Feast of Washington Gladden (July 2)   3 comments

Above:  Theodore Roosevelt and Washington Gladden at Columbus, Ohio, 1900

Image Creator = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-06699



U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Hymn Writer, and Social Reformer

In 2009 The Episcopal Church added Washington Gladden to its calendar of saints, with a feast day of July 2, shared with Walter Rauschenbusch and Jacob Riis.  However, I have decided, during this time of renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, to break up that commemoration.

Gladden was a revolutionary in his time.  If he were alive in 2018, he would still be revolutionary in many theological and political circles.

Gladden’s destiny was ordained ministry.  He, born at Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, on February 11, 1836, was a son of Solomon and Amanda Daniels Gladden.  Solomon died prior to our saint’s sixth birthday.  Washington’s uncle and grandfather helped to raise him.  They, realizing that the farm was not where he belonged, encouraged our saint to leave.  He followed their advice.  Gladden, educated at Owego Academy then at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, entered the Congregationalist ministry in 1859, at the age of 23 years.

Gladden had a varied ministerial career.  His first pastorate was First Congregational Church, LeRaysville, Pennsylvania (1859-1860).  Our saint overworked himself at First Congregational Church, Brooklyn, New York (1860-1861), so he transferred to a less stressful position at a church in Morrisania, New York (1861-1866).  There he was active in the Union war effort, serving on the Christian Commission and meeting President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant in the field.  Ministry in North Adams, Massachusetts, followed from 1866 to 1871.  For three years our saint served as the religion editor of The Independent.  In that capacity he exposed political corruption in New York.  Then Gladden served at North Congregational Church, Springfield, Massachusetts (1874-1882) and First Congregational Church, Columbus, Ohio (1882-1914).  Along the way Gladden served as one of two Associate Editors of The Pilgrim Hymnal (1904) and as Moderator (1904-1907) of his denomination, the National Council of Congregational Churches in the United States.

Gladden’s partner in life for nearly half a century was his wife, Jennie Cohoon, of Brooklyn.  They wed on December 5, 1860.  She died on May 8, 1909.  The couple had one son, George Gladden, a journalist and encyclopedia editor.

Gladden, the author of more than 32 published works, received high honors and advocated for social justice.  Roanoke College awarded our saint a D.D. in 1882.  The University of Wisconsin granted Gladden a LL.D. the previous year; the University of Notre Dame followed suit in 1895.  For a Roman Catholic university to honor a Protestant clergyman in that way in that era was remarkable.  Our saint was also a pioneer among U.S. ministers in siding with labor unions against exploitative employers during frequently violent strikes.  “Predatory wealth” (Gladden’s term) in U.S. society troubled his social conscience.  Thus he favored the Progressive Era policy of breaking up monopolies.  He also spoke out against Jim Crow laws.

Gladden also wrote at least four hymns, which I have added to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Gladden, retired from active ministry in 1914, died at Columbus, Ohio, on July 2, 1918.  He was 82 years old.

I grew up singing “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” in a pietistic, individualistic, and conservative milieu in southern Georgia.  I was unaware of the hymn’s Social Gospel meaning at the time.  So was the rest of the congregation, probably.  Gladden’s theology would have angered many of the people in the pews, had they known of it.





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

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

Help us, like your servant Washington Gladden,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of 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), 60


3 responses to “Feast of Washington Gladden (July 2)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pingback: Washington Gladden | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: Feast of William Scarlett (October 4) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  3. Pingback: Feast of William Scarlett (October 3) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: