Author Archive

Downsizing   Leave a comment

Above:  My Desk, April 25, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I recall a story a co-worker at a previous place of employment told me years ago.  She and her sister were cleaning out the home of their recently departed mother.  One of the sisters was removing boxes from a shelf when she found a box labeled

STRINGS TOO SHORT TO USE.

It contained strings too short to use.

I have never been that bad.

I have, from time to time, rid myself of a large number of possessions at in short periods of time.  Usually this has happened prior to moving.  A few years ago, in the space of less than one hour, I sold about 1,500 books to someone.  I had about 1,000 books left.  On other occasions I have filled up part of my car and made large donations to thrift stores.  I have also been generous in making donations of books to college libraries.

For about a year now I have been in a nearly continuous mode of downsizing.  This started when a friend and I were helping her friend, a hoarder.  I had to leave the hoarder’s house, which was disturbing in a plethora of ways, as well as unsanitary.  My apartment was far from being a hoarder’s home and from being unsanitary, but I resolved to downsize.  So I did.  For a few days I was extravagantly generous to a thrift store.  I have also made smaller donations to individuals and thrift stores over the past few months.

I have entered a mode whereby I donate items to a thrift store every other week or so.  Life does not, after all, consist of the abundance of possessions, as the Bible says.  In reality, the overabundance of possessions detracts from the quality of life.  Also, I should act out of consideration with regard to those who might have to clean out my home after I die, whenever that will happen (hopefully not for a while).

I am down to between 850 and 900 books.  That is a good count for me, for I use books.  The count is not the best measurement, though, for books come in a range of sizes and thicknesses.  The real standard is book space, which is finite and easy to monitor visually.  I have x amount of book space; so be it.  I must not exceed it.  After a while, adding volumes to the library becomes a zero-sum game; a book I have not consulted for a long time and probably will not revisit must go away.  Thus I also become increasingly picky about what to add to the library.

I like open spaces and empty desk tops.  I do not like too many dust collectors.  I also like having recently found a way to fit all my clothing neatly into one of two closets in my bedroom.  Sometimes more is less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Posted April 27, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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Renovation of the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days on Haitus   Leave a comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  April, 1400s

Image in the Public Domain

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I will return to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days eventually.

The renovation of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS is in progress.  I still have to change the dates on many posts, for example.  I also have a composition book containing drafts of new posts, which I will add to the weblog on schedule.

I also plan to continue to share a variety of thoughts here.

Until later….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Against Xenophobia and Other Sins   2 comments

Above:  Superman on Diversity, 1949

Confirmed here:  http://www.snopes.com/superman-1950-poster-diversity/

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I tend not to be shy about expressing myself on my weblogs.  Usually I make comments in the context of a particular saint, some passage of scripture, or a theological or ethical principle that comes to mind because of that saint or scripture.  This post belongs to a different category–thoughts that simply occupy my mind.

Xenophobia, nativism, racism, and homophobia are sins.  They violate the highest principles of ethical monotheism and the ideals of the United States, as well as mere human decency.  These four sins are also endemic in human history and current events.  Holding up ideals is far easier than living according to them, after all.  Fear–not the variety that prevents one from touching a hot stove, but the sort that leads to hatred and flows from misunderstanding–is ever with us.  It leads us to deny our fellow human beings the civil rights God has granted them.  Even worse, we frequently engage in these sins while justifying them with religion.

May we respect the image of God in each other.  May we love one another as we love ourselves.  May we eschew bigotry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted April 18, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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The Hitler Analogy   Leave a comment

Above:  The Front Page of Stars and Stripes, May 2, 1945

Image in the Public Domain

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Just leave Hitler out of it.

Morning Joe, April 12, 2017

As Sean Spicer has learned this week and, to his credit, he should have just left Hitler out of a discussion of the crimes of the dictator of Syria.

The Hitler analogy is one I hear people of various political stripes invoke against their opponents frequently.  The analogy applies well to only a select group of individuals that includes Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, the body count of each of whom exceeds that of the Fuherer, responsible for the Holocaust.  I recall that, in one statement, my Paul Broun, Jr., my former Congressman, compared Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin–one a Fascist and the other a Communist–representatives of two opposing ideologies.  I remember hearing someone say “Hitlery Clinton” years ago.  I also recall hearing more than one person liken advocates of gun control to Nazis.  Oddly enough, I do not remember hearing anyone condemning the ownership and driving of Volkswagens, vehicles of which Hitler approved, due to the Nazi connection.

The crimes of the Nazis–especially Hitler–were of such magnitude that one should never trivialize them.  If every other thing is as bad as something the Nazis did, how bad could the Nazis have been?  The answer to that question is or should be obvious:  (1)  The Nazis were especially evil, and (2) Very little has ever risen to the level of evil of the Third Reich.  Evil of a magnitude lesser than that of the Nazis has long existed; examples have included Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad.

As Jeffrey Toobin has said, “arguments are easy at the extremes. ”  I conclude that the comfort level with the simplicity of easy arguments makes many people want to avoid the messier arguments between the extremes and leads them to resort to fallacies such as the misuse of the Hitler analogy.  Doing so also weakens their arguments and reveals them to be idiots.

Can we just leave Hitler out of it when he does not belong there?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Feast of Henry Van Dyke (April 10)   4 comments

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

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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:

  1. Frances (age 16 at the time of the 1900 census);
  2. Terticus (1887-1956), a poet who wrote a biography (1935) of his father;
  3. Dorothea (age 12 at the time of the 1900 census);
  4. Elaine (age 8 at the time of the 1900 census); and
  5. 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

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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

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

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

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Feast of Howard Thurman (April 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Howard Thurman

Image in the Public Domain

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HOWARD WASHINGTON THURMAN (NOVEMBER 18, 1899-APRIL 10, 1981)

U.S. Baptist Minister, Mystic, and Theologian

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The religion of Jesus makes the love-ethic central.

–Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949; 1996 reprint, page 89)

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Howard Thurman was an important force for social justice in the United States.  Although he was not on the front lines of the civil rights movement, he did produce a theology of reaching beyond fear and hatred that inspired many who were on the front lines.

Thurman, born on November 18, 1899, at Daytona, Florida, was a son of the church.  His father was Solomon Thurman (a railroad worker) and his mother was Alice Ambrose Thurman (a domestic worker).  Our saint learned much about the Bible from his maternal grandmother, a former slave.  Thurman, educated at Florida Baptist Academy, Jacksonville, Florida (1915-1919), then at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (1919-1923), became a Baptist minister in 1925.  His first church as pastor was Zion Baptist Church, Oberlin, Ohio.  The following year our saint graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary.  Then Thurman continued his education at Oberlin School of Theology and Haverford College.  At the latter institution he learned from Rufus Jones (1863-1948), a prominent Quaker philosopher.  In 1929 Thurman became both a professor of religion and the director of religious life at both Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, Atlanta.  While in Atlanta he married Sue Bailey, in 1932.

From 1932 to 1943 Thurman served on the faculty of Howard University, D.C.  He, President Mordecai Johnson, and Dr. Benjamin Mays (the Dean of the School of Religion), provided leadership at that institution and beyond.  Thurman’s titles were Chairman of the Committee on Religious Life and Professor of Christian Theology.  Our saint worked behind the scenes with many of the early leaders of the civil rights movement.  These great men and women included W. E. B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Mary McLeod Bethune.  During a tour of India in 1935 and 1936 Thurman met Mohandas Gandhi and became convinced of the wisdom of applying nonviolence to the struggle for civil rights in the United States.  Our saint also expanded his understanding of religious freedom with regard to human freedom and the struggle for it.

Thurman left Howard University in 1943 to co-found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, San Francisco, California, an early example of a multicultural congregation in the United States.  His co-pastor was Alfred G. Fisk, who was white.   While in San Francisco, Thurman wrote Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), in which he laid the theological foundation for the use of nonviolence in the civil rights movement and portrayed Jesus as one who helped disinherited people as they dealt with oppression.  Black Liberation Theology, which James Cone went on to develop, grew out of this volume, a copy of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., carried with him.

Our saint left San Francisco in 1953, when he accepted the job as Dean of the Marsh Chapel and Professor of Spiritual Disciplines and Resources at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.  That year Life magazine described Thurman as one of the twelve greatest preachers of the twentieth century.  He applied that rhetorical skill at the Marsh Chapel until 1965, when he retired.

For the rest of his life our saint directed the Howard Thurman Educational Trust.

Thurman died at San Francisco on April 10, 1981.  He was 81 years old.

His message of nonviolent resistance to oppression is timeless, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYRES, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Lydia Emilie Gruchy (April 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lydia Emilie Gruchy and the Ministers who Ordained Her, 1936

Image in the Public Domain

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LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY (SEPTEMBER 5, 1894-APRIL 9, 1992)

First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada

In 1936 Lydia Emilie Gruchy became the first woman ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada.

Gruchy’s journey toward that recognized vocation started at Asnieres, France, where she debuted on September 5, 1894.  Our saint was the eighth of ten children.  Gruchy lost her mother to death when she was eight years old.  From then until 1913 our saint moved from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other in the company of various members of her immediate family.  She and two brothers (Arthur and Victor) were in Saskatchewan together before she and her sisters attended a boarding school in Seaford, England, starting in 1905.  Our saint took a business course in London and worked as a civil servant for a year before she and sisters Florence, Hilda, and Elsie moved to Saskatchewan in 1913.  There Gruchy completed high school, worked as a housekeeper for a year, and trained to become a teacher.  From 1915 to 1923 she taught recent immigrants in one-room schools.  Along the way Gruchy earned her B.A. degree (University of Saskatchewan, 1920), received the Governor-General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence and leadership (1920), and studied theology at Presbyterian College (later St. Andrew’s College), Saskatoon (1920-1923).

Meanwhile, World War I affected Gruchy.  Brothers Arthur and Bert died in the war.  Another brother, Stanley, suffered injuries.

Our saint perceived a vocation to become an ordained minister.  In 1923 she applied to become a Presbyterian minister; the synod turned her down.  For more than a decade Gruchy worked as a lay missionary.  From 1923 to 1927 she served as a missionary to the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan.  Meanwhile, in 1926, the Kamsack Presbytery and the Saskatchewan Conference of the new United Church of Canda (created via a merger the previous year) petitioned the denomination to ordain her.  The question of ordaining women was a matter of official study from 1927 to 1931, however.  As the United Church studied Grouchy worked as a lay missionary in Wakaw, Saskatchewan.  Our saint took a sabbatical to Long Beach, California, in 1931-1932; she visited relatives there.  Then she served as a lay missionary to Kelvington, Saskatchewan, from 1932 to 1936.

The United Church of Canada was finally ready to ordain women in 1936.  So, on November 4, 1936, at St. Andrew’s United Church, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Grouchy became a reverend.  At first she assisted the senior minister at St. Andrew’s Church, Moose Jaw (1936-1938).  From 1938 to 1943 she was the secretary for the Committee on the Deaconess Order and Women Workers, Toronto.  Then our saint served as pastor at Simpson (1948-1952), Cupar (1952-1957), and Neville-Vanguard (1957-1962), all in Saskatchewan.  She also received her Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, in 1953.

Gruchy retired in 1962.  She and a sister relocated to White Rock, British Columbia, where our saint died, aged 97 years, on April 9, 1992.

Pioneers such as Lydia Emilie Gruchy have enriched the life of the institutional church and paved the way for other women to pursue their vocations from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Lydia Emilie Gruchy,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

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

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