Feast of H. Baxter Liebler (November 26)   Leave a comment

Above:  Episcopal Flag

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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HAROLD BAXTER LIEBER (NOVEMBER 26, 1889-NOVEMBER 21, 1982)

Episcopal Priest and Missionary to the Navajo Nation

H. Baxter Liebler comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

The Brooklyn-born Liebler spent nearly half of his long life ministering to members of the Navajo nation in Utah.

Liebler, born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 26, 1889, was a son of Mildred Walther Liebler and theater producer Theodore Liebler.  Our saint became a businessman then a second-career priest.  He married his first wife, Frances F. Marks (d. 1978) in 1913.  Liebler, ordained to the priesthood in 1978, served first as Curate of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York.  In 1918 he founded St. Saviour’s Church, Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  In 1942 Liebler was the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Riverside, Connecticut, when he was on vacation in southwestern Utah.  He noticed the poverty of the Navajo there; they lacked even schools and clinics.  He had had a fascination with Native Americans since childhood.  The combination of factors led to Liebler becoming a missionary.

Liebler did something about that poverty; he returned the following year and remained for the rest of his life.  Our saint founded St. Christopher’s Mission, Bluff, Utah, as well as a school and a clinic.  He respected the Navajo culture, mastered the language, and integrated Navajo prayers and tunes into the liturgy.  He rejected culturally destructive assimilation, by which many folkways and languages have gone extinct, and many indigenous people have fallen into a host of severe woes and ills.  Liebler was glad when the State of Utah assumed responsibility for the school and the clinic, for he preferred to focus on evangelism.  He excelled in that; he baptized about 2,000 Navajos.

Liebler remained active in retirement (1962-1982).  He moved to Oljato and founded the St. Mary-of-the-Moonlight Mission, as well as the Hat Creek Retreat Center.  Our saint, a widower, also remarried.  His second wife was Joan Warburton Eskell (1915-2009).  He died in Oljato on November 21, 1982, five days prior to what would have been his ninety-third birthday.

One legacy of Liebler’s work is The Episcopal Church’s Navajoland Area Mission (a.k.a. the Episcopal Church in Navajoland), carved out of the Dioceses of Arizona, Utah, and the Rio Grande (encompassing New Mexico and much of western Texas) in 1977.  Navajoland has three regions and nine congregations in 2019.  Bishop David Bailey emphasizes ordaining indigenous priests and deacons as the mission area nears the presumptive election of its fourth indigenous bishop.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant H. Baxter Liebler,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the Navajo people.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716

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