Feast of Louis FitzGerald Benson (October 13)   5 comments

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Above:  Interior, Rear of the Church with the Organ Loft from the Altar, First Presbyterian Church, Binghamton, New York

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS NY,4-BING,18–9

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LOUIS FITZGERALD BENSON (JULY 22, 1855-OCTOBER 10, 1930)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Liturgist

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Louis FitzGerald Benson was the son of a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman and elder at the Tenth Presbyterian Church.  Our saint earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania then practiced law. After a few years, however, he perceived and followed a different vocation.  So he enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Benson, ordained the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1869-1958) in 1888, pastored one congregation, the Church of the Redeemer, Germantown, Pennsylvania, for six years.  Then he embarked upon his true calling.

Benson became an Editor at the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work in 1894.  He wrote and translated hymns, edited hymnals, and wrote about hymnody, becoming the foremost hymnodist in the United States during this lifetime and perhaps remaining unsurpassed after this death.  He produced the following volumes:

Our saint, a scholar of hymnody, had a 9,000-volume library.

Our saint shared the first draft of the following hymn, written on November 21, 1924, with his good friend, Henry Sloane Coffin.  Coffin provided praise and constructive criticism, which influenced the final draft.

For the bread, which Thou has broken;

For the wine, which Thou hast poured;

For the words, which Thou hast spoken;

Now we give Thee thanks, O Lord.

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By this pledge that Thou dost love us,

By Thy gift of peace restored,

By Thy call to heaven above us,

Hallow all our lives, O Lord.

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With our sainted ones in glory

Seated at our Father’s board,

May the Church that waiteth for Thee

Keep love’s tie unbroken, Lord.

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In Thy service, Lord, defend us;

In our hearts keep watch and ward;

In the world where Thou dost send us

Let Thy Kingdom come, O Lord.

As I researched our saint I found the following description of him at the Tenth Presbyterian website:

…the foremost hymnodist that America has produced.

I detect irony, for Benson was to the left of that congregation’s current theological position.  He associated with the likes of Henry Sloane Coffin and Henry Van Dyke, liberals in their denomination.  In 1981 Tenth Presbyterian Church affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (1973-), which is far to the right of Coffin, Van Dyke, and Benson.

Benson died at Philadelphia, his hometown, in 1930.  On November 2 that year Dr. Henry Van Dyke, speaking at a memorial service for our saint, advised churches to cultivate the following, which were Benson’s ideals for hymns:  cheerfulness, beauty, reverence, and spirituality.  Van Dyke said that

When singing in all our churches has these marks, the joy of worship will revive and the churches will fill up.

–Quoted in Robert Guy McCutchan, Our Hymnody:  A Manual of The Methodist Hymnal, 2d. Ed. (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1937, page 437)

Indeed, beauty and reverence in hymnody, combined with great substance thereof, is proper.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Louis FitzGerald Benson)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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For Further Reference:

http://manuscripts.ptsem.edu/collection/25

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A Related Post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-revised-1932/

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