Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1850s’ Category

Feast of Alexander Crummell (September 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Alexander Crummell

Image in the Public Domain

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ALEXANDER CRUMMELL (MARCH 3, 1819-SEPTEMBER 10, 1898)

U.S. African-American Episcopal Priest, Missionary, and Moral Philosopher

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The hand of God is on the black man, in all the lands of his distant sojourn, for the good of Africa.

–Alexander Crummell

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September 10 is the Feast of Alexander Crummell in The Episcopal Church.

Crummell, who lived during a time of slavery then de jure segregation, contended with racism throughout his life.  He, born in New York, New York, on March 3, 1819, was a child of abolitionists Charity Hicks (born free) and Boston Crummell (a former slave).  Our saint, a well-educated person and a recognized intellectual by 1840, when he was 21 years old, could not matriculate at The General Theological Seminary, Manhattan, because of the color of his skin.  Nevertheless, he successfully prepared for the priesthood and, in 1844, became a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts.  Yet, due to official racism, Crummell could not participate in diocesan conventions.

Crummell spent 1848-1853 in England, studying moral philosophy at Queen’s College, Cambridge, and earning a B.A. degree.  Our saint, well grounded in Western philosophy, incorporated the concepts of natural rights and intergenerational responsibility into his moral philosophy.  Stephen Thompson has written a summary of that moral philosophy at The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Except for visits to the United States of America, mainly to encourage African-American immigration to Africa, Crummell lived and worked in Liberia from 1853 to 1872.  There he was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Liberia College.  He hoped to build a Christian republic, with The Episcopal Church as the national church.  Liberian politics dashed Crummell’s hopes, though, and he returned to the United States.

Crummell, back in the United States, had much work to do.  He became the Rector of St. Mary’s Chapel for Colored People, Washington, D.C.  In 1875 he founded St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C., the oldest African-American Episcopal parish in the national capital city.  Our saint retired in 1894.

Crummell founded the Convocation of Colored Clergy, a predecessor of the Union of Black Episcopalians, to oppose the proposed “Sewanee Canon” at the General Convention of 1883.  Some Southern bishops and other churchmen wanted to segregate the Church further by creating a non-geographical diocese for African Americans.  This was not a unique idea; other denominations took similar actions.  The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, spun off the Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870.  The Methodist Church (1939-1968) had its non-geographical Central Jurisdiction, as well as five geographical jurisdictions.  The (Southern) Presbyterian Church in the United States (1861-1983) spun off the African-American Presbyterian Church in 1898 then reabsorbed it as the Snedecor Memorial Synod, separate from the other synods, usually defined by state boundaries, in 1917.  Although the General Convention defeated the “Sewanee Canon,” many Southern dioceses acted on their own, subsequently curtailing African-American involvement in diocesan conventions.  The usual practice was to create a racially defined convocation, which sent a handful of delegates to the diocesan convention.  In other dioceses, there were no African-American delegates at the diocesan convention.  The Diocese of Georgia, for example, was segregated at the convention level from 1907 to 1947.  The priest and hymn writer F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984), Rector of Christ Church, Savannah, proposed the canon that readmitted African-American delegates to the diocesan convention.

Crummell remained active in retirement.  He taught at Howard University, Washington, D.C., in 1895-1897.  In 1897 he founded and became the first president of the American Negro Academy, Washington, D.C., with W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963) as one of the vice presidents.  The American Negro Academy disbanded in 1924.

Crummell married twice.  His first wife, whom he wed in 1841, was Sarah Mabitt Elston, who died in 1878.  Our saint married Jennie Simpson in 1880.

Crummell, aged 77 years, died in Red Bank, New Jersey, on September 10, 1898.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JEREMY TAYLOR, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Alexander Crummell,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to those who were far off and to those who were near.

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.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11, 17-18

Psalm 19:7-11

James 1:2-5

Mark 4:1-10, 13-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 573

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Feast of William Chatterton Dix (September 9)   1 comment

Above:  William Chatterton Dix

Image in the Public Domain

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WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX (JUNE 14, 1837-SEPTEMBER 9, 1898)

English Hymn Writer and Hymn Translator

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In our work, and in our play,

Jesus, be thou ever near;

Guarding, guiding all the day,

Keeping in thy holy fear.

