Snapshot of a Social Gathering at Westminster
February 11, 1902 marks the birthday of Allan Alexander MacRae, whose papers are preserved at the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis. Educated at Occidental College (1923), Princeton Seminary (1927) and the University of Berlin (1929), MacRae returned to the States at the urging of Paul Woolley to serve as one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he remained 1929-1937.
Allan remained close to his parents and it is interesting to note among his papers, that he had carefully kept copies of every letter he sent home to his mother and father. And he wrote home nearly every day while away at school and even later in his new career as a professor. Transcribed below is one such letter, which provides an interesting insight into the social life of the early Westminster Seminary faculty.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct.22, 1933.
Another week has passed by, and how it has flown. It was quite a busy week. There was the regular school work, there were the first classes of the year in the University and there were two special things. These latter were the tea at the Allises last Wednesday afternoon and the party at the Wallaces on Friday evening. Both these events were particularly pleasant. The Allises gave a tea in honor of the Kuipers. They invited over a hundred people. They asked me, and the others of our faculty to stay most of the time from four to six to help entertain the visitors. It was a very friendly reception. Everyone was so cordial and harmonious. Most of those who came knew most of the others.
On Friday evening the Misses Wallace, two maiden ladies who have been friends of the Seminary and have been present at most of our functions right from the start, entertained the faculty of the Seminary at their apartment in one of the suburbs. They asked Dr.Machen to speak on mountain climbing. He gave a very interesting talk indeed. Then Jimmie Blackstone, who was also invited, sang several numbers for us, and one of the Misses Wallace read some poems she had written. Dr.Kuiper was asked for a few remarks. After that we had a spelling bee. Most of those on the side on which I happened to be chosen were spelled down rather soon, and for a long time I was the lone survivor on our side, while the opposing team still had three standing. These three were Dr. Machen, Paul Woolley and John Murray. Then I put one ‘m’ too few in the word persimmon, and left the three of them alone. So their side was victorious in the contest. After that ice cream was served. When we all came to leave, some one happened to look at a watch, and we could hardly believe it was actually past midnight, the evening had been so pleasant. The only people invited who were not members of our faculty, beside Mr. and Mrs. Blackstone, were Mr. and Mrs.Freeman, whom I mentioned to you recently. They took John Murray and me with them in their car, which was pleasant and also a great convenience
H.M. Griffiths is having quite an unpleasant experience. A week ago yesterday he developed a severe case of acute appendicitis, and that afternoon he was operated on. They think the appendix might have ruptured soon if they had not taken it out. Early this week some infection set in, so he had a disagreeable week. I think they feel that that is pretty well over now, I saw him yesterday. He was quite uncomfortable, but is new getting along well, I believe.
Yesterday after faculty meeting John Murray and I went out to Germantown together and visited Griffiths. Then John and I ate together in the neighborhood. John had to come back to the city, as he was going right out to Oxford, Pa. to spend the week-end with one of our graduates. I walked across Germantown to the Woolleys’ home. I had a nice visit with Paul, and then had supper with both of them. After supper I played a bit with Edward, who is very friendly. Paul sat over in the corner, and seemed to have a great time, watching me playing hide and seek with Edward. I took the train home early, leaving just as soon as I had said goodnight to Edward, so as to get a real good night’s sleep myself.
I am enjoying my beginning Hebrew classes again as much as anything I do. I am presenting the material in a somewhat different order, and am surely enjoying it. Early in the week my eyes bothered me a bit. I stopped in at an optician’s and he spent a long time adjusting the glasses and the way they hung on my nose and ears. They were hurting my nose. Since that time, they do not hurt my nose at all, and the eyes have been very greatly improved. Evidently they were not hanging right on my face. I hope you are both well and happy as I am. I will close, very lovingly,
[/s/, Allan A. MacRae]
Words to Live By:
Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:2-3, KJV)
Allan MacRae honored his parents first and foremost by himself living an honorable life before the Lord. But even in a small simple thing like frequent communication, he exhibited his care, concern, and respect for his parents. For those who are not so wise, the Lord teaches us to forgive, as we remember our own sins and failings and praise God that in Christ alone our sins are covered. But when we find a good example like Dr. MacRae, it is interesting to watch the rest of his life. Having lived long on the earth, Allan MacRae died in 1997, at the age of 95.