Above: Yale Divinity School, Between 1900 and 1915
Publisher = Detroit Publishing Company
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-D4-39339
JAY THOMAS STOCKING (APRIL 7, 1870-JANUARY 27, 1936)
U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
Jay Thomas Stocking, a native of Lisbon, New York, was another minister who did much good during his lifetime yet whose reputation postmortem depends mainly on one hymn.
Stocking, an alumnus of Amherst College (Class of 1895), taught at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, for three years before returning to school as a student. He graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1901 then attended the University of Berlin. He, ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1903, served at the following churches:
- First Church, Bellows Falls, Vermont (1903-1905);
- Central Church, Newtonville, Newton, Massachusetts (1905-1914);
- First Church, Washington, DC (1914-1915);
- Union Church, Upper Montclair, New Jersey (1915-1927);
- Pilgrim Church, St. Louis, Missouri (1927-1935); and
- First Church, Newton Centre, Newton, Massachusetts (1935-1936).
A partial list of Stocking’s published works follows:
- The City That Never Was Reached (1911);
- The Golden Goblet (1914);
- Mr. Friend O’Man (1920);
- Queery Queer (1926); and
- Stocking Tales (1937);
Stocking, the 1934-1935 Moderator of the National Council of Congregational Christian Churches, was active in the Federal Council of Churches, serving on its Commission on International Justice and Goodwill.
As impressive as all those accomplishments were, one hymn, “O Master Workman of the Race,” has become the postmortem foundation of Stocking’s reputation. He was on vacation at his summer camp in the Adirondack Mountains in 1912. The Pilgrim Press had asked our saint to write a hymn for a forthcoming book. One day, as Stocking watched carpenters repair his summer camp, he had an idea:
The figure of the carpenters, as applied to Jesus, flashed on me as never before, and I sat down and wrote the hymn, almost, if not quite, in the exact form in which it now appears.
–Quoted in Robert Guy McCutchan, Our Hymnody: A Manual of The Methodist Hymnal, 2d. Ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1937), page 151.
As Stocking wrote in his great hymn,
Give us a conscience bold and good,
Give us a purpose true,
That it may be our highest joy
Our Father’s work to do.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
AUGUST 30, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC
Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Jay Thomas Stocking,
through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.
Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,
whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 3:11-23
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60