Feast of John Horden (December 15)   Leave a comment


Above:  John Horden Memorial

Image Source = Oceanflynn



Anglican Bishop of Moosonee

Canadian feast day = January 12

Episcopal feast day = December 15


John Horden proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Cree people.

Horden was English by birth.  He, born on January 20, 1828, was a native of Exeter.  His parents were Sarah Seward and William Holden (a printer).  Our saint grew up in the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Exeter, and attended the Vicar’s Bible Class.  There he became interested in foreign missions.  The Church Missionary Society initially declined Horden’s application, citing his youth.  In the meantime our saint attended St. John’s School then worked as an apprentice to a blacksmith.  In his spare time the apprentice studied and learned to read Greek and Latin.  Eventually he became a teacher.

The Church Missionary Society accepted Horden’s application on May 10, 1851; 23 years old was not too young.  The Society assigned him to Moose Factory, Rupert’s Land, and advised him to prepare quickly for departure.  On May 28 our saint married his beloved, Elizabeth Baker Oke (1826-1908), a teacher.  Before departing Horden began to study the Cree language.  In June the couple sailed for North America; our saint continued his linguistic studies during the voyage.

The Hordens arrived at Moose Factory, at the southern end of Hudson’s Bay, in August 1851.  John’s duties included teaching the catechism, serving as the superintendent of schools, and reading scripture in services on Sundays.  Elizabeth’s duties included teaching Cree women and serving as the superintendent of girls’ schools.  John also worked among employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, built a school-house, and repaired a church building.  Our saint, ordained a priest on August 24, 1852, translated the Gospels and The Book of Common Prayer into the Cree language and prepared a Cree-language hymnal.  Our saint, who mastered several indigenous languages, also helped to prepare Inuit-language religious materials.

The Hordens endured hardships and grief.  They had six children, only one of whom lived past infancy.  The couple lived at a remote location, among rugged circumstances, and had to contend with a series of diseases.  Furloughs in England provided some respite from their difficulties, but they spent most of 1851-1893 in Moose Factory and the wilds of Canada.  Horden, consecrated the first Bishop of Moosonee in England on December 15, 1872, tended to his vast diocese.  He founded churches and traveled to visitations, frequently via dog teams in harsh weather.  He also wrote a Cree-language grammar and completed his translation of the Bible into Cree.

Our saint died at Moose Factory, Ontario, on January 12, 1893.  He was 64 years old.

Many of those churches continue to exist.





Creator God, whose hands hold the storehouses of the snow and the gates of the sea,

and from whose Word springs forth all that is:

We bless your holy Name for the intrepid witness of your missionary John Horden,

who followed your call to serve the Cree and Inuit nations of the North.

In all the places we travel, may we, like him, proclaim the Good News

and draw all into communion with you through your Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit; who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Numbers 10:29-36

Psalm 107:35-43

Acts 6:1-7

Luke 5:1-11

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 119


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