A few weeks back we shared this mysterious footage in hopes of learning more about it. The film was labeled "St. Luke's Chapel, 1935" and shows a procession exiting St. Luke's Chapel in Greenwich Village. We wanted to know when this happened and what occasioned the procession, so we showed it to a few liturgical sleuths to help us solve the mystery.
Sacristans Scott Smith and Ben Hines noted that the participants in the procession are carrying leaflets, suggesting that this may be a service or litany not found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The fact that the group is heading outside suggests that it's perhaps Rogation Day, when congregations asked for God's blessing on the harvest, and walk the bounds of the parish.
The major rogation is held on April 25 (there don't seem to be any buds on the trees, which could be an indication of a colder-than-usual spring).
St. Luke's Chapel's resident historian, Don Gerardi, had a few thoughts: "It looks to me like a celebration of religious orders. Monks and nuns. St. Luke's Chapel was often used for that kind of observance." Others from St. Luke's thought it might be the blessing of a building, possibly the St. Luke’s school gym.
Of course we had to talk to Anne Petrimoulx, Trinity's archivist, who suggested taking a look at the St. Luke's Chapel service registers from 1935-1940, the last year available in Trinity's archives. They gave us a fascinating glimpse into parish life at the time, but unfortunately there were no services described in the register that fit with the film footage.
David Jette, retired Head Verger of Trinity Church, took a look at the footage and made a few observations that only a veteran verger with a keen eye could make: "Are you sure this is from 1935? The only reason I ask is that the cars in some of the video seem more like late 30s or early 40s. It looks like the procession is exiting the chapel and proceeding to another location either outside or in another building perhaps to dedicate a new space.”
David speculated that the Eucharist had already been celebrated in the chapel and everyone is now leaving for another ceremony because the clergy are wearing copes, which they would have changed into after celebrating the Eucharist for the procession.
He added, “It involves so many people including a bishop: perhaps Bishop Manning (former rector of Trinity), and I think I identify Father Fleming (rector of Trinity at that time), various monks, nuns, assorted clergy, choir and lots of acolytes/servers it must have been a major event, probably NOT on a Sunday.It also seems that students were present which suggests something educational."
Well, it turns out that Jette is correct: this footage is not from 1935 and it is education. The film is from the opening of St. Luke's School, which happened on September 24, 1945. The mystery was solved with a look at this photo on their website (click the 1945 tab to see photo), clearly showing several women and children in the same attire as in the film footage. The school website notes that the original classrooms were located in the rear wing of the parish house, which is likely where this procession is headed.