–William Chatterton Dix, quoted in The English Hymnal (1906)

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I have not undertaken a statistical analysis of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, but I would not be surprised to learn that most of the people on the Ecumenical Calendar were members of either the clergy or were brothers or sisters in one religious order or another.  William Chatterton Dix, however, was a layman.

William Chatterton Dix, born in Bristol, England, on June 14, 1837, became one of the great modern hymn writers and hymn translators.  He was a son of Susan (or Susannah) Moore and John Dix, a surgeon, poet, and biographer.  The father named his son after Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), a poet of whom he wrote a biography.  Our saint spent most of his life in Glasgow, Scotland, where he managed a marine insurance company.

Dix demonstrated great skill with the English language.  He studied Greek and Ethiopian, thereby expanding his linguistic horizons.  He also composed and translated many hymns, mainly during a few months, when, at the age of 29 years, he was bedridden, due to a serious illness.  A few of Dix’s most enduring texts were “As With Gladness Men of Old,” “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus,” and “What Child is This.”

Dix, a High Anglican, published books.  Most of these were volumes of hymns and other poetry.  Two books were of a devotional nature, and another, for children, concerned moral living.

Dix, aged 61 years, died in Cheddar, Somerset, England, on September 9, 1898.  Many of his hymns have remained in use, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

William Chatterton Dix and others, who have composed and translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of Soren Kierkegaard (September 8)   1 comment

Above:  Portrait of Søren Kierkegaard, by Luplau Janssen

Image in the Public Domain

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SØREN AABYE KIERKEGAARD (MAY 5, 1813-NOVEMBER 11, 1855)

Danish Philosopher and Theologian, and Father of Existentialism

Søren Kierkegaard comes to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and The Episcopal Church.  The Lutheran feast day (since 1978) is November 11.  The Episcopal feast day (since 2009) is September 8, also the Feast of Nikolai Grundtvig in The Episcopal Church.  I suspect that the decision to assign Kierkegaard the feast day of September 8, along with Grundtvig, is related to the rationale for group commemorations, but, in this case, without merging the feasts.

Not all those included in the Calendar need to be commemorated “in isolation.”  Where there are close and natural links between persons to be remembered, a joint commemoration would make excellent sense….

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 744; A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), A74

My father was a United Methodist minister in southern Georgia, U.S.A.  One morning, in Sunday School in one of those congregations, the teacher of an adult class made an assertion (the details of which I cannot recall, and do not matter anyway) then said that he had faith and had proof.  I recognized the elements (faith and proof) of the last part of that statement as being mutually exclusive.  Kierkegaard would have done more than arch an eyebrow, had he heard that Sunday School teacher’s statement.

Kierkegaard:  A Brief Biography

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 5, 1813, became more influential after his lifetime than he was during it.  His father was Michael Pederson Kierkegaard (d. 1838), an erstwhile farmer who had moved to the capital city and became a prosperous wool merchant.  Michael was also a melancholy, puritanical who passed his disposition down to his guild-ridden son.  Søren, initially planning to become a minister in the state Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, studied theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1830 to 1840.  Although our saint never lost his faith in God, he became hostile to the state church, so he never pursued ordination.  He, living off inherited wealth, focused on writing books and articles (often under pseudonyms) in the fields of theology, psychology, ethics, and philosophy.  Our saint never married, for reasons biographers have interpreted in different ways.  He, engaged to Regine Olsen (1822-1904), in 1840-1841, broke off the engagement and never told her his reasons.

As I explained in the post about Bishop Grundtvig, the dominant strain in Danish Lutheranism at the time was Rationalism, which reduced ministers to teachers of morality and Christianity to an idea–a reasonable one, of course.  Grundtvig challenged Rationalism from within the state church, which he transformed.  Kierkegaard, however, condemned the state church as a mockery of Christianity.

