Above: Henry and Ellen Van Dyke, Between 1910 and 1915
Image Source = Library of Congress
Image Publisher = Bain News Service
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-17998
HENRY JACKSON VAN DYKE (NOVEMBER 10, 1852-APRIL 10, 1933)
U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer
Henry Van Dyke was a Presbyterian minister, a diplomat, a poet, a theologian, a liturgist, and an author of pious fiction.
The great man debuted at Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 10, 1852. He graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, Brooklyn, New York, in 1869. Then he studied at Princeton University (B.A., 1873; M.A., 1877). Next Van Dyke traveled abroad before returning to the United States. He became a Presbyterian minister in 1879. Our saint married Ellen Reid of Baltimore, Maryland, in December 1881. The couple had five children:
- Frances (age 16 at the time of the 1900 census);
- Terticus (1887-1956), a poet who wrote a biography (1935) of his father;
- Dorothea (age 12 at the time of the 1900 census);
- Elaine (age 8 at the time of the 1900 census); and
- Paula (age 1 at the time of the 1900 census).
Van Dyke served as the pastor of two congregations. He was at the United Congregational Church, Newport, Rhode Island, from 1879 to 1883. Then he served at The Brick Presbyterian Church, New York, New York, from 1883 to 1900. Our saint became a respected scholar and writer, as well as a popular orator.
Two of Van Dyke’s gifts were poetry and prose. He brought these to this position as a Professor of English Literature at Princeton University, starting in 1900. Our saint also brought his literary skill to bear on The Book of Common Worship (1906), the first formal liturgy the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. authorized, created, and published, although not the first formal liturgy it published. He served as the chairman of the committee that produced the volume, which many in the denomination considered too Roman Catholic. During his time at Princeton Van Dyke also served as the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1902-1903), was a lecturer at the University of Paris (1908-1909), became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (in England, 1910), and began to serve as the President of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (starting in 1912).
Van Dyke’s life became more international in 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson, his friend and former boss at Princeton, appointed him to serve as the Minister (Ambassador) to The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Our saint resigned that post in late 1916 and returned to the United States. The following year he became a U.S. Navy chaplain with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Van Dyke, a Commander of the Legion of Honor since 1918, returned to civilian life in 1923 and devoted himself primarily to literary matters.
Van Dyke, who received many honorary doctorates, made one final contribution to Presbyterian liturgy. In this late seventies he served as the chairman of the committee that produced The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932).
One might know of Van Dyke as a writer, probably for The Story of the Other Wise Man (1895) and/or his most famous hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” (written in 1907 and published two years later). The list of our saint’s publications long and impressive, including even a play. I refer you, O reader, to archive.org, where you can find electronic copies of many of Van Dyke’s published works, not least of which is The Poems of Henry Van Dyke (1911).
I have added some of our saint’s hymns addressed to God at my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.
Van Dyke died, aged 80 years, at Princeton, New Jersey, on April 10, 1933.
His legacy survives. His hymns survive, although most have fallen into disuse. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which published the sixth incarnation of the Book of Common Worship in 1993, is working on the seventh version. [Aside: The versions were those of 1906, 1932, 1946, 1966, 1970, and 1993.] And, of course, one can read what he published.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 9, 2017 COMMON ERA
PALM SUNDAY: THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION, YEAR A
THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR
THE FEAST OF SAINT CASILDA OF TOLEDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS
THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE
THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially Henry Van Dyke)
who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.
May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN