Archive for February 5, 2017

Feast of James Solomon Russell (March 27)   Leave a comment

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Above:  James Solomon Russell

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES SOLOMON RUSSELL (DECEMBER 20, 1857-MARCH 28, 1935)

Episcopal Priest, Educator, and Advocate for Racial Equality

The feast day of James Solomon Russell in The Episcopal Church is March 28.  However, as the rules of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days stand, the maximum number of commemorations per day is four, and I have four of them on March 28 already.  Therefore I transfer this feast to March 27.

Russell, born a slave near Palmer Springs, Virginia, on December 20, 1857, attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Virginia, when family finances permitted him to do so.  Sometimes our saint had to work as a teacher between periods of being a student.  He also taught after completing his studies at Hampton.  In the 1870s Russell attended annual conferences of the Zion Union Apostolic Church (an 1869 offshoot of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), called the Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church since 1882.  In 1878 he served as the recording secretary of the annual conference.  Later that year, after receiving a copy of The Book of Common Prayer (1789), he decided to become an Episcopalian.

Russell studied for ordained ministry.  He was the first student at St. Stephen’s Normal and Theological Institute (later the Bishop Payne Divinity School), Petersburg, Virginia.  In 1882, after four years of study, he became a deacon.

Russell served at Lawrenceville, Virginia.  There, in 1882, he founded a congregation, which became St. Paul’s Church the following year.  Also in 1882 (on December 20, to be precise), he married Virginia Michigan Morgan, his wife until she died on July 2, 1920.  They couple had two sons and four daughters.  In 1883 the Russells founded the parish school.  Four years later our saint became a priest.  In 1888 he founded St. Paul’s Normal School, which expanded its programs and changed its names over time, ultimately becoming St. Paul’s College, which closed in 2013.  Russell served as the principal and chaplain of the school until he retired in 1929.  He also supported efforts to help African-American farmers improve their economic status, as in the St. Paul’s Farmers’ Conference (1905).

Russell recruited African-American priests.  Due to his efforts as the first Archdeacon for Colored Work in the Diocese of Southern Virginia (from 1893), that diocese had the largest African-American population of any diocese in The Episcopal Church.

Russell received two offers to become a Suffragan Bishop and rejected all of them.  The first came from the Diocese of Arkansas in 1917; the second came from the Diocese of North Carolina the following year.  Our saint cited the importance of his work in Lawrenceville when he rejected those offers.  He also objected to the fact that African-American bishops were subordinate to their white counterparts.  The position in Arkansas went to Edward Thomas Demby, V (1869-1957).  Henry Beard Delany, Sr. (1858-1928), accepted the position in North Carolina.  Russell’s objection eventually led The Episcopal Church to correct that injustice.  [Aside:  I did detect the typographical error–1927 for 1917–in Russell’s biography in A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).]

Russell, citing his age, retired at the end of 1929.  His son, James Alvin Russell, Sr., succeeded him in the leadership role at the school immediately; he retired in 1950.  James Alvin Russell, Jr., served as the President of St. Paul’s College from 1971 to 1981.

Russell asked the Diocese of Virginia to allow full representation of the clergy, regardless of race, at its convention in 1933.  His request met with rejection.

Russell died at Lawrenceville on March 28, 1935.  He was 77 years old.  His autobiography, Adventure in Faith, debuted in print the following year.

The Episcopal Church, which has been honest about its institutional sins of racism, has made much progress since Russell’s time.  Michael Curry, an African American, became the Bishop of North Carolina, in 2000.  Fifteen years later he resigned that position to become the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

The Diocese of Southern Virginia designated Russell a local saint in 1996.  The General Convention of The Episcopal Church included him on the denominational calendar of saints in 2015, as evident in his inclusion in A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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God, font of the resurrected life, we bless you for the courageous witness

of your deacon James Solomon Russell, whose mosaic ministry vaulted over adversity;

allure us into the wilderness and speak tenderly to us there

so that we might love and worship you as he did,

sure of our legacy of saving grace through Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, always and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 22:21-27

Psalm 78:1-7

1 John 4:13-21

Matthew 21:12-16

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Feast of Charles Henry Brent (March 27)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Charles Henry Brent 

Image in the Public Domain

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CHARLES HENRY BRENT (APRIL 9, 1862-MARCH 27, 1929)

Episcopal Bishop and Ecumenist

The Feast of Charles Henry Brent falls on March 27 in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Brent was a native of New Castle, Ontario.  He, born on April 9, 1862, studied at Trinity College, Toronto.  Our saint, ordained an Anglican priest in Canada in 1887, served first as the assistant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Buffalo, New York.  From 1888 to 1901 he lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts.  There, as the Assistant Rector of St. John the Evangelist Church, with the responsibility for the African-American congregation of St. Stephen’s Church, our saint worked in the slums and came under the influence of the Social Gospel movement.

In 1901 the Episcopal House of Bishops selected Brent to become the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, a position he held from 1902 to 1919.  There he built up The Episcopal Church, not by “stealing sheep,” but by focusing on evangelism.  He famously refused to compete with the Roman Catholic Church; he would not, in his words, “set up one altar against another.”  Brent did, however, seek to convert people to Christianity.  He also established ecumenical relations with the new Philippine Independent Church, founded by a former Roman Catholic priest.  In the Philippines Brent also became involved in the movement to oppose opium trafficking.  He served as the President of the Opium Conference at Shanghai in 1909 and represented the United States on the Narcotics Committee of the League of Nations in 1923.

From 1917 to 1919 Brent doubled as the Senior Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces.  At the request of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, he organized and supervised the chaplaincy.

In 1918 Brent accepted election as the Bishop of Western New York, with Buffalo as his see city.  He began his duties the following year and remained the bishop of that diocese for the rest of his life.

Brent was an ecumenical leader in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the modern ecumenical movement.  In 1910 he attended the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland.  The pioneering ecumenical conference increased cooperation among missionary societies.  Our saint, a convinced ecumenist, became a leader of the cause in his denomination.  Later that year the General Convention of The Episcopal Church proposed what became the First World Conference on Faith and Order (1927) at Lausanne, Switzerland.  At that gathering, over which Brent presided, representatives of about 90 denominations–from the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to Quakers and some Baptists–discussed doctrine.  The purpose of the conference was to promote doctrinal unity.  Nevertheless, doctrinal differences became apparent quickly, but the gathering did encourage subsequent ecumenism.

Brent died at Lausanne on March 27, 1929, while traveling in Europe.  He was 66 years old.

In 1907 Brent published a certain prayer, one included in his original language in Daily Morning Prayer, Rite One, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of thy saving embrace:  So clothe us in thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.  Amen.

–Page 58

Morning Prayer, Rite Two, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a modern-language version of that prayer.  So does Daily Morning Prayer in Texts for Common Prayer (2013), of the Donatist (in the broad definition of that term) Anglican Church in North America.  Any form of the prayer is absent from the corresponding ritual in The Book of Common Prayer (1928).

Brent’s legacy includes not only a meaningful prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) but the World Council of Churches (founded in 1948) and The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion since 1988).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one:

Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance,

that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent,

we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 56:6-8

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Matthew 9:35-38

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 293

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