Archive for May 2017

Feast of Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (April 12)   4 comments

Above:  Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, 1910

Photograph copyrighted by Irving Underhill

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-74646

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HENRY SLOANE COFFIN (JANUARY 5, 1877-NOVEMBER 25, 1954)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Translator

uncle of

WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR. (JUNE 1, 1924-APRIL 12, 2006)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Social Activist

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A FAMILY STORY

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If there is one characteristic more than others that contemporary public worship needs to recapture, it is the awe before the surpassing great and gracious God.

–Henry Sloane Coffin

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God is to me that creative force, behind and in the universal, who manifests Himself as energy, as life, as order, as beauty, as thought, as conscience, as love.

–Henry Sloane Coffin

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There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good.  The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics.  Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, a reflection of God’s lover’s quarrel with all the world.

–William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

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It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down like mighty waters,” and quite another to work out the irrigation system.

–William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

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With this post I replace two former posts with which I had become dissatisfied.  By telling the stories of Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr., together I also emphasize connections and relationships, one of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  The Coffins, uncle and nephew, were prophetic figures who incurred much condemnation by fundamentalist Christians during their lifetimes.

Both Coffins continue to incur much condemnation by fundamentalist Christians, as a simple Internet search reveals.

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Above:  Henry Sloane Coffin

Image in the Public Domain

Henry Sloane Coffin, born in New York City on January 5, 1877, came from a prominent family.  The family firm, W. & J. Sloane, sold upscale furniture and rugs.  It also became involved in real estate development and in low-income housing.  Attorney Edmund Coffin, Jr., and Euphemia Coffin had two especially noteworthy sons–Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Sr.  The latter of these men worked in the family firm, joined the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in 1924, and became the board’s president seven years later.

Above:  William Sloane Coffin, Sr. (1879-1933)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-25374

Henry grew up in New York City, in the lap of privilege and a corresponding sense of social responsibility.  He studied at Yale, became a Bonesman, and graduated in 1897.  Next our saint studied theology at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland, for two years before returning to the United States and working successfully on two concurrent degree programs–Bachelor of Divinity (Union Theological Seminary, 1900) and Master of Arts (Yale, 1900).

Above:  Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, New York

Image creator and copyright holder = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a11085

Henry was a Presbyterian minister.  He, ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1900, served as pastor of Bedford Park Presbyterian Church, the Bronx, until 1905, when he transferred to Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City.  Our saint, a conscientious pastor and visitor in parishioners’ homes, built up Madison Avenue Church from a struggling congregation to one of the largest in the city during his tenure, which ended in 1926.  Starting in 1904 Henry doubled as a part-time Associate Professor of Homiletics and Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary.  Finally he accepted an offer to become the President of the seminary in 1926.  “Uncle Harry,” as students called him, guided the seminary financially through the Great Depression and hired Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.  Among Henry’s greatest accomplishments was helping to avoid a schism (related to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy) in his denomination in the middle 1920s.  A minor schism, creating what became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, occurred in 1936, but no major split occurred in the 1920s.

William Sloane Coffin, Jr., born in New York City on June 1, 1924, was a son of William Sloane Coffin, Sr., and Catherine Butterfield Coffin.  Our saint, known informally as Bill, lost his father in 1933.  The family fortune had declined, and William Sr. had refused to evict low-income tenants who could not afford rent.  Catherine took her family into exile in Carmel, California, where they moved into a bungalow and the children attended public schools.  In 1937 Uncle Harry began to finance the educations of Bill and his younger sister.  Bill began to study at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Catherine left California.  The following year Catherine took Bill to Europe, where he studied classical piano–first in Paris, with Nadia Boulanger, then in Geneva–until June 1940, when World War II forced their return to the United States.

Henry, who received many honorary degrees, was prominent on the Christian and world stage.  His image graced the cover of the November 15, 1926, issue of Time magazine.  Our saint was also active in ecumenism, working successfully for the creation of the World Council of Churches (1948) and unsuccessfully in the 1940s for the merger of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and The Episcopal Church, then officially the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.   Uncle Harry also worked with former U.S. President Herbert Hoover to send provisions to the United Kingdom prior to December 8, 1941, and supported U.S. involvement in World War II.

