unrivalled. I received a typically warm reply which ended ‘we must meet and eat’ . Sadly, I shall never have the pleasure of either meeting him or enjoying a meal with him, but I recorded several of his memorable sermons which will continue to be a comfort and inspiration. We thank God for his life and pray that he will rest in peace.

    Edward Gill Cardiff UK

  12. Rev. C. Lynn Bailey says:

    Fr. John Andrew was my liturgical and preaching mentor. He stood his ground against the entertainment evangelism that continues to damage the Body of Christ. I asked him what would happen. He replied: “The Church of Jesus Christ will be bruised but it will never be broken. ” He has helped so many of us to stand firm and “worship in the beauty of holiness”. I last saw Fr. John when he honored me by attending my retirement party from Lutheran ministry. Thank you dear friend.

    Rev. Dr. C.Lynn Bailey

  13. John Brancati says:

    Fr. John Andrew is the reason why I joined the Episcopal Church. He always preached a positive message and showed great love for all. He will be missed by many.

  14. Patrick Wood says:

    I met Fr John Andrew (who I only ever knew as John) when I was 15 in 1965 when he attended Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Oak Hill College in London where my father (later Bishop Maurice Wood of Norwich) was Principal. He was kindness itself and a year later included me in a party to The Royal Opera House Covent Garden to see Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in the Royal Ballet’s production of Giselle. In 1970 I joined the Rambert School of Ballet in London and John continued to encourage my work thereafter as a Ballet Dancer (which led to my dancing with both stars) and in recent years as a teacher. He believed in me. I telephoned him in the summer and out of the blue felt impelled to ask him if he had written anything to which he replied ‘No not as an autobiography or anything.’ Then, diffidently, ‘I do have a book of sermons’ ‘Send it, please!’ in a couple of days I received the book ‘The best of both worlds’ (Eerdmans) filled with his wise witty and profound words. John died on my 65th birthday. We had been friends for 49 years. I am blessed to have known him and will treasure the book for the rest of my life.

  15. Guy Sands-Pingot, Brigadier General, US Army (Ret'd) says:

    A Remembrance and Tribute to My Pastor:

    I was but a young college student in New York City during the later part of the 1970’s when by chance after attending Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on a Saturday evening in October 1977, I wandered over to Rockefeller Center and then saw the masterpiece of Gothic architecture which is St. Thomas’s Church. As I led a triple life as a college student, and ROTC Cadet during the week and a (not terribly accomplished) church organist on the weekends, I had heard about St. Thomas but never had the chance to enter inside. On that evening, I finally resolved to cross within its imposing doors. Once inside, I fell in love with everything it displayed, and as a Roman Catholic raised with the Latin Mass in my very early years, immediately felt at home. From within the sanctuary, I heard the magnificently sublime sounds of Gere Hancock playing on the massive organ console. More than that, a service was taking place, and although I felt shy since I was not a part of the congregation (and not an Episcopalian) I quietly slide into one of the pews near the rear and listened to the Celebrant in front of the massive altar speak in the most perfect of Oxford English.
    Looking at the program I saw the name of the Rector, the Reverend John Andrew. I was immediately drawn to the church, the service, and the man who brought it all together. Over the next 20+ years, I went back repeatedly to St Thomas in order to hear, see, speak with and get to know Fr. Andrew. In the truest sense, he became my personal confessor and pastor though I never formally became a parishioner of St. Thomas. Even while on active duty with the Army throughout the 1980’s and after that well into the 1990’s, I repeatedly returned to New York–usually during the Christmas Holiday season or even at other times. And for each time, if I could, I would attend Divine Services at St Thomas because of the beauty of the liturgy, the music, but most importantly the message that Fr Andrew conveyed in his homilies. His sermons were never boring or hum-drum. Rather, in his high and precise and confident Anglican voice, he fearlessly spoke to us all about the true meaning of being a Christian.
    During those years I was in New York City for the Christmas Holidays, I would most look forward to attend the Christmas Eve mid-night service he led. And of course, the splendor of the season was never brighter, nor more evident than in the warm cavern of the apse of St Thomas. And always I went because Fr Andrew was present, and always I looked forward to his famous Christmas Parable that he would tell amidst a circle of as many children who could gather in front of the great alter surrounded by soaring lighted fir tree and wreaths; and sitting in their midst Fr. Andrew would recount the story of the little donkey that had carried the Virgin Mary during her final days of being great with child along with her espoused husband Joseph the carpenter; and how that little over-burdened donkey came to hear from more powerful and important animals present around the rude stable in which the young maiden had given birth to what the great animals assembled would snort and sniff at the new born child with words such as his being “quite an ordinary child”; but those great beasts became excited when they heard from the assembled sheep that a King had been born in Judea that night; and that amongst their chatter on hearing this news, each great beast sought to put themselves forward as the most important animal the new King would need—as a King, he would need the strength of the ox to move the great supplies of his armies, or the speed of a war-horse to lead his warriors, or the endurance of a camel to carry his conquering forces across the expanses of deserts and mountains…but when the small, insignificant donkey tried to join in their chatter, they laughed in derision at him and nudged him aside saying, “go over to be with that small, poor, insignificant and puny baby laying in a crib” of straw in the rude and cold manger and away from their circle; and so, as Fr. Andrew would recount, that small, insignificant donkey went to look through the opening of the stall where the child lay with his Mother and afterward went to stand on guard outside, never to know that it would be on the back of one of his kind that the True King would enter into His City some 30 years later, never needing the strength of all the oxen in the world, nor all the proud steeds that rode, or all the sturdy camels who trod vast distances in order to conquer and win the hearts of those whose souls he filled with Peace and Love.
    My recounting this simple but profound story does no justice to the manner and way Fr. Andrew presented it, and the way the congregation and most of all the children on every Christmas Eve he told it received it, and how they showed their delight at his telling; and as we all left those remarkable Christmas Vigil Services to go back into the cold winter night, we left knowing that the love of Christ had entered our hearts through his servant John Andrew.
    But Fr. Andrew was far more to me than that. In the truest sense, he was my Pastor—as he was to so many others whom he adopted through his care and concern for their well-being. During the several years I came back to live on and off in New York in the early 1990’s I sought him out and through his intercession I was admitted and welcomed into The Venerable Order of St John–as a quite unremarkable and insignificant young member, and yet, because he took the time to welcome me and sponsor me, I have stayed faithful to the opening of this great Order and to its great work ever since. Likewise, I can recall that at an earlier time of my life, perhaps twenty years ago, I thought seriously about marriage to a young lady, but I was troubled whether I should enter into such an estate, and so I was racked with uncertainty as to whether to proceed with such a sacred vow. So I sought his counsel, and again he took the time to welcome me into his office in one of the towers of the Rectory and he told me words I never forgot — “to enter into marriage with someone, you will know that it is the right person when you ask your soul the question that the person you wish to marry is the person you wish to spend the rest of my life with–and then you will know once your soul gives you the answer”. I followed that advice and did not marry at that time for the answer that came back to my soul was that this was not the person that I could say that above all else I wished to spend the rest of my life. Yet, eventually I waited until I found — through the grace of the Holy Spirit and with the memory of Fr Andrew’s voice and words in my mind — the lady who joined me in the sacrament of marriage.
    Fr. John Andrew was the role model of what a militant Christian Pastor should be – not through sword, but as the Arms of St Thomas reads, O Lord, My Soul Is Ready. It was not the splendor of the Christmas Services or the pageantry of Easter Sunday that is most memorable to me in his role as the Rector of St Thomas, rather it was the annual period of his Lenten journey that took all of us from Ash Wednesday when he would press the rough ashes of burnt palms and oil onto our foreheads with the admonition that “from ashes you came–to ashes you will return” that brought tears to my eyes due to the absolute finality of its meaning — No one who received that blackened cross upon their foreheads from Fr. Andrew’s powerful thumb could not but be moved to consider the fragility of our lives on this Earth. And it was as yesterday that I learned the true meaning of the Passion of Our Lord through the austere and most moving rendering of the Tenebrae Service held in St Thomas on the evening of Maundy Thursday every year he was Rector. Starting at half past 5 in the evening, we as congregants would enter the Church which was only dimly lit save the lights on the main altar. And as the Service proceeded to the finality of the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, Fr. Andrew would remove his vestments and setting them aside after the reading of the Passion, and then vested only in a simple linen robe, and without saying anything further, he would proceed to strip all the finery off the altar, and when this was accomplished he would take a hand full of palm fronds and savagely scrub the bare stone of altar, throwing down the used palms to the floor. And then in the silence of that great Church, one could hear a deep rumbling coming from the trains of subways deep below the foundation of the church could be heard. And then as the final words of the Service were spoken by Fr. Andrew there would be darkness as the final candles would be extinguished, save one which was removed to be hidden and protection. And then in the darkness of the great cold church, a terrible noise would be made by the Choir by banging their hymnals and stomping their feet…symbolizing the earthquake that followed Christ’s death. With that loss of hope of the Light of Mankind, we all exited silently into the cold night and uncaring streets of New York – No one, no other Pastor brought the meaning of the Passion of Jesus closer to his congregation than John Andrew. And though his life was one of great triumph and reward, it was also one of pain and suffering – but as a Christian, he never wavered or blamed those who came and viciously beat him to near death some 10 years ago, rather he took that beating as a form of supplication because he too shared in the pain and suffering of so many others whose beatings go unnoticed, whose voices have not been heard, whose hearts have not welcomed the message that all life is sacred and undeniable from the moment of conception until the moment that life is taken by God.
    Like all of us made by God, John Andrew was born and lived with imperfections, but it is the perfections of his life that I will always remember, and hope that in some distant day, I shall be again graced by the warmth of his soul’s presence when the time allotted to me on this earth is spent. Farewell Fr Andrew – I know you are praying for us all here as you did constantly and with such love and devotion.

