Archive for the ‘Saints of 1970-1979’ Category

Feast of Bob Keeshan (January 24)   2 comments

Above:  Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo

Image in the Public Domain

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ROBERT JAMES KEESHAN (JUNE 27, 1927-JANUARY 23, 2004)

Captain Kangaroo

Bob Keeshan comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via historical accounts and my childhood.

Keeshan came from an Irish-American Roman Catholic family.  He, born in Lynbrook, New York, on June 27, 1927, was a son of Margaret Frances Conroy Keeshan (d. 1943) and grocery store manager Joseph Keeshan.  Our saint, who graduated from high school in June 1945, served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve (1945-1946).  Afterward, he worked at the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and commenced prelaw studies at Cornell University.  After a few years, Keeshan switched his major to education.  He graduated in 1951.  The previous year, he married Anne Jeanne Laurie (d. 1996), a receptionist at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC),  The couple raised three children.

Keeshan worked on children’s shows before Captain Kangaroo.  He made his broadcasting debut on the Triple B Ranch, a radio program, in 1947.  The following year, our saint originated the role of Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show.  He left that role in 1952.  Our saint portrayed Corny the Clown on Time for Fun (1953-1955), a morning television program in New York City.  He also selected the cartoons to broadcast.  Violent and racially-insensitive cartoons did not make the cut.  Our saint also created Tinker’s Workshop (1954-1955), a program for preschoolers.  He played the Tinker, a grandfather figure.

Keeshan portrayed Captain Kangaroo from October 1955 to December 1984.  He wore a coat with large pockets, hence the character’s name.  Our saint aimed the show at children six to eight years old.  He presented a gentle program that introduced children, as well as many adults, to music, literature, and science.  Characters included Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, Grandfather Clock, and Mr. Green Jeans.

Keeshan advocated for issues affecting children.  He opposed tobacco companies sponsoring children’s activities.  Our saint, like his peer and friend Fred Rogers (1928-2003), understood human development, especially the importance of the first few years.  Therefore, Keeshan worked to provide daycare programs to businesses (1987f), criticized violence in video games, and condemned cartoons that were advertisements for toys in the 1980s.

Our saint, who received awards for his work in children’s broadcasting, died at home in Windsor, Vermont, on January 23, 2004.  He was 76 years old.

When Bob Keeshan spoke out regarding values, his life backed up his words.

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Living God, whose image each human being bears,

we thank you for the faith, life, and legacy of Bob Keeshan, Captain Kangaroo.

May the gentleness he embodied thrive in societies,

and may education enrich children culturally and intellectually.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Proverbs 4:1-9

Psalm 78:1-4

Ephesians 6:1-4

Matthew 19:13-15

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN MELANESIA

THE FEAST OF AARON ROBARTS WOLFE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALLEN CRITE, ARTIST

THE FEAST OF HANNAH MORE, ANGLICAN POET, PLAYWRIGHT, RELIGIOUS WRITER, AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GOMER AND MARY GOMER, U.S. UNITED BRETHREN MISSIONARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

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Feast of John Marinus Versteeg (January 15)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logos of The Methodist Church (1939-1968) and The United Methodist Church (1968-)

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHN MARINUS VERSTEEG (SEPTEMBER 9, 1888-JANUARY 14, 1977)

U.S. Methodist Minister and Hymn Writer

John Marinus Versteeg comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Hymnal (1941), of the old Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Versteeg was a native of The Netherlands.  He, born in Den Heller on September 9, 1888, was a son of Anna Petronella Ollman Versteeg and the Reverend Dir Oren Versteeg.  The family immigrated in 1900, and our saint became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1909.

Versteeg became a Methodist minister.  He served in three successive denominations, due to mergers:  the Methodist Episcopal Church (-1939), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), and The United Methodist Church (1968f).  Our saint, ordained a deacon in 1915, graduated from Drew University, Madison, New Jersey (Bachelor of Divinity, 1916).  Versteeg joined the ranks of elders in 1917.  He wrote The Modern Meaning of Church Membership (1919).

Versteeg was pastor of West Side Methodist Episcopal Church, Jersey City, New Jersey (1920-1921).  During this time, he married Edna Catherine Ames on June 18, 1921.  The couple had four children:  Sherwood, Elaine, Robert, and Virgil.

Our saint served as the pastor of Drew Methodist Episcopal (now United Methodists) Church, Port Jervis, New York (1922-1925).  During these years, Versteeg wrote and published three books:

  1. The Deeper Meaning of Stewardship (1923),
  2. Christ and the Problems of Youth (1924), and
  3. Christianity at Work (1925).

Versteeg was pastor of Roseville Methodist Episcopal  Church (now Roseville St. Paul’s United Methodist Church), Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania (1929-1931).  During this time, he wrote Perpetuating Pentecost (1930).  Our saint also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania (1931).

Versteeg’s longest tenure was at Walnut Hills-Avondale Methodist Episcopal/Methodist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio (1932-1945).  Our saint was productive during these years.  He wrote three books:

  1. Save Money! (1939),
  2. Our Protestant Convictions (1941), and
  3. When Christ Controls:  Stewardship Messages (1943).

Stewardship was Versteeg’s favorite topic about which to write.  He also wrote a hymn, though.  In 1926, our saint wrote a hymn for Psalm Sunday.  This text was “Does Thy Soul Leap Up Within Thee?” (The Hymnal, 1941, #139).

While in Cincinnati, Versteeg did much more.

  1. He served as the president of the Greater Cincinnati Writers’ League (1942-1944).
  2. He was the president of the Council of Churches in Greater Cincinnati (1941-1944).
  3. He founded the Cincinnati School of Religion.
  4. He chaired the Social Service Commission of the Ohio Annual Conference (1943-1944).
  5. He sat on the regional War Labor Board (1943-1945).
  6. He was a lecturer in Biblical Literature at the University of Cincinnati (1943-1944).
  7. He took a seat on the denominational Executive Committee of the Commission on Church Union (1944-1956).
  8. He was a delegate to the General Conference (1940).

Furthermore, Versteeg received more academic honors.  Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree in 1942.  Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio, granted our saint the Doctor of Sacred Theology degree in 1945.

Versteeg served as the District Superintendent of the Lima District, based in Lima, Ohio, from 1945 to 1951.  During these years, he remained active in other denominational capacities.

  1. He was a delegate to the General Conferences of 1948.
  2. He chaired the denominational Commission on Social Action (1948f).

Also, Union College, Schenectady, New York, awarded our saint the Doctor of Letters degree in 1946.

Versteeg served as the pastor of First Methodist (now United Methodist) Church, Athens, Ohio (1951-1957).  By 1952, he doubled as a lecturer for the denominational Board of Ministerial Training.  He was also a delegate to the General Conference of 1952.

Versteeg was the Director of Libraries at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Delaware,  Ohio (1957-1960).  Then he retired.

Versteeg served in other capacities, too.  He was a delegate to more than one World Methodist Conference.  He also belonged to the American Society of Church History.  This historical interest manifested itself in a book, Methodism:  Ohio Area (1812-1962) (1962).

Our saint, aged 88 years, died on January 14, 1977.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant John Marinus Versteeg,

to be a pastor in your Church and to feed your flesh:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ

and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 719

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Feast of Henry Irving Louttit, Jr. (December 31)   8 comments

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR. (JUNE 13, 1938-DECEMBER 31, 2020)

Episcopal Bishop of Georgia

Bishop Henry Irving Loutttit, Jr., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via my ecclesiastical past.  Within Anglicanism, history makes saints.  I, having known Bishop Louttit, attest that he was a saint.

This post is personal.  Know, therefore, O reader, that I have chosen to refer to this saint on a first-name basis–as Henry.

Henry was a model of Anglican collegiality.  In the last two decades, “Anglican,” in the United States of America, has assumed a Donatistic connotation in my mind.  Henry’s Anglicanism was a big tent, however.  He, to my right in many respects, offered an ecclesiastical setting that made room for heretics such as me.

Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., born in West Palm Beach, Florida, on June 13, 1938, was a scion of The Episcopal Church.  Henry’s mother was Amy Cleckler Louttit.  His father was Henry Irving Louttit, Sr. (1903-1984), then a priest in the Diocese of South Florida.  Henry, Sr., went on to serve as the Suffragan Bishop of South Florida (1945-1948), the Bishop Coadjutor of South Florida (1948-1951), and the Bishop of South Florida (1951-1969).  In 1969, the Diocese of South Florida broke up into the Dioceses of Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, and Central Florida.  Henry, Sr., served as the first Bishop of Central Florida (1969-1970) before retiring.

The Louttit family belonged to the Anglo-Catholic wing of The Episcopal Church.  In 2005, Henry recalled:

…we knew that we were right, even though we were not the majority in the Episcopal Church.  There was a fortress mentality that caused us to suspect that everything the national Episcopal Church did was intended to undercut the truths that we held dear.  Most of the young priests who influenced me as a teenager believed that the greater part of the Episcopal Church was heretical–were outside of God’s communion.

The family was progressive on racial justice issues.  The Ku Klux Klan once burned a cross on the front lawn of the family home in Winter Park, Florida.

Henry had a fine Episcopal education.  He studied at Christ School, a boarding school in Arden, North Carolina.  He graduated with honors from The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, too.  Our saint made an unusual choice of seminary, given his Anglo-Catholic heritage; he matriculated at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia.  In 2005, Henry recalled:

For them anything that Roman Catholics did or said was wrong….In my world, if Rome did it, it was right.  In their world, if Rome did it, it must be wrong.

Henry married Jayne “Jan” Northway Arledge on June 14, 1962.  The couple eventually had three daughters.

While a seminarian, Henry served at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.  It had become the first racially-integrated Episcopal church in the District of Columbia in the 1950s.

Henry, having graduated from VTS in June 1963, embarked on his ministerial career.  His father ordained him a deacon that month.  Our saint became a priest on June 25, 1964.  He served in three congregations in the Diocese of Georgia:

  1. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro (-1967);
  2. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta (1967-1994); and
  3. St. James’ Episcopal Church, Quitman (1970-1974).

Henry nearly became a bishop at least twice before winning election as Bishop of Georgia.

  1. Henry was a candidate for Bishop Coadjutor of Georgia in 1983.  Henry was a relatively liberal candidate; he favored the ordination of women.  Harry Woolston Shipps (1926-1916) won that election on a pledge not to ordain women.  Shipps went on to serve as the Bishop Coadjutor (1984-1985) then the Bishop of Georgia (1985-1994).  Before Shipps retired, he ordained women.
  2. Henry was also a candidate for Suffragan Bishop of Ohio in 1994.  Kenneth Lester Price, Jr., won that election and served, starting that year.

Henry won election as Bishop of Georgia in late 1994.  His consecration occurred in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, on January 21, 1995.

Henry was my priest (1993-1994) then my bishop (1995-2005).  Many people knew him longer and better than I did.  I wish I had known him better than I did.

Henry was, among other descriptions:

  1. Beloved,
  2. Pastoral,
  3. Down-to-earth, and
  4. Realistic.

Henry had a healthy sense of humor about himself.  On his last Sunday at Christ Christ, Valdosta (October 30, 1994), Henry noted the proximity of that day to Halloween.  He also recalled that his installation as rector had occurred on April Fool’s Day, 1967.

In the early 2000s, I was a member of another parish in another town in the Diocese of Georgia.  One Sunday, when Henry made his episcopal visit, he diplomatically broke bad news:  He had spoken to recent former rectors of that parish.  Not one missed the parish.  This was an evaluation the congregation needed to hear.

Henry was, like most people, I suppose, a mix of progressivism and conservatism.

  1. Henry was a relative liberal in the Diocese of Georgia, especially with regard to The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the ordination of women.  His metaphorical fingerprints were all over the “new Prayer Book;” he was part of its creation.  And one daughter became a priest.  In the House of Bishops, Henry voted to insist on the ordination of women in all dioceses.
  2. Henry, however, was relatively conservative regarding homosexuality.  His voting record on this issue in the House of Bishops moderated the longer he served as a bishop, however.  That relative conservatism helped in his effort to maintain diocesan unity in the early 2000s.  He was not entirely successful, though; no Bishop of Georgia could have been.  Henry strove to maintain the big tent.  Some, however, chose to leave that tent and form breakaway congregations.

Henry, as Bishop of Georgia, presided over a rural, far-flung diocese.  He worked on solutions regarding ministry in that context.  Henry also encouraged the vocational diaconate, founded missions and revitalized congregations.

Henry (Doctor of Divinity, Virginia Theological Seminary, 1993) was also a hagiographer.  He wrote Saints of Georgia (1998, 1999, 2004), a mix of national and diocesan saints.  One of these saints–Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander (1865?-1947)–eventually received denominational recognition.  The Episcopal Church added her to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) then to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visited her old church, Good Shepherd, Pennick, in January 2018.

I departed for the Diocese of Atlanta in August 2005.  Before I did, however, I asked Henry to recommend a parish to attend in Athens.  He advised me to join St. Gregory the Great Church.  He was correct.

Henry retired on January 23, 2010.  He remained in Savannah for years.  Eventually, though, he and Jan moved to Tallahassee, Florida, to be close to a daughter.

Henry, aged 82 years, died in Tallahassee on December 23, 2020.  He was a gentleman, a scholar, and a prince of the church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Henry Irving Louttit, Jr.,

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 and 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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Feast of Ambrose Reeves (December 8)   2 comments

Above:  An Apartheid Sign

Image in the Public Domain

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RICHARD AMBROSE REEVES (DECEMBER 6, 1899-DECEMBER 23, 1980)

Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, and Opponent of Apartheid

Bishop (Richard) Ambrose Reeves comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via historical accounts.  A standard rule (with exceptions) in provinces of the Anglican Communion is to wait about half a century after someone’s death before adding that person to an official calendar of saints.  I understand why this is a wise policy for ecclesiastical authorities to follow.  Given this policy, Bishop Reeves’s time for addition to some Anglican calendars of saints may arrive within a few years.  My Ecumenical Calendar, however, does not come with the fifty-year-rule.  So, I add Bishop Reeves to my Ecumenical Calendar today.

Ambrose Reeves, born in Norwich, England, on December 6, 1899, spent most of his life in ministry.  He, a veteran of World War I, studied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University (B.A., 1924); the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, England; General Theological Seminary, New York, New York; and Cambridge University (M.A., 1943).  After completing seminary in the middle 1920s, our saint became a deacon in The Church of England (May 30, 1926), then a priest therein (June 12, 1927).  Reeves served first as the Curate of St. Albans, Golders Green (1926-1931).  During that time, he doubled as the secretary of the Christian Social Movement.

Reeves married Ada van Ryssan in 1931.  The couple raised four children.

Reeves continued to serve on the parish level and beyond from 1931 to 1949.  He was the Rector of St. Margaret’s, Leven (1931-1935).  Next, our saint served in the Diocese of Gibraltar and as the secretary of the World Student Christian Federation (1935-1937).  Reeves returned to England in 1937.  He served as the Vicar of St. James, Haydock (1937-1942); the Rector of the Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, Liverpool (1942-1949); and the Canon of Liverpool Cathedral (1942-1949).

Reeves spent 1949-1960 in South Africa, as the Bishop of Johannesburg.  He was outspoken in his opposition to Apartheid and condemnation of the repressive, unjust, national government.  Our saint’s uncompromising moral position led to his deportation on September 12, 1960.  Bishop Reeves, back in England, resigned, effective March 31, 1961.  His anti-Apartheid activism continued; our saint served as the President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement from 1970 to 1980.

Bishop Reeves hoped to serve as a bishop ordinary in England, yet did not.  He did, however, serve as the Assistant Bishop of London (1962-1966) then the Assistant Bishop of Chichester (1966-1980).  Our saint, the General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement (1962-1965), served also as the Priest-in-Charge (1966-1968) then the Rector (1968-1972) of St. Michael’s Church, East Sussex.

Bishop Reeves, aged 81 years, died at Shoreham-by-Sea on December 23, 1980.  He had lived well and courageously.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWNLIE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARROLL O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ACTOR AND SCREEN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRÉDÉRIC JANSOONE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FRIAR

THE FEAST OF LAMBERT BEAUDUIN, BELGIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

THE FEAST OF SARAH PLATT DOREMUS, FOUNDER OF THE WOMEN’S UNION MISSIONARY SOCIETY

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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 Ambrose Reeves]

to use our freedom to bring justice

among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Eugene Carson Blake (November 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  My Copies of the Presbyterian Books of Confessions, from 1967, 1985, and 2007

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Book of Confessions (1967), of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The Book of Confessions (1985, 2007), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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EUGENE CARSON BLAKE (NOVEMBER 7, 1906-JULY 31, 1985)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Ecumenist, and Moral Critic

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Boasting about our heritage of freedom, we allied ourselves with some of the worst dictators all over the world, as long as they were, in our judgment, anti-communist.  We have justified all sorts of immoral political acts either because we thought they would weaken communism or (even a more immoral excuse) that since the communists were doing them, so must we….These, and other such actions, have been occasioned far more by fear of communism than by concern for justice.

–Eugene Carson Blake, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 554

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Eugene Carson Blake comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cady and Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Blake came from Midwestern Presbyterian stock.  He, born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 7, 1906, was a son of Lulu Blake and Orville Prescott Blake.  Our saint graduated from Princeton University with a degree in philosophy in 1928.  Then he taught the Bible, English, and philosophy at Forman Christian College, Lahore (then in India; now in Pakistan), for a year (1928-1929).  Next, Blake studied theology at New College, Edinburgh (1929-1930).  He matriculated at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1930 and graduated two years later.

Our saint, ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) in 1932, embarked upon his ministerial career.  He was, in order:

  1. the assistant pastor (1932) then the senior pastor (1932-1935) of the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas (Reformed Church in America), New York, New York;
  2. the senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Albany, New York (1935-1940); and
  3. the senior pastor of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Pasadena, California (1940-1951).

Blake left parish ministry in 1951.  He served as the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1951-1958).  As such, he helped to execute the merger of the PCUSA with The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) to form The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1958.  Then he served as the President of the Stated Clerk of the UPCUSA (1958-1966).

Above:  The Logo of the UPCUSA

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

On the ecumenical front, Blake also served as the President of the National Council of Churches (1954-1957) then as the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (1966-1972).

Blake’s ecumenism led to the founding of the Consultation on Church Union (1962-2002), the predecessor of Churches Uniting in Christ (2002-).  In 1960, at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco, California, he preached a famous sermon.  Our saint advocated for the merger of The UPCUSA (1958-1983), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), The Episcopal Church (1789-), and the United Church of Christ (1957-) into one denomination truly both Catholic and Reformed.

The Consultation on Church Union included ten denominations in 1967:

  1. the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  4. the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
  5. The Episcopal Church,
  6. the Evangelical United Brethren Church (merged into The United Methodist Church, 1968),
  7. The Methodist Church (merged into The United Methodist Church, 1968),
  8. the Presbyterian Church in the United States (merged into the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983),
  9. the United Church of Christ, and
  10. The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (merged into the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983).

The successor organization, Churches Uniting in Christ, consciously confronts racism.  The members are:

  1. the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  4. the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,
  5. The Episcopal Church,
  6. the International Council of Community Churches,
  7. the Moravian Church in America,
  8. the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
  9. the United Church of Christ, and
  10. The United Methodist Church.

That anti-racism is consistent with our saint’s legacy.

Blake was active in the Civil Rights Movement.  On July 4, 1963, he went to jail for trying to integrate the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, Baltimore, Maryland.  The following month, he was prominent at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which he had helped to organize.  Our saint was one of speakers at that great event.  And, at the World Council of Churches (1966-1972), Blake led a global anti-racism program.

Blake’s opposition to the Vietnam War earned the ire of two Presidents of the United States of America.  He became persona non grata with Lyndon Baines Johnson (in office 1963-1969).  Richard Nixon (in office 1969-1974) had a list of 576 enemies, subject to official harassment, such as tax audits and F.B.I. investigations.  “Enemies” included actor Paul Newman (1925-2008), journalists Daniel Schorr (1916-2010) and Mary McGrory (1918-2019), and U.S. Representatives John Conyers (1929-2019) and Ron Dellums (1935-2018).  That list also included Blake.  Newman described being on Nixon’s enemies list as a great honor.  Schorr, whom the F.B.I. investigated, spoke to Nixon at a social occasion years after Nixon left office.  The journalist referred to that investigation.  The former President, apparently not apologetic and repentant, replied:

I damn near hired you once.

Blake was in very good company on Nixon’s list of enemies.

Blake also helped to make the United Presbyterian Book of Confessions and Confession of 1967 possible.  The first edition of The Book of Confessions debuted in 1967.  The emphasis on reconciliation in Christ in the Confession of 1967 was consistent with our saint’s work.

In Jesus Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.  He is the eternal Son of the Father, who became man and lived among us to fulfill the work of reconciliation.  He is present in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue and complete his mission.  This work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the foundation of all confessional statements about God, man, and the world.  Therefore the church calls men to be reconciled to God and to one another.

–From the Confession of 1967, quoted in The Book of Confessions (1967), 9.07

In retirement, Blake worked for Bread for the World.  Feeding starving people was consistent with decreasing poverty, another social justice issue and long-time cause of our saint.  He had worked on economic and social development at the World Council of Churches, too.

Blake, aged 78 yeas, died in Stamford, Connecticut, on July 31, 1985.  By then The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States had merged to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in 1983.

Blake got more right than wrong–a daunting task and a great accomplishment.

I am an ecumenist.  Denominational structures exist because of human nature.  We in the Universal Church should, of course, strive to reduce the number of denominations via well-reasoned and feasible mergers.  And, when organic union is not feasible, perhaps cooperation is.  So be it.

I am also an Episcopalian.  I have definite Roman Catholic tendencies.  What passes for corporate worship in most of Protestantism leaves me uninspired.  I want to ask:

Do you call this a proper liturgy?

My denominational Plan B is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in full communion with The Episcopal Church.  This is a good fit, given the historical relations between Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

Blake’s proposed United Presbyterian Church-United Church of Christ-Methodist Church-Episcopal Church union was not feasible.  For example, in 1993, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) published its most recent Book of Common Worship.  It was a vast improvement over The Worshipbook–Services (1970), incorporated into The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972).  Many Presbyterians objected to the new Book of Common Worship.  It was too Episcopalian, they said.

A denomination has a character.  Some denominations are better fits with other denominations than with others.

Blake issued his proposal at a different time.  Most Christian denominations in the United States of America were growing in membership, for example.  Also, The Episcopal Church had yet to bear the full fruits of liturgical renewal in 1960.  Nevertheless, his vision for a more united institutional church has become more relevant when, in the United States of America and the rest of the Western world, “none” has become the fastest-growing religious affiliation.

Sadly, Blake’s foci on reducing poverty and racism are more germane than ever.  Related to them is another one of his favorite themes.  We need reconciliation with each other and God more than ever.  Reconciliation is difficult to achieve when mutually hostile camps cannot even agree on what constitutes objective reality.

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Loving and righteous God, who transcends all religious denominations,

we thank you for the faithful ministry, social witness, and legacy of your servant, Eugene Carson Blake.

May we also seek to bring the world closer to the high calling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God,

and embrace our brother and sister Christians in other denominations;

for your glory and for the common good.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:9-18

Psalm 133

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

John 17:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Feast of John Harris Burt (October 20)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHN HARRIS BURT (APRIL 11, 1918-OCTOBER 20, 2009)

Episcopal Bishop of Ohio, and Civil Rights Activist

Bishop John Harris Burt comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via his connection to his father, Bates Gilbert Burt (1878-1948), already here.

John Harris Burt was a native of Michigan.  He, born in Marquette on April 11, 1918, was a son of Father Bates Gilbert Burt and Abigail Gilbert Bates Burt.  Burt, Sr., was the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Marquette (1904-1922).  Burt, Sr., was later the Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Pontiac, Michigan (1922-1947).  Our saint, after graduating from high school in Pontiac, matriculated at Amherst College (B.A., 1940).  Then he studied social work for a year at Columbia University, followed by further studies at Virginia Theological Seminary (Class of 1943).

