Archive for October 2014

Feast of Jane Laurie Borthwick and Sarah Borthwick Findlater (September 7)   1 comment

Edinburgh

Above:  Princess Street and Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland, Between 1890 and 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-07586

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JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK (APRIL 4, 1813-SEPTEMBER 7, 1897)

Scottish Presbyterian Translator of Hymns

sister of

SARAH BORTHWICK FINDLATER (NOVEMBER 26, 1823-DECEMBER 25, 1907)

Scottish Presbyterian Translator of Hymns

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Jane Laurie Findlater and Sarah Borthwick Findlater were sisters who contributed greatly to English-language hymnody.  They, natives of Edinburgh, Scotland, were members of the Free Church of Scotland, which separated from the Church of Scotland in 1843.  Their father, James Borthwick, manager of the Edinburgh branch of the North British Insurance Office, encouraged their early translation efforts.

Jane, who never married, published her earliest translations under the nom de plume “H.L.L.” in The Family Treasury, a religious periodical.  She preferred to preserve her anonymity, hence the pseudonym.  Jane published Thoughtful Hours (first edition, 1857; enlarged edition, 1867), The Story of Four Centuries:  Sketches of Early Church History for Youthful Readers (1864), Alpine Lyrics (1875), and Lyra Christiana:  A Treasury of Sacred Poetry (1887).  She also collaborated with her younger sister, Sarah, on the four volumes of Hymns from the Land of Luther (1854, 1855, 1858, and 1862).  Of the 122 texts in Hymns from the Land of Luther, Jane translated 69.  Sarah contributed the other 53.

Both women were generous people.  Jane supported a homeless shelter, the Edinburgh House of Refuge.  She also supported foreign missions efforts of the Free Church of Scotland, the Church Missionary Society, and the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Sarah, wife of Free Church of Scotland minister Eric John Findlater, was generous, eccentric, and hospitable.  She gave away much money for, she said, that was the reason to have it.

Even in first half of the twentieth century common practice in hymnals was to alter the sisters’ translations, so the best way to read what they wrote is to consult their books.  Perhaps one hymn which Jane wrote (not translated) summarizes the mission which she and her sister pursued while on this planet:

Come, labour on.

Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain,

While all around him waves the golden grain?

And to each servant does the Master say,

“Go work today.”

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Come, labour on.

Claim the high calling angels cannot share–

To young and old the gospel gladness bear:

Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.

The night draws nigh.

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Come, labour on.

The enemy is watching night and day,

To sow the tares, to snatch the seed away;

While we in sleep our duty have forgot,

He slumbered not.

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Come, labour on.

Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!

No arm so weak but may do service here:

By feeblest agents may our God fulfill

His righteous will.

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Come, labour on.

No time for rest, till glows the western sky,

While the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,

And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,

“Servants, well done.”

Jane died at Edinburgh on September 7, 1897.  Sarah followed her sister into the next life on December 25, 1907, at Torquay, England.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Jane Laurie Borthwick, Sarah Borthwick Findlater, 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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Feast of Richard Watson Gilder (November 20)   1 comment

Church of the Ascension, NYC

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Ascension, New York, New York, the Site of Gilder’s Funeral

Image in the Public Domain

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RICHARD WATSON GILDER (FEBRUARY 8, 1844-NOVEMBER 19, 1909)

U.S. Poet, Journalist, and Social Reformer

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Richard Watson Gilder considered himself primarily a poet–a fine vocation and avocation–but he was far more than that.  He was a man who cared deeply about his fellow beings, acted accordingly, and left the world better than he found it.

Our saint entered the world at Bordentown, New Jersey, on February 8, 1844.  His father was William Henry Gilder (1812-1864), a Methodist minister and the headmaster of Bellevue Female Seminary.  The younger Gilder served as a chaplain in the First Philadelphia Artillery, U.S. Army, during the Civil War.  Then he worked as a paymaster for a railroad company.  His life’s calling resided elsewhere, however.

That calling entailed words–prose and poetry.  Shortly after the Civil War Gilder went to work for the Newark Daily Advertiser (1832-1904) before confounding the Newark Morning Register (1869-1886) with R. Newton Crane.  In 1870 our saint became the Assistant Editor of Scribner’s Monthly.  Eleven years later he became the Editor of its successor, The Century.  Along the way Gilder became a popular speaker on the lecture circuit and on college campuses, collecting honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Universities.

