Archive for December 2012

Feast of Francis Harold Rowley (February 15)   Leave a comment

Horses

Above:  Horses

Image in the Public Domain

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FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY (JULY 15, 1854-FEBRUARY 14, 1952)

Northern Baptist Minister, Humanitarian, and Hymn Writer

The Reverend Francis Harold Rowley entered the world at Hilton, New York, in 1854.  He graduated from Rochester University (1875) and Theological Seminary (1878) then became a minister in the American Baptist Missionary Union.  (Aside:  The ABMU renamed itself the Northern Baptist Convention in 1907.  The NBC became the American Baptist Convention in 1950.  And the ABC became the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. in 1972.   The “Northern”/American Baptists have long been more progressive on average than their Southern Baptist counterparts.  An old joke oversimplifies the distinction:  A Northern Baptist says that there isn’t a Hell, but a Southern Baptist says, “The Hell there isn’t.”)  Rowley served churches at the following places:

  • Titusville, Pennsylvania (1879-1884);
  • North Adams, Massachusetts (1884-1892);
  • Oak Park, Illinois (1892-1896);
  • Fall River, Massachusetts (1896-1900); and
  • Boston, Massachusetts (1900-1910).

Rowley retired from parish ministry and First Baptist Church, Boston, in 1910, and devoted the rest of his life to philanthropic work.  He served as President (1910-1945) then Chairman of the Board (1945-1952) of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  He also wrote The Humane Ideal and The Horses of Homer.  And Rowley worked on children’s health care.  I have concluded that the link between good health care for children and the prevention of cruelty to animals is the relative vulnerability and powerlessness of both populations.  So Rowley’s compassion reached out to both of them, as it should have done.

I am familiar with one aspect of Rowley’s legacy, a hymn, “I Will Tell the Wondrous Story.”  Any hymn, if set to a bad tune and/or sung badly, can prove irritating to one with good taste.  (I have good taste.)  Unfortunately for me, I grew up in rural congregations where bad singing was rife.  People sang hymns too quickly and with bad diction and nasal vowels.  It was a joyful noise, with the accent on “noise.”  But YouTube searches today have revealed more than one setting of the hymn.  Some of the arrangements even sound joyful and not noisy.  The words, however, are a separate matter from the music.  Rowley composed the text in 1886, while pastor of First Baptist Church, North Adams, Massachusetts.

1.  I will sing the wondrous story

Of the Christ who died for me,

How he left His home in glory

For the cross of Calvary.

Refrain:

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story

Of the Christ who died for me,

Sing it with the saints in glory,

Gathered by the crystal sea.

2.  I was lost, but Jesus found me,

Found the sheep that went astray,

Threw his loving arms around me,

Drew me back into His way.

Refrain

3.  I was bruised, but Jesus healed me;

Faint was I from many a fall;

Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,

But He freed me from them all.

Refrain

4.  Days of darkness still come o’er me,

Sorrow’s paths I often tread,

But the Saviour still is with me;

By His hand I’m safely led.

Refrain

There is another part of the Rowley legacy.  The School of Humanities at Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., bears his name.  That is appropriate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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Proper 11, Year C   Leave a comment

mamre

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Promises

The Sunday Closest to July 20

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 17, 2016

JULY 21, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52

or 

Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15

then 

Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-confession-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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Feast of Johann Michael Altenburg (February 14)   Leave a comment

Europe 1648

Above:  Europe in 1648

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG (TRINITY SUNDAY, 1584-FEBRUARY 14, 1640)

German Lutheran Pastor, Composer, and Hymn Writer

Johann Michael Altenburg received his education at Eufurt, where he spent most of his life.  He served churches at or near Eufurt during the Thirty Years’ War–truly difficult circumstances.  He also composed tunes and wrote hymns, including one often translated into English as “Fear Not, Thou Christian Flock,” printed in the original German in 1632.  I found an alternate translation in the Lutheran Common Service Book (1917), which contained the English rendering by Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1858) and Luther D. Reed (1915).

Be not dismayed, thou little flock,

Although the foe’s fierce battle shock,

Loud on all sides, assail thee,

Though o’er thy fall they laugh secure,

Their triumph cannot long endure;

Let not thy courage fail thee.

Thy cause is God’s–go at His call,

And to His hand commit thine all;

Fear thou no ill impending;

His Gideon shall arise for thee,

God’s Word and people manfully,

In God’s own time, defending.

Our hope is sure in Jesus’ might,

Against themselves the godless flight,

Themselves, not us, distressing;

Shame and contempt their lot shall be;

God is with us, with Him are we:

To us belongs His blessing.

Amen, Lord Jesus, hear our cry;

Stir up Thy power, come from on high,

Defend Thy congregation;

So shall Thy Church, through endless days,

Give thanks to Thee and chant thy praise

In joy and adoration.