In the thought of Kierkegaard proof negated faith.  If one could prove the Incarnation, the existence of God, and the truth of Christianity, one would negate faith and replace it with evidence.  A leap of faith was necessary.  Absolute knowledge was neither rational nor possible, our saint insisted, contradicting Georg Hegel.  Kierkegaard also contradicted a raft of Greek philosophers who taught that people have the truth inside them and need merely to become conscious of that fact.  No, our saint wrote, both the truth and the ability to understand it come from outside–from God, to be precise.

Kierkegaard had another objection to the Danish state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark:  It made being a Christian too easy.  Challenges were inherent in the Christian pilgrimage of faith, our saint understood.  Did not Jesus command each person to take up his or her cross and follow Him?  The union of church and state in Denmark robbed the Danish state church of its authenticity and power, Kierkegaard argued.

Kierkegaard, aged 42 years, died in Copenhagen on November 11, 1855.  He had been paralyzed since he had collapsed in a street on October 2.  To the end our saint refused offers of ministrations by ministers of the state church.  He said,

Royal functionaries are not related to Christianity.

An Influential Legacy

Kierkegaard, although a prolific and widely read author during his lifetime, was also a frequently ignored one, especially by bishops of the state church.  Yet his influence spread posthumously, due in large part to translations of many of his works.  Oft-cited thinkers who owed much to Kierkegaard’s writings included the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and the Neo-Orthodox theologians Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) and Karl Barth (1886-1968).

To that list I add another one none of my sources mentioned:  Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998).  He taught that to argue for the truth of the Gospel based on an outside standard of reliability is to make the outside standard more important than the Gospel.  Nothing, Newbigin insisted, was more important than the Gospel, and the sole ground for a Christian’s proper confidence in the truth of the Gospel was Jesus.  Newbigin, like Kierkegaard, opposed efforts to make Christianity”reasonable.”  And Newbigin used gentler rhetoric than Kierkegaard did.

God continues to speak through the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Heavenly Father, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ felt sorrow and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Help us to remember that though we walk through the valley of the shadow, you are always with us,

that with your philosopher Søren Kierkegaard,

we may believe what we have not seen and trust where we cannot test,

and so come at length to the eternal joy which you have prepared for those who love you;

through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Exodus 33:14-23

Psalm 22:1-11

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Matthew 9:20-22

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 569

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Feast of Nikolai Grundtvig (September 8)   3 comments

Above:  Portrait of Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1862), by Constantin Hansen

Image in the Public Domain

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NIKOLAI FREDERIK SEVERIN GRUNDTVIG (SEPTEMBER 8, 1783-SEPTEMBER 2, 1872)

Danish Lutheran Minister, Bishop, Historian, Philosopher, Poet, Educator, and Hymn Writer

“The Father of the Public School in Scandinavia”

Nikolai Grundtvig comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and The Episcopal Church.  His Lutheran feast day (since 1978) is September 2.  His Episcopal feast day (since 2009) is September 8, shared, appropriately, with Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), his contemporary.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, or the Danish State Church

The Enlightenment had much to recommend it–freedom of the press, liberty of conscience, constitutional government, et cetera.  The founding of my country, the United States of America, owed much to the Enlightenment.  However, the Enlightenment had limits to its virtues.  It overestimated the powers of human reason, for example.  The intellectual movement also rejected the “supernatural,” a category I consider spurious (although I accept that many of the contents of that category are real, just as natural as birds and sunsets).  Rationalism dominated Danish Lutheranism during much of Grundtvig’s lifetime.  The influence of Rationalism reduced pastors to moral instructors, truncated and rewrote the liturgy, and rejected human sinfulness.  Rationalism was what Archdeacon Claus Harms (1778-1855) of Kiel condemned in 1877 as the

papacy of reason

–strong language, coming from a Lutheran.

A competing strand of Lutheranism was Pietism, usually dated to 1675 and either credited to or blamed on, depending on one’s opinion of it, Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705), author of Pia Desideria (Heartfelt Desire).  Pietism began as a reaction against dry, abstract orthodoxy divorced from daily life.  On the positive side, Pietism encouraged personal prayers and devotions, the study of the Bible, and much charitable work.  On the other hand, Pietism devalued grace (via a fixation on works) and the sacraments, was subjective to the point of undermining orthodoxy, frowned upon “worldly amusements” to the point of sourness, and redefined the Church as the assembly of the regenerated and reborn, not as the community of those bound together by word and sacraments.

