50th Anniversary Celebration a Triumph
A weekend filled with fascinating speeches and exhibits, recitals, interesting presentations, a colorful parade, a vintage bomber overhead, famous authors and dignitaries, and Churchill family members in attendance made the 50th anniversary celebration of the re-hallowing of the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, and the opening of America’s National Churchill Museum last weekend an unforgettable experience. Approximately 1,500 people descended on the Westminster College campus for the grand commemoration of this landmark event.
Friday, May 3
50th Anniversary Commemorative Tour
The weekend began on Friday with commemorative tours by Steve Stinson, who was one of the original tour guides for the Museum and whose father, Dave Stinson as Vice President of Westminster was responsible for organizing the relocation and rebuilding of St. Mary’s.
Preserving the Past: An Opening Lecture
Preservation Historian with the St. Louis County Parks Esley Hamilton gave the opening presentation with a detailed exploration of the 52 Christopher Wren parish churches in London and a discussion of their histories and preservation efforts, which included St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.
Opening Concert: The Noel Mander Organ Concert
Churchill Fellow and famed organist Frederick Hohman performed a breathtaking concert on the magnificent pipe organ of St. Mary’s, which was built and installed by the well-known British organ builder, Noel Mander. Personal reminiscences from College Historian Dr. Bill Parrish, who was unable to attend, about his friendship with Mander were delivered by Dr. Carolyn Perry, Professor of English and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Churchill Family Reception and Preview of New Museum Exhibits
Before the Saturday’s dinner, attendees socialized with the members of the Churchill family in attendance: Churchill’s granddaughters The Hon. Edwina Sandys, M.B.E. and The Hon. Emma Soames and great-grandsons Jack Churchill and Duncan Sandys. The group previewed three exciting new Museum exhibits: ”Painting as a Pastime: from Winston to the White House,” which featured paintings by Churchill and the first-ever exhibition of paintings by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and George W. Bush; “An Imaginative Concept: Christopher Wren’s St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury Journey to Fulton,” the story of the church’s miraculous relocation and restoration; and “The Special Relationship Project,” an astounding 4,000 works of art painted by Mid-Missouri K-12 students.
Friday Dinner: An Evening with the Churchills
More than 350 guests, dining in the Historic Gymnasium where Churchill delivered his monumental address, Sinews of Peace, gained valuable insights about the legacy of Winston Churchill in today’s world. Churchill Fellow Clark Durant (Detroit, MI) moderated a spirited panel discussion with The Hon. Emma Soames, The Hon. Edwina Sandys M.B.E., Duncan Sandys, Jack Churchill, Richard Mahoney and Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts.
Saturday, May 4
Meet the Authors and Book Signing
The second day of celebration began with attendees gathered in the Museum for book signings by noted Churchill authors Andrew Roberts, The Rt. Honorable Lord Alan Watson, Jim Wilson, Tina Santi Flaherty, and Edwina Sandys.
Sculptural Life Casting of Special Guests
Sculptor and Churchill Fellow Don Wiegand, who is responsible for the massive Churchill sculpture in the Churchill Plaza, made life casts of the hands of three members of the Churchill family: The Honorable Emma Soames, Jack Churchill, and Duncan Sandys.
Meet the Artist and Experience Breakthrough
Internationally acclaimed artist and sculpture The Hon. Edwina Sandys, M.B.E., gave a lively presentation on her Breakthrough sculpture located in Latshaw Plaza. Sandys originally dedicated the sculpture in front of the National Churchill Museum in November 1990. She recalled watching her grandfather pain as a child and told the crowd gathered on the Plaza: “Things seem to be getting a little chilly again — and Grandpapa’s words are as relevant as ever.” At the end of her remarks, Sandys invited hundreds in attendance to walk through the sculpture, which is made from a 32-foot-long stretch of the Berlin Wall — the embodiment of the Cold War and initiated by her grandfather’s visionary speech at Westminster College in March 1946. For the grand finale of her talk, Sandys launched a group of 30 doves — one for each year since the demise of the Wall — into the air to symbolize peace.
Luncheon and Enid and R. Crosby Kemper Lecture: Churchill Fellow Andrew Roberts
Following Sandys’ presentation, acclaimed biographer and Churchill Fellow Andrew Roberts delivered the Enid and R. Crosby Kemper Lecture in the Historic Gymnasium while attendees enjoyed a light lunch. Roberts presented on “Churchill and Humor,” a topic he researched extensively for his recent acclaimed biography and New York Times bestseller, Churchill: Walking With Destiny. Roberts’ presentation focused on the different ways Churchill used humor to further his political and leadership goals.
At the luncheon Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft presented a gubernatorial proclamation proclaiming the official 50th anniversary day May 7 as “Sir Winston Churchill Day” in the state of Missouri.
Saturday anniversary festivities also included an afternoon parade attended by thousands who delighted at the marching bands, vintage military vehicles, the fly-over of a B-25 WWII airplane operated by the Commemorative Air Force, student artists, and a motorcade of Churchill family members. Those individuals included Sandys; Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames, of London; and Churchill’s great-grandsons Jack Churchill, of Wiltshire, England, and Duncan Sandys, of Atlanta. Also among the attendees were St. Louisans Baxter Watson, who, as a Westminster student, escorted Churchill and Truman into the Historic Gymnasium, and Westminster alumnus Dr. Robert F. Linnemeyer and Earle Harbison, Jr., who, as college students, were present when Churchill delivered his speech 73 years ago.