Bill Coffin went to war.  He graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, in 1942, began studies at Yale Music School, then received his military draft notice in 1943.  For fur years he served in the U.S. Army, ending up in military intelligence.  Next our saint returned to Yale, joined the Skull and Bones Society (of which friend and classmate George Herbert Walker Bush was also a member), and graduated in 1949.  The Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) recruited Coffin at Yale, but he initially chose theology instead.  In 1949 he matriculated at Union Theological Seminary yet left for the C.I.A. the following year, shortly after the beginning of the Korean War.  At the C.I.A. Coffin taught Soviet émigrés the arts of spycraft.  Our saint left the agency over Eisenhower-era C.I.A. coups against democratically elected governments, however.  He graduated from Yale Divinity School, became a Presbyterian minister, and married actress Eva Rubenstein in 1956.

Uncle Harry retired from Union Theological Seminary in 1945 then toured the Orient and studied missionary work there.  He died, aged 77 years, on November 25, 1954, at Salisbury, Connecticut.  His wife, Dorothy Prentice Eells (married in 1906; died in 1983) and two children (Ruth and David) survived him.

Henry translated hymn stanzas and wrote books.  In 1916 he translated the following stanza of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

O come, Desire of nations, bind

All peoples in one heart and mind;

Bid envy, strife, and discord cease;

Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

In 1910, in Hymns of the Kingdom of God, which Henry co-edited, he included the following stanza of “God Himself is With Us”:

Thou pervadest all things:

Let thy radiant beauty

Light mine eyes to see my duty.

As the tender flowers

Eagerly unfold them,

To the sunlight calmly hold them,

So let me quietly

In thy rays imbue me;

Let thy light shine through me.

Our saint’s books included the following:

  1. The Creed of Jesus and Other Sermons (1907),
  2. Social Aspects of the Cross (1911),
  3. University Sermons (1911),
  4. The Christian and the Church (1912),
  5. Some Christian Convictions:  A Practical Restatement in Terms of Present-Day Thinking (1915),
  6. The Ten Commandments:  With a Christian Application to the Present Conditions (1915),
  7. In a Day of Social Rebuilding:  Lectures on the Ministry of the Church (1918),
  8. A More Christian Industrial Order (1920),
  9. Portraits of Jesus Christ (1926),
  10. What is There in Religion? (1926),
  11. What to Preach (1926),
  12. The Meaning of the Cross (1931),
  13. What Men Are Asking (1933),
  14. God’s Turn:  A Collection of Sermons (1934),
  15. Religion Yesterday and Today (1940), and
  16. A Half-Century of Union Theological Seminary, 1896-1945 (1954).

William Sloane Coffin, Jr., became a social activist. Unfortunately, stresses associated with his quest for social justice ended his first two marriages (in 1968 and 1975).  In 1956-1957 our saint filled the one-year appointment as chaplain at Phillips Academy. In 1957 he became the chaplain at Williams College.  There our saint’s support for civil rights (especially in relation to the events in Little Rock, Arkansas) and criticism of fraternities created controversy.  One fraternity brother went so far as to shoot out Coffin’s living room window in anger.  From 1958 to 1975 our saint served as the chaplain at Yale University.  At Yale Coffin became involved in the Freedom Rides in the South, opposed the Vietnam War, and supported young men who refused to cooperate with the military draft.  For his nonviolent anti-draft activities Coffin faced federal charges, went on trial, and became a convict.  Later an appeals court overturned the conviction and the government dropped the charges.

To oppose government-sponsored violence nonviolently can place one is legal jeopardy, unfortunately.

Coffin served as the senior pastor of The Riverside Church, New York City, from 1977 to 1987.  He opposed Apartheid, lobbied for nuclear disarmament, and spoke out in favor of gay rights–when the latter was a marginal position, even on the Left.  He resigned in 1987 to work on the nuclear disarmament issue full-time.

