Archive for the ‘Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Blakely Georgia’ Tag

Feast of James Bolan Lawrence (September 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, Georgia

Scanned from a Business Card

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JAMES BOLAN LAWRENCE (JANUARY 2, 1878-JULY 28, 1947)

Episcopal Priest and Missionary in Southwestern Georgia, U.S.A.

Also known as Brother Jimmy Lawrence

“The Bishop of Buckwheat”

In The Episcopal Church the commemoration of saints has become complicated during the last decade or so.  Editions of The Book of Common Prayer have, since the first one in 1549, included major feasts, the number of which has increased as Prayer Book revision has taken place from time to time.  The first edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts debuted in 1963 as the calendar expanded.  Subsequent editions of Lesser Feasts and Fasts (through 2006) have become thicker as the General Convention has added more saints.  The most recent General Convention approved Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, with more saints than Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006Lesser Feasts and Fasts has remained the official denominational calendar of commemorations despite the even more expanded calendar defined first by Holy Women, Holy Men (2010) then by A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016).  Many dioceses have long observed their local saints also.  Some of these local commemorations have filtered up to the denominational level.  The Diocese of Georgia has, since 1999, recognized James Bolan Lawrence as a saint, with September 3 as his feast day.  His feast has remained particular to the Diocese of Georgia, except, as far as I know, at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

James Bolan Lawrence was a dedicated missionary.  He born, in Marietta, Georgia, on January 2, 1878, was the fifth of six children of Robert de Treville Lawrence (b. 1841) and Anna E. Atkinson.  Lawrence, baptized in St. James Episcopal Church, Marietta, Georgia (then in the Diocese of Georgia; in the Diocese of Atlanta since 1907), graduated from General Theological Seminary, New York City.  He, a bachelor, collected silver cups, entertained at home, was a wonderful conversationalist, and maintained a rigorous schedule as he ministered to his parish and missions.

For 42 years (1905-1947) Lawrence served as the Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, Georgia.  Most of those years he was also the Archdeacon of Albany; in that capacity he had administrative authority over missions.  As the Rector of Calvary Church Lawrence oversaw construction (completed in 1921) of the new building, designed by Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942), the architect who designed the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York City.  Lawrence also founded the following rural congregations:

  1. Holy Trinity Church, Blakely;
  2. Epiphany Church, Cuthbert;
  3. St. James Church, Pennington;
  4. Calvary Church, Dawson; and
  5. the unorganized mission at Benevolence.

Lawrence also served at Prince of Peace Church, Vienna; and Christ Church, Cordele.

Above:  Locations of Churches Lawrence Served

Map Source = Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951), 171

[Correction:  I marked the wrong Benevolence on the map above.  Father Lawrence established a mission in the Sumter County community of Benevolence, on Highway 19.–KRT, December 23, 2018]

If that were not enough, Lawrence did more.  In 1929 he became a trustee of the Fort Valley High and Industrial School, an institution of The Episcopal Church.  (Now it is Fort Valley State University, a public institution.)  And, in 1934-1935, Lawrence was a candidate for Bishop Coadjutor of Georgia.  Middleton Stuart Barnwell (1884-1957) won that election and succeeded to the post of Bishop of Georgia in 1936.  He served until 1954.

Lawrence, the rector of one parish and the vicar of several missions, began to anticipate his retirement in the 1940s.  His intention was to retire to Pennington and spend his final years as the Vicar of St. James Church.  None of that happened, though.  He suffered his first heart attack in December 1945, when he was 67 years old.  Lawrence eventually resumed priestly duties, but had a second heart attack on Sunday, May 25, 1947.  He died on St. Simon’s Island on July 28, 1947.  Lawrence was 69 years old.  He could not spend retirement as the Vicar of St. James Church, Pennington, but he found his final resting place there.  Other priests continued the work he had begun and continued.

Time has marched on.  Of the churches Lawrence founded, only Holy Trinity, Blakely, has survived.  (I have visited there.  The buildings have long been near the courthouse square.)  Calvary Church, Dawson, closed; Holy Spirit Church, Dawson, succeeded it.  Calvary Church, Americus, suffered a schism in 2012; the congregation has struggled much of the time since then.  If that were not enough, the physical structure has become endangered, in the name of economic progress.

Yet I have discerned reasons for optimism.  Christ Church, Cordele, was struggling when I was a member there, in 1998-2001.  I recall vocalized questions about whether the congregation would continue to exist.  The church, long a perpetual mission, except for a few years in the 1970s, when it was a parish, has been thriving again for some years now.

I predict that the best years of Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, await it.

May the legacy of James Bolan Lawrence and the call of the Great Commission continue to inspire people–especially in The Episcopal Church–in southwestern Georgia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant James Bolan Lawrence,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of southwestern Georgia.

Raise up in this and very 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 forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

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

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