Then Burt began ordained ministry.  He, ordained to the diaconate (1943) then the priesthood (1944), was the canon of the Cathedral chapter of Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri, as well as the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, St. Louis (1943-1944).   He met Martha May Miller at St. Paul’s Church.  Next, Burt served as a chaplain in the United States Navy (1944-1946).  He married Martha on February 16, 1946.  Our saint was also the Episcopal chaplain at The University of Michigan (1946-1950).  He left that post to become the Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Youngstown, Ohio (1950-1957).  As the Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California (1957-1967), Burt made that parish a leader in social activism.  He was, for example, a prominent ally of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez.

Above:  The Flag of Ohio

Image in the Public Domain

Burt became a bishop.  He, elected in 1966, became the Bishop Coadjutor of Ohio on February 4, 1967.  He succeeded to become the Bishop of Ohio by the end of the year.  Burt served until he retired in 1983.  Our saint was outspoken and active.  He opposed the Vietnam War.  In 1967, Burt spoke at the International Inter-Religious Symposium of Peace in New Delhi, India.  Following the collapse of the steel industry in Youngstown, Ohio, our saint co-founded the Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley.  This earned him the Thomas Merton Award, previously given to luminaries, such as Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan.  Burt, an early advocate for the ordination to women to the priesthood, promised to resign if the General Convention of 1976 did not approve such ordinations.  It did, much to the consternation of many a traditionalist Anglican.

Burt was active in Christian ecumenism and interfaith relations.  He was, for a time, the President of the Southern California Council of Churches, as well as a representative to the National Council of Churches at another time.  Our saint chaired the denominational Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (1974-1979).  He worked on Jewish-Christian relations at The Episcopal Church, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, the United States Holocaust Museum, and the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel.

Burt understood that loving one’s neighbors had practical applications.  Therefore, for example, he worked on energy independence, as well as solutions to economic problems in Ohio and seven nearby states.

Our saint, aged 91 years, died in Marquette, Michigan, on October 20, 2009.  Martha, their four daughters, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren survived him.

Burt said:

The world alters us as we walk in it.

He worked to alter the world for the better as he walked through it.

May each of us do likewise.

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God of Shalom, we thank you for the ministry, international work,

and community development work of your servant, John Harris Burt.

May we also, in the Name of Jesus, pursue peace with our neighbors near and far away,

and build up each other spiritually, economically, and concretely.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Amos 8:1-10

Psalm 1

James 2:14-26

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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Feast of Richard McSorley (October 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Image Source = Google Earth

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RICHARD T. MCSORLEY, S.J. (OCTOBER 2, 1914-OCTOBER 17, 2002)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Professor, and Peace Activist

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I see my mission in life, as God has made it known to me, to help make the Catholic Church what it should be, a peace church.  To be Christian means to have respect for life in all its forms, and in today’s nuclear age, that means Christians must become active witnesses for peace and must firmly oppose all forms of war.

–Father Richard T. McSorley, S.J., quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 540

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Father Richard T. McSorley, S.J., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cady and Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

The McSorleys of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were a large and devout Roman Catholic family.  There were fifteen children, eight of whom entered religious life.  Young Richard entered the Society of Jesus in 1932, at Wernesville, Pennsylvania.  By 19939, our saint completed his degree in philosophy.  That year, the order sent him to Manila, the Philippines, to teach at a Jesuit high school and seminary.

McSorley spent December 13, 1941-February 23, 1945, as a prisoner of the Japanese Empire.  He and other Jesuits and seminarians suffered repeated tortures.  McSorley nearly died of starvation.  He, hauled repeatedly before firing squads, saw fellow prisoners executed.  Japanese soldiers laughed at our saint, and aimed their guns at him without shooting.  They faked him out three times.

After U.S. paratroopers rescued the prisoners.  McSorley returned to the Untied States of America.  Our saint graduated from seminary at Woodstock College in Maryland.  He, ordained to the priesthood in 1946, embarked upon a life of ministry and social justice.  He, assigned to St. James’ Church, St. Mary’s City, Maryland, confronted Jim Crow laws, individual racism, and the Ku Klux Klan.  He preached against racism, advocated for the desegregation of church and society, and nearly became the victim of a Klan lynching.  McSorley, not intimidated, refused to be silent.

McSorley, who taught philosophy at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania (1952-1961), completed his doctorate at Ottawa University, Canada, during those years.  Then he taught theology at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1961f).  He also did all of the following:

  1. He tutored the children of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
  2. He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, Alabama.
  3. He opposed the Vietnam War.
  4. He became a pacifist in the 1960s.
  5. He tried to abolish all chapters of the R.O.T.C. at Roman Catholic colleges and universities.
  6. He favored the abolition of the R.O.T.C.
  7. He denounced all weapons of mass destruction.
  8. He condemned nuclear weapons as sinful.
  9. He helped to found Pax Christi U.S.A. in the 1970s.
  10. He went to jail for peacefully protesting Apartheid and nuclear weapons.
  11. He opposed Ronald Reagan’s policy of supporting repressive governments in Latin America.
  12. He wrote books and articles.

McSorley had a well-developed sense of the disparity between the laws of God and the laws of governments.  For our saint, Christian love was nonviolent love.  He considered Just War Theory absurd, especially in the age of nuclear weapons:

Can we serve both God and our government when the government orders us to do what God forbids?  Of course not.

McSorley belonged to the Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton wing of the Roman Catholic Church.  Our saint made enemies, of course.  He made enemies inside the Society of Jesus.  F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover (that paragon of opposition to civil rights and civil liberties) considered McSorley a “disgrace” and searched in vain for a way to smear his reputation.

McSorley, aged 88 years, died in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 2002.

Our saint took to heart the commandment of Jesus to love one’s enemies.  In so doing, McSorley became a radical–a radical Christian.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Richard T. McSorley] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Joseph Lowery (October 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  Joseph and Evelyn Lowery, Atlanta, Georgia, 1994

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-47972

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JOSEPH ECHOLS LOWERY, SR. (OCTOBER 6, 1921-MARCH 27, 2020)

African-American United Methodist Minister and Civil Rights Leader

Joseph Lowery comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via civil rights activism.

The struggle to gain and retain civil rights, which should be automatic because one has a pulse, never ends.  At any given time, some person, group, or political party seeks to deny or curtail the civil rights of certain people based on an arbitrary characteristic.  These evildoers frequently cloak these efforts in the language of righteousness.  The life and legacy of Joseph Lowery contains lessons that, sadly, remain current and relevant.

Lowery, born in Huntsville, Alabama, on October 6, 1921, grew up in the (old) Jim Crow South.  His mother, Dora Lowery, was a teacher.  His father, Leroy Lowery, Jr., was a small businessman.  The 14-year-old Lowery once refused to get off a sidewalk as a white man approached and passed.  For this alleged offense, a white police officer punched our young saint.  The youth rushed home to get a gun, but his father dissuaded him.  The family sent Lowery to live with relatives in Chicago, Illinois, for a few years.  Our saint returned to Huntsville in 1936.  After graduating from William Cooper Council High School in 1939, he went to college.  He matriculated at Knoxville College, transferred to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, then studied at Paine College, Augusta, Georgia (Class of 1943).

Lowery became a minister in The Methodist Church (1939-1968).  He matriculated at Payne Theological Seminary (of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), Wilberforce, Ohio, 1944.  In the early 1940s, he had married Agnes Moore.  The couple had two children, Joseph Lowery, Jr.; and Leroy Lowery, III.  That marriage ended in divorce in the middle 1940s.  Our saint completed his Doctor of Divinity degree from the Chicago Ecumenical Institute, Chicago, Illinois (1950).  That year, he also married civil rights activist Evelyn Gibson, a member of The Methodist Church.  The couple had three children:  Yvonne, Karen, and Cheryl.

Lowery served as the pastor of Warren Street Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama (1952-1961).  During those years, he became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  He helped to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Lowery also led the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, dedicated to the desegregation of buses and public places.  In 1957, Lowery; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and others founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  He held various positions in the SCLC before serving as the President (1977-1997).  The State of Alabama harassed Lowery and certain other civil rights leaders in 1959.  The state seized their cars and other property to pay damages resulting from a libel suit.  The United States Supreme Court, in New York Times Company v. Sullivan (1964), ruled that Alabama’s libel law violated the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech and press.  The State of Alabama, therefore, had acted unconstitutionally.

From 1961 to 1964, Lowery worked in the office of Methodist Bishop Michael Golden, in Nashville, Tennessee.  Our saint continued to participate in protests for civil rights during these years.

Lowery was pastor of St. Paul Methodist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, from 1964 to 1968.  He also marched with Dr. King at Selma in 1965.

Lowery was the senior pastor of Central United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia (1968-1986).  Almost immediately, he continued his tradition of getting arrested from a righteous cause, but in Georgia.  Our saint’s participation in a sanitation workers’ strike (1968) led to jail time.  This was neither his first nor last time to go to jail for protesting peacefully.  He, active in the anti-Apartheid movement, went to jail in the District of Columbia for participating in a protest there outside the South African embassy in 1984, for example.

Lower was the senior pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia (1986-1992).  He built up his congregation, community, city, and society.  Our saint worked to ensure that Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) lines ran through African-American communities.  He also helped to initiate a gun buyback program.  Evelyn initiated an HIV/AIDS program from African-American communities.  Lowery retired in 1992.

Lowery remained socially conscious, active, and controversial (as all proper social activists are) in retirement.  He served as the President of the SCLC until 1997.  Clark Atlanta University opened the Joseph E. Lowery Center for Justice and Human Rights in 2001.  At the funeral of Coretta Scott King, in 2006, in the presence of President George W. Bush, Lowery aroused much conservative ire by condemning the federal government for fighting a war in Iraq yet not a war on domestic poverty.  (One gets to denounce a U.S. President peacefully in the presence of that President in the United States of America, of course.  It is a grand American tradition.)  Later in life, our saint openly advocated for equal rights for homosexuals.  He initially spoke out in favor of civil unions, then, in 2012, same-sex marriage.

Evelyn Lowery died on September 26, 2013.

Our saint, aged 99 years, died in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 27, 2020.

Perhaps the best way to conclude this post is with Lowery’s benediction at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama, on January 20, 2009:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest,

and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work

for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; 

when brown can stick around;

when yellow will be mellow;

when the red man can get ahead, man;

and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say,

Amen!  Say Amen!  And Amen!

That vision remains in the future tense, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARBER LIGHTFOOT, BISHOP OF DURHAM

THE FEAST OF HENRI PERRIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC WORKER PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GLOUCESTER, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 655; AND SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR, 662

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROLANDO RIVI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1945

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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, Joseph Echols Lowery, Sr.] to use our freedom

to bring justice among peoples and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Walter and Albertina Sisulu (October 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Walter and Albertina Sisulu with their Wedding Party, Including Nelson Mandela

Image in the Public Domain

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WALTER ULYETE MAX SISULU (MAY 18, 1912-MAY 5, 2003)

Anti-Apartheid Activist and Political Prisoner in South Africa

husband of

NONTSIKELELO ALBERTINA SISULU (OCTOBER 21, 1918-JUNE 2, 1911)

Anti-Apartheid Activist and Political Prisoner in South Africa

“Mother of the Nation”

Born Nontsikelelo Thethiwe

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[The South African government] call themselves Christians, but I fail to understand, because in the very Bible they are carrying it says, “Thou shalt not kill.”  But they are busy killing the children, busy killing the people in jail.

–Albertina Sisulu, April 1988; quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, eds., Cloud of Witnesses, 2nd. ed. (2005), 36

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To share the sacrament as part of the tradition of my Church was important for me.  It gave me a sense of inner quiet and calm.  I used to come away from these services feeling a new man.

–Walter Sisulu, in a letter from prison, May 10, 1979

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I have never abandoned my Christian beliefs.

–Walter Sisulu, 1993

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INTRODUCTION

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Albertina Sisulu comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Wallis and Hollyday, Cloud of Witnesses (2005).  Walter Sisulu joins her here because he was her husband and fellow activist for social justice, in the name of God.  One cannot properly tell the story of one Sisulu alone.  One can, however, properly tell the story of the couple.

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MEET WALTER SISULU

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Walter Sisulu, born in Qutubeni, a village in the Engcobo district of Transkei, Eastern Cape, on May 18, 1912, was the son of Albert of Victor Dickenson and Alice Mase Sisulu.  Dickenson, an assistant magistrate, was White.  The mother was African.  The couple was not married.  Young Walter grew up with his grandmother and uncle until he was six years old.  Then he began to live in his mother’s household.  Our saint, baptized a Methodist, studied at an Anglican missionary school until he was 15 years old, when his uncle died.  Walter had to leave school and work in a dairy in Johannesburg to help support his family financially.

Walter, who worked in a gold mine, starting in 1929, eventually moved to East London, Eastern Cape, to rejoin his mother, who had become a domestic worker there.  In East London, our saint met Clements Kadalie, the leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU).  In 1933, Walter and his mother settled in Johannesburg.  He worked at the Premier Biscuit factory and attended the Bantu Men’s Social Centre’s night school.   Our saint also helped to organize a strike for higher wages at the bakery.  So, he got fired in 1940.  That year, he also joined the African National Congress (ANC).

Throughout the 1940s, Walter worked in a succession of jobs, departing from one for the next one in a disagreement.  Finally, our saint went into real estate.  First he was a partner with a White man.  Then Walter branched out on his own.

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MEET ALBERTINA SISULU

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Nontsikelelo Thethiwe, born in the Tsomo district of Transkei, Eastern Cape, on October 21, 1918, was the second of five children of Bonizwe and Monikazi Thethiwe.  Nontsikelelo arrived at a perilous time, that of the Spanish Influenza, which her mother had while pregnant wtih her.  Bonilizwe, the father, was away, working in the mines.  Monkazi, the mother, suffered aftereffects of the Spanish Influenza.  Therefore, our saint and her immediate family (except for her father) lived with Monkazi’s relatives in Xolobe.  There our saint attended a Presbyterian missionary school.  According to the custom at the school, she selected a Christian name for herself.  Nontsikelelo chose to become Albertina.

Albertina was a good student, but domestic demands held her back academically.  Her mother being ill constantly, our saint had to keep leaving school to take care of her younger siblings.  This situation, combined with her age, disqualified Albertina for a four-year scholarship for which she had competed and which she had won.  Given that the competition call had not stated an age limit, this predicament was unfair.  Albertina’s teachers advocated for her.  Some local Roman Catholic priests took up this case and arranged for a four-year scholarship for Albertina to attend the high school at Mariazell College, Mataliele, Eastern Cape.  She graduated in 1939.

Albertina, who had converted to Roman Catholicism while a student at Mariazell College, pondered becoming a nun.  Yet doing this would not have enabled our saint to work to support her family financially.  Therefore, a priest advised Albertina to consider nursing instead.  She started training to become a nurse in Johannesburg in January 1940.

Albertina experienced racism for the first time in Johannesburg.  White nurses had higher status than Black nurses.  African patients could not receive treatment in European wards, even when the non-European ward was full and the European ward was not.  And racist restrictions on Black nurses prevented Albertina from attending her mother’s funeral in 1941.

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WALTER AND ALBERTINA

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Above:  The Flag of South Africa, 1928-1994

Image in the Public Domain

Albertina met Walter in 1941.  He was politically active; she was not.  Then she became politically active, too, under his influence.  In 1944, Albertina became a fully qualified nurse.  That July 15, she and Walter married in a ceremony held at the Bantu Men’s Social Club, Johannesburg.

The Sisulus’ household spanned three generations.  The couple had five children:  Max (b. 1945), Lungi (b. 1948), Zwelkhe (b. 1950), Lindiwe (b. 1954), and Nonkuleleko (b. 1958).  The household, at 7373, Orlando, Soweto, also included Walter’s mother (Alice), as well as younger members of the extended family.  Gerald (b. 1944) and Beryl (b. 1948), children of Walter’s sister, lived there, too.  So did Jongumzi (b. 1957), the son of Walter’s cousin.  Meanwhile, Albertina worked as a nurse.

The Sisulu house was also a hub of political activity.  ANC activists visited frequently.  In 1948, when the ANC formed its Women’s League, Albertina joined.  Walter became the first full-time Secretary-General of the ANC the following year.  He, having become increasingly militant during the 1940s, was prepared for the resistance struggle against full-blown Apartheid, imposed starting in 1948.

Albertina and Walter actively opposed that racially-defined form of tyranny.  They also went to jail repeatedly and endured official harassment at home.  The Sisulus opposed measures such as the pass laws.  They also operated an alternative school for a time.  Over the decades, both of them were also banned people.  Walter joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in the early 1950s.  In 1956, he was one of a large group of activists accused of treason after having organized the Freedom Charter campaign and the Congress of the People.  The verdict in 1961 was an acquittal.  After the Sharpville Massacre (1960), the government imposed a state of emergency.  Walter was one of the ANC activists detained for several months during this time.  He, later placed under house arrest, continued to lead the militant struggle against Apartheid.

Walter, convicted of furthering the aims of the ANC and sentenced to six years of incarceration in March 1963, skipped bail and house arrest on April 20, 1963.  He went underground at the secret headquarters of the SACP.  Government security forces arrested Albertina and Zwelakhe.  Albertina spent two months in solitary confinement.  Interrogators made her believe that her husband had died.  She learned that he was alive after his arrest on July 11, 1963.

Walter and his fellow conspirators received life sentences on June 12, 1964.  They served their sentences at Robben Island.  For the next quarter of a century, Albertina continued the struggle and spent some time in prison, too.  In order to visit her husband, she had to humiliate herself by applying for a passbook.  And, for almost all of that that quarter of a century, she was a banned person.  Finally, finances were difficult, of course.  Fortunately, overseas donors and local Anglican priests helped.  Despite the many difficulties, Albertina kept mothering children from her extended family and adding on to the house, to accommodate them.

Other members of the Sisulu joined the anti-Apartheid struggle and faced the legal consequences of doing so.  Daughter Lindiwe, arrested in 1976, went to prison.  She remained in custody for more than a year, during which she endured repeated tortures.  After her release, she left the country.  Also, Max, after release from detention, went into exile, too.  And Zwelakhe spent two years in detention without a trial.

Meanwhile, Walter led from prison.  He taught younger members of the ANC the history of that organization.  He advised Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) on how to negotiate with the South African government in the 1980s, too.

Albertina, arrested in late 1983 for giving an illegal speech on behalf of the ANC while a banned person, received a sentence of four years in prison on February 24, 1984.  The court suspended two of those years for five years.  Allies paid our saint’s bail that day.  Yet Albertina, arrested again on February 19, 1985, on the charge of treason, went into solitary confinement.  The court permitted bail on the condition that Albertina curtail her political activity.  The state, acknowledging its weak legal hand, withdrew charges on December 9, 1985.

Starting in 1984, Albertina worked for Dr. Abu Asvat, who operated a mobile clinic that served poor people.  He paid her even when she was in custody.  The two anti-Apartheid activists of different political stripes tended effectively to essential problems of the very poor.  For example, they installed 20 toilets for 150 people who lived in their vehicles at McDonald’s Farm.  Also, the two instituted a daily feeding program for the approximately 80 children at the farm.

Albertina, a banned person again in the late 1980s, granted an interview with Joyce Hollyday of Sojourners magazine.  In that interview, Albertina spoke of her faith, family, and anti-Apartheid struggle.  She expressed the hope that Apartheid would end during her lifetime.  And our saint correctly diagnosed why the South African government perpetuated Apartheid and operated a police state:  fear.

By 1989, the foundations of Apartheid were cracking.  That much was obvious.  The government released Walter from prison on October 26.  Mandela (a prisoner until February 11, 1990) insisted on this as a condition for continuing to negotiate with the government.  The following year, the government lifted the ban on the ANC, banned since 1963.  Albertina helped to reestablish the ANC Women’s League in 1990.  In 1991, she won election to the ANC’s National Executive Committee and Walter won election as the ANC’s Deputy President.

The Flag of South Africa, 1994-

Image in the Public Domain

Apartheid ended in 1994.  Nelson Mandela, elected President, served until 1999.  Both Albertina and Walter served in the new parliament until 1999, too.

The Sisulus moved into a new house in Linden, Johannesburg, in 1999.  Walter died there, in Albertina’s arms, on May 5, 2003.  He died thirteen days prior to his ninety-first birthday.  Albertina died in Johannesburg on June 2, 2011.  She was ninety-two years old.  Each Sisulu received a state funeral.

God Bless Africa.

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CONCLUSION

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Meister Eckhart (c. 1268-1327/1328), the great Dominican theologian and mystic, offered timeless spiritual counsel.  One gem of his sagacity was:

Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure.

People frequently harm, hate, and discriminate against others out of fear and insecurity.  Those who hate, harm, and discriminate against may know that they are in the wrong yet have too much fear and insecurity to cease doing that.  They may ask themselves what those they have been hating, harming, and discriminating against will do to them, given the opportunity.  Therefore, the cycle of oppression and injustice continues unbroken.  Love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and justice break that cycle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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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 servants Walter and Albertina Sisulu]

to use our freedom to bring justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Chuck Matthei (October 1)   Leave a comment

Above:  Chuck Matthei

Image Scanned from Cloud of Witnesses (2005)

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CHARLES LEE MATTHEI (FEBRUARY 14, 1948-OCTOBER 1, 2002)

Founder and Director of the Equity Trust, Inc.

Chuck Matthei comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, editors, Cloud of Witnesses, Revised Edition (2005).

Matthei’s Roman Catholic faith compelled him to devote most of his life to social justice.  Why not?  He understood that, in the Bible, justice and righteousness are the same.

Matthei, born in Chicago, Illinois, on February 14, 1948, learned the Christian ethic of social justice at home.  He, a son of Robert L. Matthei and Nancy Horne Matthei, had two sisters, Nancy and Patty.  Our saint, active in the Civil Rights Movement as an adolescent, drew inspiration from Jesus and Mohandas Gandhi.  The Hebrew Prophets’ message of economic justice also informed Matthei’s life.

This mission manifested itself in various ways.  Matthei, as the Executive Director of the Institute for Community Economics, Greenfield, Massachusetts (1980-1990), accomplished much.  He created many affordable housing units.  Matthei also increased the number of community land trusts from 12 to more than 100 in 23 states.  Furthermore, our saint helped to organize the National Association of Community Development Loan Funds (now the National Community Capital Association).  He was the founding Chairman (1985-1990).  As if that were not enough, Matthei also sat on the board of the Social Investment Forum from 1983 to 1988.  He affirmed socially responsible investment.

Matthei, associated with the Catholic Worker movement of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), practiced his socially-conscious faith.  He practiced Gandhian nonviolence; our saint was a pacifist.  Matthei also supported the Catholic Worker movement’s shelters and soup kitchens financially.  And he criticized social institutions and systems that harmed poor people.

Matthei founded the Equity Trust, Inc., in 1991, then served as its Director.  In this capacity, he engaged in useful and essential work in the United States of America, Central America, and Kenya.  Our saint, for example, assisted the Gullah/Geechee community on Sapelo, Island, Georgia, in preserving their culture and community.  He also acquired and preserved 140 acres of land in the Hudson Valley, for agricultural use, to feed people.  Matthei, furthermore, traveled, spoke, and consulted on the topics that defined his life’s work.

Matthei, aged 54 years, died in Voluntown, Connecticut, on October 1, 2002.  The immediate cause of death was pneumonia, a complication of thyroid cancer, in our saint’s case.

Robert Ellsberg wrote of his final visit to Matthei, a few days before our saint’s death.  Thyroid cancer had robbed Matthei of the ability to speak; he dictated requests on a laptop computer.  Our saint requested that Ellsberg bring prints by Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990), as well as photographs of his (Ellsberg’s) children.  Matthei was at peace, Ellsberg recalled after that meeting with his friend of 28 years.

Matthei, sitting in a wheelchair, typed a wonderful piece of advice on the laptop computer:

Every age has need of a few fools.

If understanding that justice and righteousness are identical, then acting accordingly, seems foolish, every age needs many fools.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SCIENTIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, U.S. PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MYSTIC, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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