There were also orthodox Lutherans, of course.

Young Nikolai Grundtvig

Nikolai Grundtvig, born in Udby, near Vordinborg, Denmark, on September 8, 1783, eventually offended all the above parties.  He, the youngest of five children, came from a long line of ministers.  His father sent the nine-year-old Nikolai to Jylland, to study under the Reverend L. Feld.  Two years later our saint passed his examen actium.  By the time Grundtvig graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a degree in theology in 1803, he had no faith left.

For a few years Grundtvig wandered in the spiritual wilderness.  For three years he worked as a tutor to a wealthy family in Langeland.  He, a fine poet, studied Icelandic epics and the Eddas.  In 1807 our saint wrote his first theological treatise, about religion and liturgy.  From 1808 to 1811 our saint taught history in Copenhagen.  During this time he returned to a state of faith.

Grundtvig was orthodox.  In his trial sermon, delivered in 1810, our saint asked,

Why has the Word of God disappeared from His house?

This condemnation of the dominant Rationalism delayed Grundtvig’s ordination for a year.  From 1811 to 1813 our saint served as assistant minister at Udby, under his ailing father, who died in 1813.  At Udby Grundtvig wrote Kort Begred af Verdens Kronike i Sammerhaeng (Short Concept of the World Chronicle, 1812), his first work of history from a Christian perspective.

The Wilderness Years

For much of 1813-1839 Grundtvig was unemployable as a minister.  He did not work as a pastor from 1813 to 1821 and from 1826 to 1839.  Literary work occupied much of our saint’s time.  He published a collection of poems in 1814, a volume of sermons in 1816, and an edition of Beowulf in 1820.  Grundtvig’s rejection of Romanticism foreshadowed that of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

Grundtvig worked again as a pastor in 1821-1826.  King Frederick VI appointed our saint the pastor at Presto in 1821.  The following year Grundtvig became the assistant pastor of Our Savior’s Church, Kristianshavn.  He resigned that post amid a libel lawsuit five years later.  In 1825, in Kirkens Gienmaele (The Church’s Reply), Grundtvig had accused the theologian H. N. Clausen of treating Christianity as a merely philosophical idea.  Our saint argued that Christianity is actually a historical revelation handed down from generation to generation via Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Authorities censored Grundtvig’s writings.

Grundtvig was out of the pulpit again.  He traveled to England several times in 1829-1831 to study old Anglo-Saxon documents.  In so doing he pioneered a field of research.  Sang-Värk til den Danske Kirke (Songs for the Danish Church), his hymnal published in 1837, was popular.  Grundtvig, a lecturer at Borsch’s College in 1838, returned to parish work, at Vartov, Copenhagen, in 1839.  There he remained for the rest of his life.

Grundtvigianism

During the 1820s Grundtvig developed Grundtvigianism, the movement that reshaped Danish Lutheranism and, to a lesser degree, influenced Norwegian Lutheranism.  Grundtvig rooted his orthodoxy in the liturgy and the sacraments.  He emphasized

the living word,

the locus of which he identified as the Apostles’ Creed, used in baptisms.  Only “the living word,” Grundtvig argued, could fulfill the need for

the great natural law of the spiritual life,

that is,

the necessity of the spoken word for the awakening of life and the transmission of the spirit.

Grundtvig rejected the position of orthodox Danish Lutherans at the time that the Bible was the sole source and standard of faith.  According to our saint, the Bible was

the dead word.

It was vital, but the word of God, broadly speaking, was the message of God, not the contents of a book.   As Luther wrote,

Printed words are dead, spoken words are living.  On the printed page they are not so forcible as when uttered by the sound of man through his mouth.