Our saint was quite active during much of this retirement.  From 1989 to 1992 he led SANE/FREEZE, dedicated to disarmament and a freeze on atomic weapons.  Then he and third wife Virginia Randolph Wilson (married in 1984) moved to Vermont.  Coffin continued to travel and speak on a variety of topics, including his opposition to the Iraq War.  At the end of his life our saint suffered a series of strokes.  He died, surrounded by family, on April 12, 2006.  He was 81 years old.

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Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin faced different challenges.  Both of them responded to those issues in front of them in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the prophets’ call to social justice, as they understood those high standards.  They were controversial in their times.  They were probably correct more often than not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr.,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory f your name,

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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of St. David Uribe-Velasco (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of Mexico, 1916-1934

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO (DECEMBER 29, 1888-APRIL 12, 1927)

Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

St. David Uribe-Velasco, born into a poor family of Buenavista de Cuellar, Guerrero, Mexico, became a martyr.

Our saint, the seventh of  eleven children of Juan Uribe Ayal and Victoriana Velasco Gutierrez, entered seminary at Chilapa in 1903.  He, ordained a sub-deacon in 1910, a deacon in 1911, and a priest in 1913, became a priest at Buenavista de Cuellar and the Secretary to Antonio Hernandez, the Bishop of Tobasco.  Those were revolutionary times in Mexico.  In 1914 Uribe-Velasco and the Bishop had to relocate to Chilapa, Guerrero, due to anti-religious violence.  En route the ship sank but our saint, the bishop, and four others arrived.  Uribe-Velasco served as priest at Zirandaro for a time, but domestic disturbances forced his return to Chilaya.  Next he served at Buenavista de Cuellar, Telotlspan, and Iguala, all in Guerrero.

The Mexican bishops, citing concerns for public safety, halted public worship on July 30, 1926.  Our saint obeyed the order reluctantly.  Soon, however, he began to exercise his priestly vocation covertly.  Authorities arrested Uribe-Velasco on April 7, 1927, and took him to Cuernavaca.  They offered him freedom in exchange for becoming a bishop in a schismatic church loyal to the state.  The priest rejected the office.  Military forces executed him near San Jose Videl, Morelia, on April 12.  With his final words on this plane of existence Uribe-Velasco promised his executioners that he would pray for them in Heaven.

Pope John Paul II declared Uribe-Velasco a Venerable then a Blessed in 1992 and a saint in 2000.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER TO THE SLAVS AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of Saint David Uribe-Velasco,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives

to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of St. Zeno of Verona (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Northern Italy, 400 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ZENO OF VERONA (CIRCA 300-APRIL 12, 371)

Bishop of Verona

Little information about the life of St. Zeno of Verona has survived.  Our saint, born at Mauretania (near Algiers) circa  300, served as the Bishop of Verona from 362 to 371.  He, a famous preacher, opposed Arianism vigorously.  St. Zeno also aided North African refugees fleeing persecution by Arians.  Our saint might have become a martyr; traditions regarding the manner of his death have long contradicted each other.

Arianism is an ancient Trinitarian heresy, one of a cluster of such errors.  The origin of many heresies is attempting to explain the unexplainable, namely the Trinity.   Arianism, in contradiction of John 1:1, defines the Second Person of the Trinity as a created being.  This heresy is alive and well in 2017, for the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my front door from time to time are Arians.

After Emperor Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) made Christianity legal (along with other religions) Christian theological disputes became matters of imperial politics.  If the Emperor was an Arian, orthodox Christians were likely to have to endure persecution.  If the Emperor was an orthodox Christian, Arians might have to experience persecution.

All of this demonstrates the wisdom of having a secular state.  It also makes reports of religious persecution leading to people fleeing their homes and become refugees plausible.  I do, however, find traditions of St. Zeno’s martyrdom at the hands of the empire improbable, given what the historical record indicates about Emperor Valentinian I (reigned 364-375), a Christian who issued a decree of religious toleration in 371.  This fact does not preclude another party, perhaps an angry pagan (consistent with pagan-Christian violence, ubiquitous at the time), martyring St. Zeno, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER TO THE SLAVS AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant St. Zeno of Verona,

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

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

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Expressing Opinions   Leave a comment

I am not shy about expressing my opinions at this, my original weblog, the one from which the others sprang, directly or indirectly.  I am, however, cautious in so far as I do not feel obligated to express every thought that passes through my mind.  I do, in fact, leave most of my thoughts unexpressed.  Furthermore, I am a trained historian.  The difference between history and journalism is hindsight.  I prefer to sit back and gather data rather than to spout off.  When I make a statement, however, I make it with conviction.