Our saint also wrote the following volumes:

  1. The Poet and the Master, and Other Poems (1878);
  2. The Celestial Passion (1887);
  3. The New Day:  A Poem in Songs and Sonnets (1887);
  4. Lyrics, and Other Poems (1890);
  5. Two Worlds, and Other Poems (1891);
  6. Great Remembrance, and Other Poems (1893);
  7. “For the Country” (1897);
  8. In Palestine, and Other Poems (1898);
  9. Five Books of Song (1900);
  10. Poems and Inscriptions (1901);
  11. A Christmas Wreath (1903);
  12. “In the Heights” (1905);
  13. A Book of Music (1906);
  14. The Fire Divine (1907);
  15. The Poems of Richard Watson Gilder (1908);
  16. Lincoln the Leader; and Lincoln’s Genius for Expression (1909);
  17. Grover Cleveland:  A Record of Friendship (1910); and
  18. Letters of Richard Watson Gilder (1916).

Gilder also became involved in social, political and educational causes.  He advocated for effective enforcement of international copyrights, a cause which, of course, interested a writer and editor.  Our saint also chaired the Association for the Blind, the New York Tenement House Commission, and the New York Free Kindergarten Association.

Our saint died of heart disease at New York City on November 19, 1909.  The site of his funeral was the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Manhattan.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN BIBLE TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO, FOUNDER OF THE CARTHUSIANS

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH ALBERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND POET

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TYNDALE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

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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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Samuel John Stone (November 19)   1 comment

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Above:  Salisbury Cathedral, Between 1910 and 1920

Publisher and Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a24715

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SAMUEL JOHN STONE (APRIL 25, 1839-NOVEMBER 19, 1900)

Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer

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One may not recognize the name of Samuel John Stone (1839-1900), but one might know “The Church’s One Foundation,” his most famous hymn.  Yet one may be aware that there are three versions of that hymn:

  1. the 1866 original version;
  2. the 1868 abbreviated version; and
  3. the 1885 expanded version, which he wrote for use as a processional at Salisbury Cathedral.

A hymn writer does have the right to revise, abbreviate, and extend his own lyrics, does he not?

Stone, born at Whitmore, Staffordshire, England, was a son of a priest of the Church of England.  Our saint studied at the Charterhouse, London, and at Pembroke College, Oxford University.  From the latter he graduated with an A.B. in 1862 and an A.M. ten years later.  Stone took Anglican Holy Orders and served congregations from 1862 to his death in 1900.

His first position was Curate of Windsor (1862-1870).  While there Stone wrote and published Lyra Fidelium (1866), a collection of twelve hymns explaining articles of the Nicene Creed.  Among these texts was the original form of “The Church’s One Foundation,” with seven stanzas.  The impetus for the composition of Lyra Fidelium was the controversy regarding the theology and deposition of John Colenso (1814-1883), Anglican Bishop of Natal from 1853 to 1863.  The bishop’s preference for higher criticism of the Bible, even questioning the historicity of much of the Old Testament, upset many people.  Stone was among his critics.  Colenso’s higher criticism has not disturbed me, however, for I have engaged in higher criticism and continue to do so.  Nevertheless, Colenso was not entirely above reproach, given his Universalism and his defenses of polygamists.

Our saint succeeded his father as the Curate of St. Paul’s, Haggerston, London, in 1870.  He remained at the poorest Anglican church in London, building it up, for twenty years and serving as Vicar from 1874.  During Stone’s tenure he published the following volumes:

  1. The Knight of Intercession, and Other Poems (1872);
  2. Sonnets of the Sacred Year (1875);
  3. Order of the Consecutive Church Service for Children, with Original Hymns (1883); and
  4. Hymns (Original and Translated) (1886).

In 1890 Stone became the Rector of All-Hallows-on-the-Walls, London.  He remained there for about ten years, until he died.  Our saint, recognizing human needs on the doorstep of his parish, transformed its facilities into a haven for urban commuters who would have had to wander the sidewalks until their places of employment opened otherwise.  While at All Hallows Stone also published another book, Lays of Iona, and Other Poems (1897), and served on the committee which produced the 1909 version of Hymns, Ancient and Modern.

Stone died at the Charterhouse, London, on November 19, 1900.  Posthumous tributes included Poems and Hymns (1903) and a chapter in In Good Company (1917).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN BIBLE TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO, FOUNDER OF THE CARTHUSIANS

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH ALBERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND POET

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TYNDALE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant Samuel John Stone,

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

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

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the

fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from, Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718

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Feast of Johann Christian Till and Jacob Christian Till (November 19)   1 comment

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Above:  Bell Tower, Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, February 1969

Photographer = Jack E. Boucher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA,48-BETH,2–7

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JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL (MAY 18, 1762-NOVEMBER 19, 1844)

U.S. Moravian Organist, Composer, and Piano Builder

father of

JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL (JULY 15, 1799-APRIL 9, 1882)

U.S. Moravian Piano Builder

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Before I write about the Tills I choose to note that I could have added at least two other people to this post.  Johann Christian Till’s life intersected with those of the Peter brothersSimon (1743-1819) and Johann Friedrich (1746-1813)–talented composers.  The simplest and best plan, I have concluded, is to write about them in a Simon brothers post, which I will link into this entry.  The focus here belongs on the Tills.

The Tills’ story began with the birth of Johann Christian Till at Gnadenthal, near Nazareth, Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1762.  He spent his entire life in the Nazareth-Bethlehem area, yet his musical influence spread as far as Herrnhut, in Saxony.  Till copied choral works for use in church and composed others for the same purpose.  One of his compositions was “Kindhearted and Gracious is the Lord.”  Moravian congregations worldwide performed his music.

Till attended Nazareth Hall, a boys’ school, where he studied under Simon Peter (1743-1819), pastor, composer, and church administrator.  Till supported himself as an adult primarily as a woodworker, with the notable exception of 1793-1808, when he worked as an organist and schoolmaster at Hope, New Jersey.  Then the school closed.  Music remained vital to his life, for he supplemented his income by working as an organist.  He also composed musical settings for Liturgical Hymns (1823).

From 1810 to 1834 Till and his son, Jacob Christian Till (1799-1882), derived most of their income from the family business of building pianos.  When this partnership started Jacob was eleven years old!  The father build the piano cabinet and the son constructed the mechanisms.  They were skilled craftsmen.  Unfortunately, only two of their pianos have survived to 2014.  Both are in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania–one at the Moravian Museum and the other at Moravian College.  Jacob moved to nearby Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1834.  Whether he continued building pianos is uncertain.

For much of the time that Till the elder was building pianos with his son he (the elder) supplemented his income by playing the organ at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem.  He succeeded Johann Friedrich Peter (1746-1813) in that post in 1811.  Two of Till’s successors in that position were Theodore Francis Wolle (1832-1885) and John Frederick “J. Fred” Wolle (1863-1933), of whom I have written recently.

Johann Christian Till died on November 19, 1844.

Good music has an everlasting aspect to it.  As long as people can, for example, acquire and read musical scores then perform the music properly the composer’s legacy continues.  Unless the composition is a cappella an instrument is, by design, properly part of the performance.  That is where the builders of instruments fulfill their function.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 22:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Lord Jesus Christ, master craftsman of our salvation,

we thank you for those artisans who have glorified you with their skills

and for those who continue to do so.

May we, inspired by their positive examples,

glorify you with all our skills, no matter how mundane we think they are.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34

Psalm 86:1-13

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Matthew 13:54-58

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Feast of Peter Wolle, Theodore Wolle, and John Frederick Wolle (November 14)   6 comments

Wolle Family Connections

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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PETER WOLLE (JANUARY 5, 1792-NOVEMBER 14, 1871)

U.S. Moravian Bishop, Organist, and Composer

father of

THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE (1832-MARCH 30, 1885)

U.S. Moravian Organist and Composer

kinsman of 

JOHN FREDERICK “J. FRED” WOLLE (APRIL 4, 1863-JANUARY 12, 1933)

U.S. Moravian Organist, Composer, and Choir Director

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Families should nurture a healthy devotion to God, I am convinced.  Certainly the Wolle family of Bethlehem-Nazareth, Pennsylvania, did so.

The story, for the purpose of this post, began with John Frederick Wolle (1745-1813), a Moravian missionary to St. Thomas, in the Caribbean Sea.  He and his wife had two sons important to this post–John Frederick Wolle (1785-1860) and Peter Wolle (1792-1871).  Peter arrived in Pennsylvania at the tender age of three years.  In 1807 he became one of the first three students at Moravian Theological Seminary, all of whom went to on to become bishops in the Unitas Fratrum.  Peter taught in Moravian schools in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, states in which he also served congregations as a pastor.  From 1810 to 1814 he taught at the Collegium Musicum (from 1820 the Philharmonic Society of Bethlehem).