Such words make much sense in the midst of great hardship.  I am fortunate to live in a setting of religious freedom–not absolute freedom, I know, but there is no such thing as that.  Yet I can attend church without fear of arrest.  And I live in a peacetime setting.  So I am quite blessed.  And I defer to those less fortunate in that way to interpret the hymn.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant Johann Michael Altenburg,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Epheisans 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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Proper 10, Year C   Leave a comment

good-samaritans-inn

Above:  The Good Samaritan’s Inn

Image Source = Library of Congress

Compassion and Scandal

The Sunday Closest to July 13

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 10, 2016

JULY 14, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 7:7-14 and Psalm 82

or 

Deuteronomy 20:9-14 and Psalm 25:1-9

then 

Colossians 1:1-14

Luke 10:25-37

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously difficult due to its geography and the reality that robbers used it as site of frequent crimes.  Did only fools travel it alone?  If so, everyone except the inn keeper in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was foolish.  Those who passed by the crime victim probably did so for more than one reason.  Safety was a concern, for sometimes bandits preyed on compassionate responses.  Other reasons for moving along included apathy and a concern for maintaining ritual purity.  But the unlikely hero was a Samaritan–a heretic, a half-breed, and a marginalized person.

The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan has at least two layers.  Even the possibility of a Good Samaritan proved scandalous to many people originally.  Unfortunately, the parable has become hackneyed for many modern Christians, so I propose pondering who our “Samaritans ” are then paraphrasing the story to restore its fully scandalous nature.  The “Samaritan” should always be the most “other ” person one can name.  So, for one hates Gypsies, the Samaritan might be a Gypsy.  For a xenophobe the Samaritan might be an immigrant.  For an ultra-orthodox person the Samaritan might be a the most relatively heretical individual.  For someone with an especially strong political point of view the Samaritan might be a person from the opposite end of the spectrum.  For a homophobe the Samaritan might be a homosexual.  For a homosexual the Samaritan might be a homophobe.  For an Orangeman the Samaritan might be a Roman Catholic.  The more provocative the paraphrase, the more accurate it is.

Another layer of scandal in the parable is the lesson that sometimes respectable religious concerns and practices obstruct active compassion.  I am convinced that most religious people seek to obey the divine will as they understand it.  But too often many of us do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Too often we make excuses for those who exploit the weak and the vulnerable, including widows, orphans, and the poor.  Too often we seek God’s ways and follow other paths.  Too often we therefore sow the seeds not only of the destruction of others but also of ourselves.  Yet, as Deuteronomy 30:9-14 reminds us, the law of God is very near us–inside us, in fact.  Too often we look for this law in the wrong places.

This law is as simple and difficult as following our Lord and Savior’s instruction:

Go, and do the same yourself.

–Luke 10:37b, The New Jerusalem Bible

In 2001 or 2002 I listened one evening to a public radio program about Hanukkah.  My memory of one story from that program is partial, but the summary of that tale remains with me.  In ancient times there was a rabbi who lacked most of what he needed to observe Hanukkah properly.  He was an especially pious yet closed-minded man at the beginning of the story.  At the end, however, he was pious and open-minded, for a succession of especially unlikely outsiders provided all that he needed.  A Greek wrestler even gave the necessary oil.  That tale, a wonderful piece of Jewish wisdom, is consistent with the readings for this Sunday.  The “other” might be a means of grace, and neighborliness crosses a variety of human-created barriers.

Go, and do the same yourself.

Indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Feast of Philip Armes (February 10)   Leave a comment

Durham Cathedral

Above:  Durham Cathedral, 1910-1920

Reproduction Number = LC-D4-73178

Image Copyright Owner = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

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PHILIP ARMES (AUGUST 15, 1836-FEBRUARY 10, 1908)

Anglican Church Organist and Composer

Philip Armes, as a boy, sang in the choirs of Norwich and Rochester Cathedrals.  He was a soloist at Rochester Cathedral.  The dean, impressed, gave him a pianoforte.

Armes, as an adult, earned an M.A. and a doctorate from Durham University, served as organist at St. Andrew’s Church, Wells Street, London (1857-1861), functioned as an organist at Chichester Cathedral (1861-1862), and served as organist at Durham Cathedral (1862 forward).  He was a respected organist there.  Armes also taught music at Durham University (1897-1908) and composed a madrigal, hymn tunes, organ music, and oratorios (Hezekiah, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Barnabas).  He devoted his professional life to the worship and glory of God–surely a noble calling.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Philip Armes

and all those who with words and image have filled us with desire and love for you,

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Revised on November 30, 2016

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Proper 9, Year C   Leave a comment

house-of-naaman-damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies

The Sunday Closest to July 6

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 3, 2016

JULY 7, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30

or 

Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-8

then 

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/seeds-of-destruction/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/for-our-enemies/

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-forgiveness-mercy-and-trust/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

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I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

Name two countries, A and B, with a recent history of warfare against each other and a current climate of mutual hostility.  Then imagine a general from B in search of a cure visiting a prominent religious figure from A.