    1. Viscount Davidson says:

      That is as fine a tribute to my friend JA as one could hope for and certainly not expect. He was an inspiration to all who knew him and a wonderful counsellor to my wife and myself over the many years we knew him, staying with him in Park Ave and being looked after by wonderful Bonny. We both loved Collecting and his knowledge of Chinese Armorial Porcelain exceeded mine. We shall all miss him but live with the memory of a fine disciplined mind and conduct to match. RIP.

  16. Bill Russell says:

    It is fitting that Mr.Andrew died having dined with a Catholic bishop. In conversations one had a sense that he wanted to die in the Catholic Church. It is unfortunate that he died too suddenly to do so. He devoted much time to Anglican-Catholic ecumenicism and it must have been difficult for him that he lived long enough to see that collapse.

  17. Canon Derrick Walkden says:

    My recollections of John go back beyond his time in the United States. We worked together for a number of years, when he served in the Diocese of Blackburn, England, as the Vicar of Preston, and for a time Area Dean.
    John was a well loved and respected priest, serving Our Lord faithfully, and sharing himself with those he ministered with and served in so many way.
    We are all richer for having known John, may he rest in peace and rise in glory.

  18. The Rt. Rev. Anthony F. Rasch says:

    I was greatly saddened today to learn of the death of a very dear friend Fr. John Andrew. We first met over dinner in Los Angeles at a Mexican restaurant hosted by a mutual friend. He was ever so kind to this then newly ordained priest! During one of his many trips to the U.S., I invited him to preach where I was serving as Vicar of a mission congregation. A judge of the Orange County Superior Court and his elegant wife were members. She was of sweet disposition, but knew nothing of John’s clerical history, and apparently must have been otherwise distracted during the brief introduction I gave of him before he ascended the pulpit. John was wearing a beautiful and prestigious enameled gold Greek Cross which was a gift of honor bestowed upon him of recent by Metropolitan Athenagoras, the then-Patriarch of Constantinople. After Mass, I asked her if she had enjoyed hearing Fr. Andrew’s sermon. She replied that, ‘Someday that young man will truly amount to something!’ I will never forget John’s howling laughter when I informed him of her comment. John never took himself so seriously that he could not enjoy a good laugh at himself – but was always deadly serious in matters of the Faith. John, may the angels bring you into the Holy Light to be with Blessed Mary and all the Saints, and all of those who have gone before, and whose lives you so kindly touched and enriched.

  19. Prof Charles Shaw FRSA FRSPH says:

    This is difficult to write because I wish John Andrew peace and wellbeing and am aware he could be kind friendly and helpful, but he did like the high church and as a Prestonian I am only too aware of how he was an agent of change and admnistrator of actions under the Redundant Churches Act 1972. To this extent he did not understand Anglican Protestantism in the great town now City of Preston. He did the Archbishop and Diocese bidding more than the people’s bidding. As a Yorkshireman he did not adjust to grass roots Lancastrianism nor to working class Anglicanism with a prote4stant base which had suffered years of Catholicism. He could not either grasp or wish to grasp the needs of communities whose church and families and services of the word where more important than his Eucharist. Not to see his as the most important of appointments was a mistake which he made a town pay for but it is good to see the level of support and popularity. he attained in New York. May he rest in peace.

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