Certainly, in the age of the political, moral, and ecological train wreck that is the Trump Administration, with its fondness for foreign elected dictators and contempt for the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, sordid details come to light so quickly that I have difficulty keeping up with them.  Apparently do does that overgrown toddler, that man-child with a Twitter account,  a thin skin, a small vocabulary, a dearth of historical knowledge, a penchant for half-baked conspiracy theories, and a casual relationship (at best) with objective reality, in the White House.  In these times I double down on my historian’s tendencies and express my perspective by permitting it to inform my analysis of the past.   I leave a plethora of clues embedded in my posts.

I have ended my hiatus on renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  During the hiatus I drafted new devotions for Lent, Easter, and the Season After Pentecost 2018.  I have made plans to start updating my LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS weblog after Pentecost (next Sunday) and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS once Advent 2017 has begun.  I have also resolved to return to the wonderful world of saints.  My choice of saints has long reflected my political and theological priorities.  Now that the time to renovate systematically the Ecumenical Calendar, a project begun casually in 2009, has come, I have begun to remove some people and add others in accordance with my changing priorities and access to more knowledge, as well as all that I have learned about blogging.  I have never considered agreeing with me completely to be a requirement for inclusion, but not being overall morally objectionable to me has always been mandatory.

Without further ado, I resume the process of adding saints.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER TO THE SLAVS AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Posted May 29, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements

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Course Evaluations and Classroom Technology   Leave a comment

Especially Regarding PowerPoint

Spring Semester ended recently.  Nine days ago the contents of my students’ evaluations of me and of my course became available to me.  I, as a classroom instructor, was understandably curious about their ratings and comments.  Over the years I have found them to be (A) generally quite different from the depiction of me at ratemyprofessor.com and (B) occasionally helpful, occupying the category of constructive criticism.

Usually, though, I have found these course evaluations to be mostly useless.  For example, I copied the course objectives verbatim from the university and pasted them into my syllabi, yet some students thought I had not stated the course objectives clearly in those documents.  Also, I critiqued drafts of essays whenever students asked me to do so, but one pupil criticized me for having no involvement in assignments outside of the classroom.  Furthermore, I organized the material (as many students acknowledged) yet some accused me of being disorganized in my teaching.

My interpretation of the last criticism is that those who wrote it really meant that they would have preferred for me to have used PowerPoint in the classroom.  But, as one student told me, he was grateful that I did not use that technology.  He had become accustomed to copying PowerPoint slides for other courses and had found that procedure mind-numbing.  He enjoyed my emphasis on analyzing the material, he said.

Technology is useful is my lessons.  I enjoy being able,  for example, to show my students the full text of the Stamp Act (1765) and to use a website to adjust historical dollar amounts for inflation.  However, PowerPoint is useless in my classroom.  I recall that almost every PowerPoint presentation to which someone has subjected me has entailed he or she reading the slides.  PowerPoint is a useful tool in certain settings and for some subjects, but I avoid the technology.

Besides, my teaching style is not amenable to reading from a script, notes, or PowerPoint slides.  No, my instructional style is more discussion-based.  I master the germane material, follow skeletal notes that function mostly to remind me to cover certain topics, and use my memory.  I speak authoritatively and from my knowledge.

This style, I know, is foreign to many students, spoon-fed notes (often via PowerPoint) for years. I want them to think critically, however.  I know that this exceeds the capacity of many of my pupils.  This is not entirely their fault, but I must raise the bar, I know.  I realize that I will do them no favors by not raising the bar.

I found no constructive criticism in the course evaluations this time.  I did, however, learn how oblivious some of my students were to objective reality and how dependent upon PowerPoint they were.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted May 24, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Education

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