In context Grundtvig was not far afield from Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Luther, who understood Sola Scriptura narrowly, to mean that nothing outside the Bible is necessary for salvation, emphasized the power of the spoken word in the liturgy.  Grundtvig, therefore, stood in line with Luther.  Furthermore, Reformed theology has long recognized the created order as a second “book,” alongside the Bible, in which to encounter God.  Another portion of Reformation theology has been the distinction between the “word of God” (the Bible) and the “Word of God” (Jesus), a reference that reaches back to the Gospel of John.  As far as I have been able to discern, Grundtvig’s primary innovation was identifying the locus of the spoken word of God in the Apostles’ Creed.

Grundtvigianism was, according to its orthodox and Pietistic critics, heretical and lax.  The Grundtvigian openness to the possibility of postmortem conversion did more than arch eyebrows.  It allegedly encouraged, for lack of a more precise term, “loose living.”  Furthermore, Grundtvig’s Christian humanism and love of Danish culture led him to value many “worldly amusements,” thereby alarming and offending Pietists.  He, for example, enjoyed the theater and encouraged folk dancing.  Danish Pietists, or “Sad Danes,” avoided such alleged sins, which Grundtvigians, or “Happy Danes” accepted.

Many of Grundtvig’s critics within Lutheranism would have accused Luther of heresy, for Grundtvig channeled Luther well.

The Public Citizen

Grundtvig became “the Father of the Public School in Scandinavia” via his folk school movement.  He opened the first folk school in Rödding, Denmark, in 1844.  The movement spread across Denmark and to Norway, Sweden, and Finland.  In residential high schools young people came together across social class lines and educated each other.

Grundtvig, from 1839 to 1872, was pastor in Vartov, Copenhagen, and, courtesy of King Frederick VII, a bishop from 1861 to 1872, was a major figure in Denmark.  In 1848, for example, Denmark was turning into a constitutional monarchy.  Our saint was a member of the constitutional assembly.

The Great Hymn Writer

Grundtvig was the greatest Scandinavian hymn writer of the nineteenth century.  He wrote more than 1000 hymns, mostly from 1837 to 1860.  (I have added a few of these texts, in English, of course, to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.)  Grundtvig’s peers in the elite club of greatest Scandinavian hymn writers included Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764) and Thomas Hansen Kingo (1634-1703).  Grundtvig composed hymns for the entire church year, but his favorite theme was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Death and Legacy

Grundtvig died in Copenhagen on September 2, 1872, six days prior to what would have been his eighty-ninth birthday.  He had preached his last sermon on September 1.

Grundtvig’s influence extended beyond Scandinavia.  When Danish immigration to Canada and the United States of America began in earnest in the late 1800s, the immigrants were not of one mind regarding religion.  Many of them, indifferent to religion in Denmark, remained indifferent to it in the New World.  Grundtvigians and Pietists also immigrated.  The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (DELCA), initially a “big tent,” became a smaller tent via the Pietistic schism of 1894.  No such schism disrupted the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, however.

Evaluating Grundtvigianism

I find much to admire and little to question in Grundtvigianism.

Grundtvig’s encouragement of a positive form of Christianity that embraces the positive elements of society and culture, thereby eschewing serial contrariness and rejecting sourness in religion, in the name of God, was wonderful.  Pietistic and Puritanical hostility to “worldly amusements” has never been a spiritually or physically healthy attitude.  Much of what these Christians weaned on dill pickles have condemned–from tea, with its antioxidants, to chess, with its therapeutic uses, especially for patients suffering from cognitive decline–science has proven to be beneficial.  Art, especially those forms of it involving acting, has enriched the lives of many people.  And has there every been anything wrong with folk dancing?

Grundtvig’s liturgical and sacramental focus, in the context of Christian community, was laudable.  He stood well within Christian tradition in that and other matters.  His liturgical and sacramental focus has long had the ring of truth with me, even before I knew he had lived.  I grew up a United Methodist in rural southern Georgia, U.S.A.  We usually took Holy Communion every three months.  I wanted it more often, however, for I felt closest God in that sacrament.  That reality contributed greatly to my decision to convert to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, Georgia, on December 22, 1991.

My only reservation regarding Grundtvigianism relates to the unusually high status of the Apostles’ Creed.  That is a fine creed, but the identification of it as the locus of “the living word” is too narrow and specific.  The “word of God,” in my thought, is the message of God.  I can encounter in the Bible, in nature, in fine literature, in fine music, in the spoken words of another person, in the silence, in prayer, in contemplation, in the sacraments, in the liturgy, et cetera.  The canon is fixed at 73 books, per the Council of Trent, but the word of God is available from many sources.