David M. Rubenstein Dinner Presentation
A Saturday night gala dinner in the Historic Gymnasium featured a keynote address by David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chair of The Carlyle Group in Washington, D.C. Rubenstein also is a philanthropist and host of Bloomberg TV’s Peer-to-Peer Conversations.
Rubenstein is well known for purchasing copies of The Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and other rare documents to be placed on display in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the United States. In his speech, Rubenstein summarized his thoughts on national issues and patriotic philanthropy. Rubenstein was inducted into the Association of Churchill Fellows following his address.
A surprise to the dinner guests attending was the reading of a letter of greetings and good wishes from a very special dignitary:
“I cannot tell you how delighted I am once again to help you celebrate the very special Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century and relocated from London and rebuilt again in Fulton, Missouri, in the 20th century to serve as the most remarkable and highly appropriate memorial to Sir Winston Churchill’s Sinews of Peace address.”
The letter ended with, “I should like to thank you all most warmly for your continuing efforts to protect, preserve, and cherish it.” It was simply signed “Charles.”
Her Majesty’s British Consul General John Saville read aloud the letter from the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne as the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II.
The letter focused on the Central London church, built around 1181 A.D. that was gutted by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt in 1672 by Royal Architect Sir Christopher Wren, who also rebuilt dozens of other churches damaged in the fire. St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, continued serving its London parish until December 29, 1940, when the German Luftwaffe bombed London at the start of World War II, before the U.S. entered the war.
The fire-gutted stone church, which like many London buildings, sat in ruins for two decades after the war ended. It was acquired by the College’s Board of Trustees in the early 1960s, was carefully dismantled — all 7,000 stones — and the stones were shipped, railed, and trucked to Fulton, where the church was rebuilt according to Wren’s original design atop the new Churchill museum.
Greetings were also delivered at the dinner by former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Westminster President Dr. Fletcher Lamkin, and The Reverend Jonathan Brewster, Residentiary Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Timothy Riley, Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of America’s National Churchill Museum welcomed the dinner guests.
Sunday, May 5
Special 50th Anniversary Service to Re-Hallow the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury
The weekend culminated with a special commemorative service in honor of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, with Canon Jonathan Brewster, Treasure of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Rev. Kelly Carlson from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ladue, MO officiating. David Sinden and members of the St. Peter’s Choir provided music for the service. In his remarks, Rev. Canon Brewster told the congregation: “I feel like a fraud welcoming you to your church, but I feel a sense of belonging. As I as approaching Fulton, I saw this church building, and I felt like I was home.” The Rt. Honorable Lord Alan Watson also addressed the assemblage about the special relationship between Great Britain and the United States.
The highlight of the service was the induction of 12 new members of the Association of Churchill Fellows. From the St. Louis, MO, area inductees were as follows: Brock Ayers, first vice president-Investments, Wells Fargo Advisors; James F. Bennett, partner, the Dowd Bennett law firm; Ken Murer, founder and CEO, Automotive Product Consultants, Inc., and the late David Stinson, the former Vice President of Development at Westminster College who raised funds to relocate the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, from London to Fulton. Stinson also had oversight responsibilities in rebuilding the church and opening the museum.
Other inductees included Churchill’s granddaughter The Honorable Emma Soames, of London; Churchill’s great-grandson Jack Churchill, of Seend, Wiltshire, England; Clementina “Tina” Santi Flaherty, of New York, NY; Erik de Bourbon, of Palm Beach, FL; Deborah G. Lindsay, of Marietta, GA; Don Foss, of Franklin, MI; Dr. William E. Parrish, of Starkville, Mississippi; and Rubenstein.
Special House of Representatives and Senate Resolutions
Just prior to the 50th Anniversary celebrations, the Missouri House of Representatives and Missouri Senate both presented Timothy Riley, Director and Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Chief Curator of the National Churchill Museum, with resolutions that congratulated the National Churchill Museum on its milestone. Missouri State Representative Travis Fitzwater, District 49, and Senator Jeannie Riddle, District 10, both presented the resolutions to Riley on April 29 on the Missouri House and Senate floors. Senator Riddle also attended the weekend anniversary celebration and presented a proclamation from Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe to President Fletch Lamkin on Saturday.
The Next 50 Years
The jubilant celebrants left with the words of Prince Charles’ letter still ringing in their ears. “The Church, it seems to me, represents the essence of the human spirit and our unique ability to overcome tragedy,” Prince Charles wrote. “It therefore gives me great joy that the Church stands proudly re-hallowed in Fulton, Missouri. As an extraordinary example of resilience and hope, it is my particular wish that the Church will continue to receive the support it needs to sustain its work for future generations.”
The commemorative weekend provided an exciting launch for the effort to follow Prince Charles’ wish. Museum supporters are committed to raising funds to make the necessary repairs to and to preserve the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. Plans are also underway to continue the 50th anniversary celebration in London in September.