Archive for the ‘Fred Rogers’ Tag

Feast of William Stringfellow (April 28)   1 comment

Above:  William Stringfellow

Fair Use

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FRANK WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW (APRIL 26, 1928-MARCH 2, 1985)

Episcopal Attorney, Theologian, and Social Activist

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I think they need to hear it.

–William Stringfellow, explaining why he read long passages of the Bible to the F.B.I. agents recording his telephone calls

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This is the man America should be listening to.

Karl Barth, on Stringfellow, early 1960s

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It is profane, as well as grandiose, to manipulate the Bible in order to apologize for America.

–William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973)

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For thousands of us, he became the honored keeper and guardian of the Word of God.

Daniel Berrigan, 1985

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William Stringfellow comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via five sources.  He is on the short list of people The Episcopal Church will probably list officially as a saint once the “fifty-year-rule” (to which the denomination has made notable exceptions) ceases to be a barrier.  Stringfellow’s name appears in this context in the back of Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and its successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  Cloud of Witnesses, 2d. ed (2005), edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, contains Wallis’s remembrance of his friend of 14 years.  A Year with American Saints (2006), by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, features Stringfellow.  So does All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), by Robert Ellsberg.

Stringfellow was a prophet.  He was, by definition, also a controversial figure.  Our saint was the kind of man certain contemporary reactionaries would dismiss cynically as a “social justice warrior.” Stringfellow would, in a counterfactual scenario in which he would have heard that term, probably have considered it a compliment and read the Book of Amos to his critics.  He did, after all, read long Biblical passages to the F.B.I. spooks who recorded this telephone calls.  That was better than what some other spied-upon U.S. citizens did in identical circumstances–frequently insult J. Edgar Hoover profanely.

Stringfellow stood up for what he believed.  He condemned economic injustice, racism, institutionalized segregation, homophobia, misogyny, sexual promiscuity, and other offenses.  Our saint also advocated for the ordination of women within The Episcopal Church long before 1976, when the General Convention approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.  His opposition to the Vietnam War and to nuclear weapons also made him many enemies on the Right.

Frank William Stringfellow was a man who allowed the Bible to shape him.  He was a radical and a strong social critic who walked the walk.  Our saint, born in Johnston, Rhode Island, on April 26, 1928, was a life-long Episcopalian.  At age fifteen, he matriculated at Bates College, Lewiston, Massachusetts.  When Stringfellow left Bates College, he studied at the London School of Economics.  Our saint served in the Second Armored Division, U.S. Army, during World War II.  Next, he earned his J.D. degree at Harvard Law School.

Stringfellow moved into a slum in Harlem after he graduated from Harvard Law School.  He joined the East Harlem Protestant Parish, taught Biblical studies, and practiced law.  He remained in Harlem until 1967.  Our saint moved for health-related reasons; a metabolism-related disorder that led to diabetes affected him.  Stringfellow and platonic partner, poet Anthony Towne (died in 1980), a Methodist, moved to Block Island, New Shoreham, Rhode Island.

All evidence points to Stringfellow being a celibate, semi-closeted homosexual.  This matter, relevant to his life and activism, does not offend me.  (Stringfellow no more chose to be homosexual than I chose to be heterosexual.)

Theologically, Stringfellow was neo-orthodox.  He read works by Karl Barth (with whom he had a conversation in Harlem in the early 1960s) and Jacques Ellul.  The neo-orthodox theology of original sin pervading neo-orthodoxy was evident in his writings, including many of his books.  The presence of original sin in American culture and social institutions was one of Stringfellow’s most controversial topics.  He objected to reading the Bible through (dominant) American cultural eyes.  Rather, our saint interpreted (dominant) American culture through Biblical lenses.  He concluded that the Bible condemned his culture and his society’s institutions.  That proved to be controversial when

My country, right or wrong

was a popular slogan for many people.

Stringfellow’s views and activism placed him on J. Edgar Hoover’s radar, hence the wire-tapping.  When our saint’s friend, Father Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) was a fugitive for having destroyed military draft records, Stringfellow and Toyne sheltered him for four months.  F.B.I. agents raided the house on Block Island and arrested all three.  The court eventually dropped the charges (of sheltering a fugitive) against Stringfellow and Towne, though.

Stringfellow, in constant pain during his final years, died at home on March 2, 1985.  He was 56 years old.

Stringfellow defined being holy as

being truly human.

By that standard, of being the best person one can be, our saint was holy.

Stringfellow’s prophetic witness remains relevant, unfortunately.  I write “unfortunately” because the United States of America, my country, has continued collectively and officially down a path contrary to the high moral standards Stringfellow championed.  I wonder what the FOX News Channel (according to which Mister Rogers was evil) would have said about Stringfellow, had it existed when he was alive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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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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Feast of Fred Rogers (February 28)   1 comment

Above:  Fred Rogers, July 9, 2002

Image in the Public Domain

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FRED MCFEELY ROGERS (MARCH 20, 1928-FEBRUARY 27, 2003)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

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…but kindness is like a garden of blessings….

–Sirach 40:17a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Fred Rogers comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via his deep Christian piety and great decency.

For years, off and on, hosts of FOX and Friends have taken Rogers behind the woodshed verbally, as clips easily available on YouTube prove.  These television personalities have asked if he was

RUINING KIDS

for telling young people,

You’re special because you’re you.

These hosts have also accused Rogers of being

This evil, evil man….

As any historian knows, consider the source.  That source’s foolishness is obvious to anyone who knows what evil is.  When I think of evil people, my mind turns immediately to genocidal dictators:  Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot.  Personalities at FOX and Friends think of kindly hosts of children’s shows, apparently.

But kindness is a paradise in its blessings….

–Ecclesiasticus 40:17a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Fred Rogers was a  paragon of gentleness and mere goodness.  Fred McNeely Rogers knew about childhood struggles firsthand.  He, son of Nancy Rogers and businessman James Rogers, debuted in LaTrobe, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 1928.  Our saint, as a youth, was overweight, shy, and a frequent target for bullies.  The introvert, played with puppets and stuffed animals at home.  He came out of his shell and slimmed down eventually.

Our saint made a career in television, mostly for children.  After graduating from Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, with a degree in music composition, in 1951, Rogers worked for NBC in New York, New York, for two years.  He worked behind the cameras on positive programming.  In 1952 Rogers married Sara Joanne Byrd, a former classmate at Rollins College, and a fine pianist.  The couple raised two children and remained married until our saint died, in 2003.

But goodness, like eternity, will never be cut off….

–Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:17a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Rogers made the transition to children’s programming in 1953, when he went to work behind the cameras at WQED, a public television station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He developed The Children’s Corner.  Our saint also studied child psychology and development at the University of Pittsburgh, where he met Margaret McFarland, a psychologist.  They collaborated professionally for decades.  Furthermore, Rogers studied at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  He became an ordained minister in The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1963.  Rogers served as a pastor in a congregation; television was his main ministry.  Writing books for children was another ministry.

Rogers worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Toronto from 1963 to 1967.  He made his debut as a host on MisteRogers (1963-1967).  Our saint also worked on Butternut Square from 1964 to 1967.  Many characters on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood started during this period.

You made this day special just by being yourself.

–Fred Rogers

Rogers, back in Pittsburgh, produced and starred in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-1975, 1979-2001), for which he also composed most of the music.  He created 895 episodes rerun frequently.  The series focused on the moral, psychological, and emotional development of children.  Themes included tolerance and self-worth.  Topics included assassination (in 1968), divorce, civil rights, the death of a pet, and starting school.  Rogers affirmed that life is not cheap, that is a great wonder and something to affirm and celebrate.  He also said that television programs should make that point.

You know, you don’t have to look like everybody else to be acceptable and to feel acceptable.

–Fred Rogers

Rogers also made other television appearances, usually as himself.  In 1978, on hiatus from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, our saint hosted the 20 episodes of Old Friend…New Friends, an interview series for adults.  He also portrayed the Reverend Thomas in an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman in 1996.

Rogers produced the final episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in December 2000.  Then he retired.  That retirement was brief, due to our saint’s failing health.  Rogers, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 27, 2003.  In less than a month, he would have been 75 years old.

Fred Rogers was a good neighbor to everyone.

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Loving God, in whom all goodness dwells and in whom is Heaven,

we thank you for the life, legacy, and faith of your servant, Fred Rogers,

a vehicle and conduit of your love for all people.

May your love define our lives and inform our work,

for the benefit of others and for your glory;

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-13a

Psalm 15

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 18:1-5

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 22:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF GEORGE EDWARD LYNCH COTTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CALCUTTA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH ALBERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND POET

THE FEAST OF JOHN ERNEST BODE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TYNDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND MARTYR, 1536; AND MILES COVERDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF EXETER

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