My disagreement with Grundtvig is quite minor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty God, you built your Church upon a rock:

Help us remember with your hymn writer Nikolai Grundtvig,

that though steeples may fall and buildings made by hands may crumble,

Jesus made our bodies his temple through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Help us to recognize Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life,

that we may join our voices to the eternal alleluia;

through the same Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-2, 5-8

Psalm 86:1-12

Romans 5:1-5

Matthew 8:5-10

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 567

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Feast of Joseph and Mary Gomer (September 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sierra Leone, 1951

Image Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951), 94

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JOSEPH GOMER (JULY 20, 1834-SEPTEMBER 6, 1892)

husband of

MARY GREEN GOMER (DIED DECEMBER 1, 1896)

U.S. United Brethren in Christ Missionaries in Sierra Leone

This feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Orlo Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (1968), a U.S. Methodist Sunday School resource for adults.  The volume profiles 11 people, including the then-recently deceased St. John XXIII, listed under this other name, Angelo Roncalli.  The book contains a biography of Joseph Gomer, but I extend this feast to include Mary Green Gomer, whose story comes bound up with that of her husband.  Unfortunately, little information about her is available.

The Gomers were the first African-American missionaries the former Church of the United Brethren in Christ (one of the predecessors of The United Methodist Church) commissioned.  For more than two decades the Gomers worked as missionaries in Sierra Leone, building the first successful relationship between Christianity and the people of Shenge, Sherbro Island, and laying the foundation for faith in members of generations alive today.

Joseph Gomer seemed like an unlikely choice for missionary work.  He, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 20, 1834, grew up on a farm near Battle Creek, Michigan.  He attended school with white youth, but had to endure racist insults daily.  At the age of 16 years Gomer left home and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he found a job in a furniture store.  In the Windy City our saint also joined the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.  During the Civil War he served as a cook in the U.S. Army.  After the war, on a steamboat from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Dayton, Ohio, Gomer met Mary Green, a widow traveling with her adolescent daughter to home in Chillicothe, Ohio.  The couple had become engaged to marry before the steamboat docked in Dayton.  That year they married in Third United Brethren Church, Dayton.  Joseph worked as a foreman in a large mercantile house.  His responsibilities were in the purview of measuring and fitting carpets.  The Gomers were active in Third Church, holding formal and informal leadership positions.  Joseph, for example, often had more than one title simultaneously.

The Gomers’ lives changed in 1870.  The denomination had established a mission on Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone, in the late 1850s.  The mission grew coffee and rubber trees.  After the missionary assigned there died in 1870, the Gomers applied to fill the vacancy.  They were lay members.  They were relatively uneducated and lacked missionary training.  Furthermore, the denomination had not yet commissioned any African-American missionaries.  The United Brethren commissioned the Gomers and sent them to Sherbro Island, however.  The Gomers sailed on November 8, 1870, and arrived in January 1871.

The challenges facing the Gomers were daunting, and their frustrations were also numerous and great.  For starters, they arrived at a mission post consisting of rundown buildings and few people who cared about the mission.  After all, there had been no missionary there most of a year.  Many of the local people thought of Christianity as a religion just for white people.  Competition among missionaries of various denominations was a drawback, and local feuding chiefs created civil strife.

Nevertheless, the Gomers accomplished much.  They introduced more efficient farming techniques, built a thriving industrial school, fought superstition and ignorance, eschewed denominational competition, convinced many locals that Christianity was a religion for Africans, converted many people, inspired people to repair buildings and construct new ones, and reconciled mutually hostile chiefs.  Mary focused on working with women and children.  Joseph became an ordained minister during his years as a missionary.  The Gomers cared about the people among whom they labored for the glory of God.  The couple’s skin color helped them to build relationships with people on Sherbro Island.  The Gomers served three terms in Sierra Leone, with breaks in the United States from November 1875 to November 1876 and from April 1889 to November 1889.

