Feast of Ray Palmer (November 12)   1 comment

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Above:  Central Congregational Church, Bath, Maine, 1851

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS ME,12-BATH,8–13

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RAY PALMER (NOVEMBER 12, 1808-MARCH 29, 1887)

U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer

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Many who sing hymns in the English-speaking world these days might recognize the name of Ray Palmer in conjunction with “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” and no other text.  He did, however, write or translate thirty-seven other texts, some of which I have excavated from hymnals in my collection and added to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  I choose not to list those hymns individually, but I invite you, O reader, to follow the link in the previous sentence and read them for yourself.  Consider also, O reader, that he wrote most of his hymns in 1830, when he was twenty-one years old and having a difficult year between graduating from Yale College and returning to New Haven, Connecticut, for seminary.  “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” came from that time in his life.  Palmer refused to accept payment for his hymns or to permit changes to the texts.  Ironically, Lutheran Worship, the 1982 service book-hymnal of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, contained a badly rewritten of our saint’s most famous hymn.  “My Faith Looks Trustingly” confused congregations for twenty-four years until the Lutheran Service Book (2006) restored the original text.  As the Missouri Synod has proven, butchering old hymns in the name of modernizing them is not the sole province of well-intentioned liberals; well-intentioned conservatives intent on preserving meaning at the expense of language are just as capable of committing this offense.

Ray Palmer (1808-1887) was a son of Judge Thomas Palmer of Little Compton, Rhode Island.  Our saint left home for Boston, Massachusetts, at age thirteen, to work as a clerk in a dry goods store.  He joined the Park Street Congregational Church, whose senior minister helped Palmer enter Phillips Andover Academy.   Three years later our saint, having graduated, commenced his studies at Yale College, New Haven, Connecticut.  He supported himself financially by teaching others while attending classes at Yale.  Our saint, aged twenty-one years and having graduated from Yale, lived for a year in New York City, where he taught at a girls’ school while studying theology under a pastor’s direction.  In 1831 our saint started seminary at New Haven.  He became an ordained Congregationalist minister in 1835.

Palmer’s ministerial career did not require him to move much.  He served two congregations as pastor, each for about fifteen years.  First, in 1835, started his time at Central Congregational Church, Bath, Maine.  Then, in 1850, he transferred to First Congregational Church, Albany, New York.  In 1865 Palmer moved to New York City to become the Corresponding Secretary of the American Congregational Union.  The retired after fourteen years in that position and moved to Newark, New Jersey, in 1879.  There our saint, active in Belleville Avenue Congregational Church, specialized in the ministry of visiting people.  He died in Newark on March 29, 1887.

A partial list of Palmer’s publications follows:

  1. Memoirs, and Select Remains of Charles Pond, Late Member of the Sophomore Class of Yale College (First Edition, 1829; Second Edition, 1831);
  2. The Spirit’s Life; A Poem (1837);
  3. The Study of History Commended to the Active Classes of Society (1838);
  4. Doctrinal Textbook (1839);
  5. Spiritual Improvement; or, Aid to Growth in Grace; A Companion for the Christian’s Closet (1839);
  6. Closet Hours; or, Aids to Spiritual Improvement and Practical Religion (1851), the reissued edition of Spiritual Improvement (1839);
  7. Christ Going Forth to Purify the World:  A Sermon Preached Before the Foreign Evangelical Society, New York, May 7, 1848 (published in 1851); and
  8. Address on the Education of Women (1852), unfortunately of its time regarding the propriety of separate spheres for men and women;
  9. Hints on the Formation of Religious Opinions; Addressed Especially to Young Men and Women of Christian Education (1860);
  10. Hymns and Sacred Pieces; with Miscellaneous Poems (1865);
  11. Remember Me; or, the Holy Communion (1865);
  12. Hymns of My Holy Hours; and Other Pieces (1868);
  13. Home; or, the Unlost Paradise (1872);
  14. Earnest Words on True Success in Life; Addressed to Young Men and Women (1873);
  15. The Poetical Works of Ray Palmer (1876); and
  16. Voices of Hope and Gladness (1881).

Palmer contributed to other volumes (excluding hymnals), including:

  1. Speeches in Behalf of the University of Albany (1852);
  2. Hymns to Our King (1872); he wrote the Note to the Publisher; and
  3. Higher Education and a Common Language (1879)

Palmer makes a fine addition to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF PHILANDER CHASE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS OF VILLANOVA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF VILLANOVA

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Ray Palmer and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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One response to “Feast of Ray Palmer (November 12)

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  1. Pingback: Ray Palmer | GATHERED PRAYERS

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