Peter served God and the Moravian Church with several talents.  In 1836 he published the first Moravian tune book in the United States, Hymn Tunes, Used in the Church of the United Brethren.  He altered Moravian hymn tunes to make them more similar to commonly sung hymn tunes in America.  This was necessary partially due to cultural pressures and ecclesiastical competition.  In the realm of music he also played the organ and composed anthems–nothing surprising, given the musical priorities of the Unitas Fratrum.  Peter, who became a bishop while pastor at Lititz, Pennsylvania, served as the interim minister at Dover, Ohio, from 1853 to 1855.  Then he served on the Provincial Board of the American Province until he retired in 1861.  He died at Bethlehem in 1871.

Two of Peter’s sons went into music also.  James Wolle built pianos–very well, apparently.  Theodore Francis Wolle (1832-1885) became an organist, like his father.  Peter taught young Theodore to play the instrument.  By the age of ten years the boy could play all tunes from his father’s Tune Book from memory.  Theodore started teaching music at Greensboro College, Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1853, played in a Confederate Army band during the Civil War, and returned to Bethlehem by 1865.

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Above:  Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, February 1969

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA,48-BETH,2–4

Theodore worked as an organist and composer in Bethlehem.  At first he played the organ at the Moravian chapel there.  Then, in 1871, he became the organist and choirmaster at Central Moravian Church.  He held the post for fourteen years.  The congregation replaced its old organ, which dated to 1806, in 1873.  Theodore helped to design the new instrument, which had three manuals and forty stops–more than the old organ did.  He stood in the legacy of Johann Klemm, David Tannenberg, Sr., and other Moravian Church organ builders.

Theodore also broke with tradition in two ways.  He changed the role of the organist in Moravian worship.  That role had been to support the congregation in worship.  A Moravian Church organist was not traditionally a performer, but Theodore became the first Moravian Church organist to give recitals.  He also changed the design and sound of Moravian Church organs.  They were traditionally modest instruments which did not attract attention to themselves in terms of sound or appearance.  The 1873 organ at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, however, sounded grand and looked decorative.

Theodore also composed at least one tune, “Asleep in Jesus” (1877), which I found in an old Moravian hymnal.

His successor at Central Moravian Church was a third John Frederick Wolle (1863-1933), grandnephew of Peter Wolle (1792-1871), grandson of John Frederick Wolle (1785-1860), great-grandson of John Frederick Wolle (1745-1813), and a relative of Theodore.  (Distinguishing among people is a simpler task when they have different names.)  John Frederick number three, or J. Fred, as he preferred that people call him, became one of the most influential and acclaimed Moravian Church musicians and music teachers in the United States.  He studied the organ with Theodore at Bethlehem and David Wood at Philadelphia.  In 1884-1885 he lived in Munich, Germany, where he was one of four students the great organist Josef Rheinberger accepted that year.  The master organist preferred a dry, straight-forward performance style of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, but J. Fred opted for an expressive interpretation.  The student also became familiar with the music of Richard Wagner while in Munich and began to make organ transcriptions of selections from Wagnerian operas.

J. Fred returned to Bethlehem in 1885 and stayed busy doing what he loved.  He succeeded Theodore as the organist and choirmaster at Central Moravian Church that year.  Two years later he added to those duties the positions of organist at Lehigh University and Packer Memorial Church (Episcopal), on the campus.  For eighteen years he played the organ at Lehigh.  He also composed works for the organ and for choirs and won national acclaim for his organ recital at the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893. As if that were not enough, J. Fred co-founded the American Guild of Organists in 1896 and founded the Bach Choir of Bethlehem two years later.  He served as the first Director of that ensemble, which gave the first complete performances of the Mass in B Minor and the Christmas Oratorio in the United States, in 1900 and 1901, respectively.  His Bach Festivals were major cultural events.  The Bach Choir was not originally a professional organization for, J. Fred said, Bach was for everybody.

J. Fred left for Berkeley, California, in 1905, to lead the Department of Music at the University of California.  During his six years he organized a Bach Choir in that city.  He returned to Bethlehem in 1911 and resumed his role with the original Bach Choir.  In 1915 he was organist at Salem Lutheran Church, Bethlehem.

J. Fred died in 1933.

These three saints glorified God with their talents, which they nurtured and honed.  Fortunately, they had support along the way.  May we, likewise, strive to be all we can be for the glory of God and the benefit of others, have the support we need, and, as able, enable others to achieve their potential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRANCISCANS

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ERNEST BODE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servants

Peter Wolle, Theodore Wolle, and J. Fred Wolle.

Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible

richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of Jane Eliza(beth) Leeson (November 18)   1 comment

Flag of England

Above:  Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON (CHRISTENED DECEMBER 18, 1808-DIED NOVEMBER 18, 1881)

English Hymn Writer

We know little about the life of this saint.  In fact,some sources in the field of hymnology contradict each other regarding the years of her life and death.  I have read, for example, of her birth occurring in 1807, 1808, or 1809.  And I have read of her death happening in 1881 or 1882.  Hymnal companion volumes, which I collect and use as main sources of information for profiles of hymn writers, have provided all of this conflicting information.  I have chosen to follow the lead of hymntime.com, an Internet source I consult frequently, with regard to the dates for Leeson’s life.  If I am mistaken, at least I am not far off the mark.  Also, some sources give her name as “Jane Eliza Leeson” and others as “Jane Elizabeth Leeson.”  I even found one listing of her as “Jane Euphemia Leeson.”  I respect a person’s wish to keep his or her private life out of the spotlight, but I wonder why basic details, such as the year of birth and the year of death, for Leeson seem uncertain.  Did not churches and governments keep such records in England in the 1800s?

According to hymntime.com, the christening of Jane Leeson occurred at the (Anglican) Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Nottingham, England, on December 18, 1808, soon after her birth (in 1808) at Wilford, Nottinghamshire.  Eventually she joined the Catholic Apostolic Church (hereafter the CAC in this post).  The CAC started with John MacLeod Campbell, an English Presbyterian minister who, in 1828, began to notice unusual happenings in his congregation.  Some of his parishioners had death-bed conversions, reported heavenly visions, spoke of the imminent return of Christ, and began to prophesy and to speak in tongues.  Edward Irving, another English Presbyterian minister, published approving accounts of the charismata, prompting the Presbyterian Church to defrock him circa 1831 and many to call members of the new CAC “Irvingites.”

The new denomination moved away from its Presbyterian roots quickly.  It agreed with the Church of England doctrinally much of the time, adopted a vernacular-language liturgy with Roman Catholic influences, and affirmed the necessity of all the charismatic gifts.  In 1832, as part of the process of preparing for the supposedly imminent return of Christ, the CAC named twelve apostles.  The death of the last of these apostles in 1901 ended all ordinations in the CAC.  The denomination divided in 1863, resulting in the formation of the New Apostolic Church (hereafter the NAC in this post), which has chosen new apostles to replace deceased ones since its beginning.  The offshoot claims millions of adherents worldwide in 2014, but the parent body is, as far as I can tell, defunct.  Some Internet sources, I think, have confused the NAC for the CAC.  I trust my reference books more than certain websites in this matter.  Also, several extant groups with “Catholic Apostolic Church” in their name have no historical relationship to the Irvingites.

Leeson, a longtime member of the CAC congregation at Gordon Square, London, wrote hymns and published volumes of them.  The main audience for these texts consisted of children.  Our saint, who contributed nine hymns and translations to the CAC hymnal, wrote her hymns in a state of prophetic utterance, consistent with the theology of her chosen denomination.

Leeson’s hymntime.com page lists fifteen hymns and translations of hymns.  My research via my hymnal collection has yielded four especially fine texts, three of which I have added to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog in preparation for this post.  A fourth (from 1842), which I found in The Church Hymnary–Third Edition (Presbyterian, 1973), follows:

A little child may know

Our Father’s name of “Love;”

‘Tis written on the earth below,

And on the sky above.

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Around me when I look,

His handiwork I see;

This world is like a picture-book

To teach His Name to me.

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The thousand little flowers

Within our garden found,

The rainbow and the soft spring showers,

And every pleasant sound;

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The birds that sweetly sing,

The moon that shines by night,

With every tiny living thing

Rejoicing in the light;

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And every star above,

Set in the deep blue sky,

Tell me that our God is Love,

And tell me He is nigh.

A partial list of Leeson’s published works follows:

  1. Infant Hymnings (1842);
  2. Hymns and Scenes of Childhood (1842);
  3. Lady Ella, or the Story of Cinderella (1847);
  4. Christian Child’s Book (two parts, 1848);
  5. Songs of Christian Chivalry (1848);
  6. The Child’s Book of Ballads (1849);
  7. Chapters on Deacons (1849);
  8. The Wreath of Lilies:  A Series of Simple Comments for Children, on the Events in Our Lord’s Life (1849);
  9. The Ten Commandments Explained in Easy Verse for Children (1850);
  10. Margaret, a Poem (1850);
  11. The Story of a Dream (1850); and
  12. Paraphrases and Hymns for Congregational Singing (1853).

Our saint converted to Roman Catholicism late in life.  In that communion she died at Warwickshire, England, on November 18, 1881.  Her literary legacy has survived, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRANCISCANS

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ERNEST BODE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Jane Eliza(beth) Leeson 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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