During the third term of service Joseph was planning to retire, given his failing health.  He never retired, for he died in Freetown on September 6, 1892.  He was 58 years old.

Mary retired from missionary service in May 1894.  Then she returned to Dayton, Ohio, where she died on December 1, 1896.

Men and women such as Joseph and Mary Gomer have been essential to the building up of the Church.

One lesson from the story of the Gomers is that sometimes the people best suited for a particular role are the ones who seem most unlikely.  As the Bible teaches, God qualifies the called.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servants Joseph Gomer and Mary Green Gomer,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone.

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 1:1-7

Luke 10:1-9

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

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Feast of St. Jeanne Jugan (August 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  Portrait of St. Jeanne Jugan, by Leon Brune

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JEANNE JUGAN (OCTOBER 25, 1792-AUGUST 29, 1879)

Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor

Also known as Sister Marie of the Cross

Her feast transferred from August 29

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Little Sisters, take good care of the aged, for in them you are caring for Christ Himself.

–Saint Jeanne Jugan

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On the Roman Catholic calendar of saints August 29 is the feast of St. Jeanne Jugan.  August 29, on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, is the day reserved fr the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a Biblical figure.  I therefore transfer Jugan’s feast one day.  Incidentally, August 30 is her feast day in All Saints (1997), by Robert Ellsberg.

There is a certain kind of hagiography I like to write.  It is an account of a determined, industrious person pursuing his or her vocation from God and receiving help from influential people at critical junctures.  Thus the saint succeeds in glorifying God and bringing benefits to many people via the combination of talent, effort, and patronage.  We humans are supposed to help each other become the best people we can be in God, after all.

This is a succinct summary of the life of Michael Faraday (1791-1867), who would not have been a great scientist without help.  He was brilliant and hard-working, but he needed someone to open a proverbial door for him at a crucial moment; he needed for someone to give him his big break.

It is not a summary of the life of St. Jeanne Jugan, however.  No, the story of her life is an account of a saint whom others–one priest, in particular–held back for selfish reasons.

St. Jeanne Jugan knew poverty and menial labor well.  She, born in Cancale, Brittany, France, on October 25, 1792, grew up in a pious, poor family.  Her father, Joseph, was a fisherman who was often at sea.  He died when St. Jeanne was four years old.  Her mother was Marie, a farmer.  Our saint, at the age of 16 years, became a maid.  She accompanied her employer, a Christian woman, on regular visits to poor and sick people.  This inspired St. Jeanne to dedicate her life to God and not to marry.  She resolved to help poor, sick people also.

The 25-year-old St. Jeanne, filled with a sense of mission, gave away her possessions, such as they were, and spent six years serving Christ in the poor at the hospital in Saint Servan.  It was a pious undertaking.  It was also an exhausting commitment.  St. Jeanne returned to life as a domestic servant.  Years passed.

In 1837 the 45-year-old St. Jeanne went to work as a spinner.  She gave her disposable income to the less fortunate.  Our saint also began to go door-to-door, collecting money for the support of impoverished widows.  This led to the founding of the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1843, with St. Jeanne as the superior.  The order expanded its work and increased in membership under her leadership.

The local bishop appointed a new superior general, Father Auguste Le Pailleur.  By 1852 he had seized complete control, rewriting history to depict himself as the actual founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Le Pailler sidelined St. Jeanne, known as Sister Marie of the Cross, who spent the last 27 years of her life as a marginal figure, performing menial labor, in the order she had founded.  She died, aged 88 years, in Saint-Pern, France, on August 29, 1879.  To the end St. Jeanne maintained proper perspective; the mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor was more important than she was.

The Church acknowledged St. Jeanne’s proper place in history posthumously.  Pope John Paul II declared her a Venerable in 1979 then a Blessed in 1982.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized St. Jeanne in 2009.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NIEBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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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 and 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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle (August 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle

Images in the Public Domain

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THOMAS GALLAUDET (JUNE 3, 1822-AUGUST 27, 1902)

Episcopal Priest and Educator of the Deaf

mentor of

HENRY WINTER SYLE (NOVEMBER 9, 1846-JANUARY 6, 1890)

Episcopal Priest and Educator of the Deaf

First Deaf Man Ordained in The Episcopal Church

August 27 is the joint feast of Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle in The Episcopal Church.

The Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851) and his wife, Sophia Fowler Gallaudet (1798-1877) were pioneers in the education of deaf people in the United States of America.  In 1817 he helped to found and became the principal of the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons, now the American School for the Deaf, West Hartford, Connecticut.  He was the Gallaudet of Gallaudet University, founded in 1856 as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind, Washington, D.C., in 1856, and renamed the National Deaf-Mute College eight years later then Gallaudet College in 1894.  Sophia was one of the leading advocates for the college charter; she served as the first matron of the college.  One of their sons, Edward Miner Gallaudet (1837-1917), was the superintendent (1856-1864) and president (1864-1910).

Thomas Gallaudet was another child of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Sophia Fowler Gallaudet.  Our saint, born in Hartford Connecticut, on June 3, 1822, became a teacher of deaf-mutes.  He, after graduating from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, in 1842, taught in a rural school for a year.  Next Gallaudet taught at the New York Institution for Deaf-Mutes.  He cared deeply about the spiritual lives of deaf-mutes.

Therefore he pioneered church accessibility for deaf people in the United States of America.  Gallaudet, married to Elizabeth Budd, who was deaf, became an Episcopal deacon in 1850.  He, assigned to St. Stephen’s Church, New York City, founded a Bible class for deaf-mutes.  As a priest (from 1851) and as the assistant at St. Ann’s Church, New York City, our saint continued to work with deaf people.  He founded St. Ann’s Church for Deaf-Mutes in 1852.  Two decades later Gallaudet founded The Church Mission to Deaf-Mutes, an aid society.  That year he also helped to found the Home for Aged and Infirm Deaf-Mutes, New York City.  The Gallaudet Home moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1886.  He, aged 80 years, died in New York City on August 27, 1902.

I refer you, O reader, to Gallaudet’s memorial at anglicanhistory.org.

Henry Winter Syle made history.  He, born in Shanghai, China, on November 9, 1846, was a son of the Reverend Edward W. Syle, an Episcopal missionary.  Our saint, who moved to the United States at the age of four years, went deaf at the age of six years due to scarlet fever.  For the rest of his life Syle suffered from ill health.  In 1853 Syle matriculated at Bartlett’s School, New York City.  He moved to Hartford, Connecticut, with the school.  Syle matriculated at Trinity College, Hartford, in 1863, but could not complete his studies there because of ill health.  He wanted to attend the National Deaf-Mute College (now Gallaudet University), but President Edward Miner Gallaudet persuaded him to study at St. John’s College, Cambridge, instead.  Failing health forced our saint to leave that institution also.  Syle finally graduated from an institution of higher learning–Yale College, New Haven, Connecticut (B.A., 1869; M.A., 1872).  He became the first deaf man to graduate from a college not founded for deaf people.

Syle became a teacher and the librarian at the New York Institution for the Deaf.  He also started a night school for deaf people.  He did this while working on his M.A. from Yale College.  In New York City Syle was one of Gallaudet’s parishioners.   In 1872 Syle married Margaret Flannery, also deaf.  Syle left the deaf school to become an employee of the United States Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile Syle, active in Syle’s missionary program to the deaf, undertook theological studies.  In 1876 he became the first deaf man ordained in The Episcopal Church.  Syle, a deacon until 1884, when he joined the ranks of priests, founded the first Episcopal church built for deaf people–All Souls’ Church, Philadelphia.

Syle died of pneumonia in Philadelphia on January 6, 1890.  He was 43 years old.

Gallaudet and Syle worked to include deaf people in the Church.  They pioneered much of what has become mainstream.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2018 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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O Loving God, whose will it is that everyone should come to you and be saved:

We bless your holy Name for your servants Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle,

whose labors with and for those who are deaf we commemorate today,

and we pray that you will continually move your Church to respond in love to the needs of all people;

through Jesus Christ, who opened the ears of the deaf,

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

Isaiah 35:3-6a

Psalm 25:7-14

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Mark 7:32-37

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 543

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