Feast of Ralph W. Sockman (October 2)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Church, New York, New York, 1940

Image Source = Library of Congress

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RALPH WASHINGTON SOCKMAN (OCTOBER 1, 1889-AUGUST 29, 1970)

U.S. United Methodist Minister

I like to think we run a church that is intellectually responsible and spiritually redemptive.  In the center of town half of my congregation are visitors.  I take a principle and revolve it so that both the personal and social aspects flash.

–Ralph W. Sockman

Ralph W. Sockman comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible, for which he wrote the exposition on 1 Kings for Volume III (1954).

Sockman, born into a farming family of Mount Vernon, Ohio, on October 1, 1889, rose to become a prominent preacher and a household name.  Educated initially in a one-room school, our saint graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University (B.A., 1911) then Columbia University (M.A., 1913).  In New York City he joined Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, on 60th Street.  In 1916 Sockman graduated from Union Theological Seminary, became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church (extant 1784-1939), and married Zellah Endly.  He also began to serve in Madison Avenue Church as assistant minister.  Sockman, senior minister (1917f), earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1917.  He also received Doctor of Divinity degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University, New York University, and Wesleyan University in 1923, 1932, and 1934, respectively.

Sockman served as senior pastor of two congregations during his career.  When he began to serve at Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, the structure was crumbling and the congregation was dwindling.  Our saint did much to build up attendance.  In 1933 Madison Avenue Church amalgamated with 61st Street Methodist Episcopal Church.  Sockman became the senior minister of the merged Christ Church and presided over the construction of the Romanesque-Byzantine edifice, complete with mosaics.  The architect was Ralph Adams Cram.  When Sockman retired at the end of 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and former President Dwight David Eisenhower sent messages to mark the occasion.

Sockman was a famous preacher and author.  He wrote more than 30 books and a nationally syndicated column, Lift for Living.  From 1928 to 1962 he preached on NBC radio’s National Radio Pulpit program.  Our saint’s sermons were practical without being overly emotional he populated them with rich intellectual content.

Sockman was active on other levels.  He was an associate professor at Union Theological Seminary (1950-1957), the President of the Board of World Peace of the Methodist Episcopal Church then of The Methodist Church (1928-1960), the Director of the Hall of Fame of Great Americans (1948-1970), and the Harry Emerson Fosdick Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary (1963-1964).

Sockman, who had rejected offers to become a Methodist bishop, died at home, in New York City, on August 29, 1970, after a brief illness.  He was 80 years old.

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY ASHLEY COOPER, LORD SHAFTESBURY, BRITISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH AUBERT, FOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF COMPASSION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMANUS THE MELODIST, DEACON AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MYSTIC

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Ralph W. Sockman,

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

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

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718

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One response to “Feast of Ralph W. Sockman (October 2)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Harold A. Bosley (January 19) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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