On October 19th, 2014, a memorial service honoring the almost 200 individuals interred in the Spring Street Presbyterian Church burial vaults was held at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue in New York City. The individuals were reburied at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and a graveside service was held on June 18th, 2014 at the reburial location. The memorial service on October 19th, 2014, was open to the public. A copy of the program can be viewed here.
The memorial service was held at the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, the custodians of the skeletal and archaeological remains. David Pultz organized the memorial service and gave a eulogy honoring the individuals from the Spring Street vaults and the larger congregation that worshiped there. Additional eulogies were given by Dr. Shannon Novak, Syracuse University, lead investigator on the Spring Street Archaeology Project, and Dr. Meredith Ellis, who studied the children of Spring Street Presbyterian Church for her doctoral research. The eulogies can be found on our blog.
Musical presentations celebrated the diversity of the Spring Street congregation. The service began and ended with a presentation of African drumming by Baba Don Eaton. Ellen Goff Entriken, soprano, and LaMarkus Miller, bass, sang a spiritual and pieces by Mendelssohn and Bach. Elizabeth White-Pultz and Rebecca Stevens sang an acoustic version of the bluegrass gospel, “I’ll Fly Away.” The order of the service can be found in the memorial program.
The memorial service concluded with a sermon by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, from Middle Collegiate Church in New York’s East Village, celebrating the abolitionist past of the Spring Street Presbyterian Church and calling on those present to learn from it. Rev. Dr. Jon Walton (First Presbyterian Church), Rev. Agnes Blackmon (Westminster-Bethany Presbyterian Church), Ellsworth George Stanton III, MBE, KSJ (The Brick Presbyterian Church), and Rev. Krystin Granberg (First Presbyterian Church) also presented readings and the necrology.
A reception in the Great Hall followed where some of the artifacts from the burial vaults were on display. These items included coffin plates detailing the names, ages, and dates of death of the deceased; personal artifacts such as buttons, shroud pins, and a gold wedding ring; and three almost-complete ceramic plates, possibly included in the vaults as grave goods or used by caretakers to fumigate the underground burial vaults. Accompanying this display was an exhibition by artist Cora Jane Glasser, “Beneath The Surface.” The artist’s statement for the exhibition and images of her work are available here.
Video of the memorial service will be featured in an upcoming documentary on the Spring Street Presbyterian Church by David Pultz, ”The Spring Street Story.”
An article about the memorial service was published by the New York Times on October 8th, 2014. The article by David W. Dunlap can be found here.