The politics of the situation would be sensitive, would they not?    That is a partial summary of the Naaman and Elijah story.

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

  • humility (in 2 Kings 5, Galatians 6, and Luke 10),
  • judgment and mercy (in all four readings), and
  • enemies (in 2 Kings 5, Isaiah 66, and Luke 10).

Humility is having a realistic estimate of oneself; it recognizes both strengths and weaknesses.  This theme fits the Naaman story well, for he had to overcome his notions of self-importance and national pride, the latter of which informed the former, before God healed him.  In humility and a Christ-based identity we Christians are supposed to carry each other’s burdens and help each other through temptation and error; that is what Galatians 6 says.  And humility is part of curriculum for the disciples in Luke 10.

Judgment is for God.  The theme of judgment overlaps with that of enemies.  And who is an enemy of God?  I suspect that many, if not most, enemies of God think of themselves as disciples and friends of God.  Militant Islamists in western Africa are destroying allegedly un-Islamic buildings–architectural treasures–in the name of Allah.  Neither pluralism nor religious toleration are among the values of these individuals.  These militants think of themselves as faithful to God and of people such as me as not faithful to God.  I think that I am correct, obviously.

(Aside:  I have taught practicing Muslims and found them to be delightful human beings.  None have been militants.  Anyone who thinks that I condemn all Muslims when I criticize militant Islamists fails to grasp my meaning.)

Although judgment resides with God, so does mercy.  So Naaman became a follower.  Divine mercy extended even to enemies of Elisha’s people.  That is easy to say about the politics of antiquity, but what about today?  So I propose another thought experiment:

Name a hostile foreign government.  Can you, O reader, warm up to the idea that God loves agents of that regime?  Would you, in Christ, accept such agents as brothers and sisters in faith?

Mercy can prove difficult.  Often we prefer judgment for others–our enemies–and mercy for ourselves because this arrangement reinforces our egos.  Yet humility before God requires us, among other things, to move past those categories and our concepts of where we stand in relation to God.  That person whom we think of as an enemy might be a friend of God.  And we might not be as right with God as we imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Posted December 14, 2012 by neatnik2009 in July 7, Revised Common Lectionary Year C

Tagged with , , , ,

Feast of Adelaide Anne Procter (February 3)   Leave a comment

Flag of England

Above:  Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER (OCTOBER 30, 1825-FEBRUARY 2, 1864)

English Poet and Feminist

Adelaide Anne Procter was the daughter of Bryan Waller Procter (November 21, 1787-October 5, 1874), a London lawyer and published poet.  Family friends included Charles Dickens, a frequent guest in the Procter home.  Adelaide initially wrote poems under the pseudonym “Mary Berwick.”  Dickens, who published many of her early poems in Household Words, assumed for a long time that “Mary Berwick” was a household servant.  The discovery of the truth was a pleasant surprise for him.

Adelaide became a Roman Catholic in 1851.  She devoted her short life (one which tuberculosis ended) to worthwhile pursuits.  She was a skilled linguist, for she was proficient in French, German, and Italian.  Adelaide’s poetry was a worthy artistic vocation, of course.  She published two volumes of Legends and Lyrics, A Book of Verse (1858 and 1862) and was Queen Victoria’s favorite poet.  Adelaide also had the distinction of being the second-bestselling Victorian poet; Alfred, Lord Tennyson was number one.  James Moffatt, in his 1927 companion volume to the Scottish Presbyterian Hymnary, praised the poet while criticizing her Roman Catholicism:

…but her spirit was in the true sense catholic, and it is difficult to tell from her hymns to which communion she belonged.  (Page 463)

The 1962 Encyclopedia Americana was less kind:

While her work is not great, it is marked by deep feeling and tenderness.  (Volume 22, page 631)

Adelaide was a feminist.  In the English Victorian context that meant, for her, advocating for the cause of women becoming professionals.  In 1858 she co-founded The English Woman’s Journal (ceased publication in 1864) for that purpose.  And, beginning in 1859, she worked with the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science to do more to advance the noble cause.

Adelaide died in her mother’s arms.  Her final words were

It has come at last.

Dickens wrote effusively of her and contributed a biographical sketch of her to the tenth edition (1866) of Legends and Lyrics.

One method by which one might encounter some of the poet’s work is to pay to attention to hymns at a church with good musical taste.  One hymn which Adelaide wrote follows:

My God, I thank Thee, who hast made

The earth so bright,

So full of splendor and of joy,

Beauty and light,

So many glorious things are here,

Noble and right.

I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made

Joy to abound,

So many gentle thoughts and deeds

Circling us ’round,

That in the darkest spot of earth

Some love is found.

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept

The best in  store;

We have enough yet not too much,

To long for more;

A yearning for a deeper peace

Not known before.

I read those words and wonder why one would heap faint praise on the poet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Adelaide Anne Procter

and all those who with words and image have filled us with desire and love for you,

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Revised on November 29, 2016

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