Archive for the ‘Martin Luther King Jr.’ Tag

Feast of A. J. Muste (January 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  A. J. Muste

Image in the Public Domain

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ABRAHAM JOHANNES MUSTE (JANUARY 8, 1885-FEBRUARY 11, 1967)

Dutch-American Minister, Labor Activist, and Pacifist

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Only the nonviolent can apply therapy to the violent.

–A. J. Muste

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A. J. Muste comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber,  A Year with American Saints (2006).

Muste changed his mind on major points more than once, each time sending his life in a different direction.

Our saint, born in Zierkzee, The Netherlands, on January 8, 1885, to Martin and Adriana Muste, came from a Dutch Reformed family.  He, his parents, and his siblings, seeking economic opportunity, emigrated in 1891.  They settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, joined the Dutch Reformed Church there, and naturalized in 1896.  The working-class congregation that shaped Muste was quite conservative–diehard Republican and puritanical.  Dancing, attending plays, and listening to secular music were allegedly sinful.

Muste, intelligent, was a fine student.  He, the valedictorian of Hope College in 1905, taught Greek and Latin at Northwestern Classical Academy (now called Northwestern College), Orange City, Iowa.  Then our saint studied at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1909.  After ordination into the ministry of the Reformed Church in America (1909), Muste married Anna Huizenga before the end of the year.  The couple raised three children.

Muste liberalized significantly during 1909-1914, his tenure as pastor of Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Washington Heights, New York, New York.  He questioned the religious strictness of his youth, accepted the Social Gospel, and earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary.  Muste had changed so much in 1912 that he cast his vote for Eugene Victor Debs, nominee of the Socialist Party, in the presidential election of 1912.

Muste was theologically honest.  By 1914 he no longer accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, so he resigned his pastorate.  Our saint served as the pastor of Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Massachusetts, for about three years.  (Muste succeeded Jay Thomas Stocking in that role.  Stocking’s immediate predecessor was Ozora Stearns Davis, who served in 1900-1904.)  Muste, a pacifist, founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915.  In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Muste resigned his pastorate under pressure.  Our saint volunteered for the Civil Liberties Bureau (a precursor of the American Civil Liberties Union) in Boston, in 1918.  He defended draft resisters.  Later that year, in Providence, Rhode Island, our saint joined the Quakers.

Muste became a labor union activist in 1919 and remained active in the cause for the rest of his life.  For sixteen weeks that year, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, workers went on strike.  They had a just cause; they worked 54-hour-long work weeks for $0.20 an hour.  (That amount, adjusted to inflation and keyed to the Consumer Price Index for 2018, the most recent year I can adjust amounts for inflation, is $2.90.)  Police spies tried to goad workers into committing violence, but Muste encouraged striking workers not to resort to violence.  Police beat him and incarcerated our saint for a week, though.  Later that year, Muste helped to found the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America.  He served as the secretary until 1921.

Muste became a radical–a Marxist-Leninist, even, for a time.  He, the president (1921-1933) of Brookwood Labor College, Katonah, New York, left the American Federation of Labor in 1929.  Our saint helped to found the Conference for Progressive Labor Action.  He also worked to build a labor third party, culminating in the Workers Party of the United States (1934-1936).

Muste changed direction again in 1936.  He left Marxism-Leninism behind and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A..  Our saint’s writings, starting in 1936, were clear; the proper revolutionary force was Christianity.  From 1937 to 1940, he was the director of the (Presbyterian) Labor Temple, a mission of the Presbytery of New York to working men of New York City.  Our saint, the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1940 to 1953), mentored Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), who taught nonviolent resistance tactics to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  Muste’s obvious opposition to Marxism-Leninism, starting in 1936, did not spare him from allegations during the 1950s of being a communist.  He was certainly a consistent pacifist, opposing wars, whether declared or “police actions.”  Muste also spoke out against racism at home and abroad.  Furthermore, he insisted that good housing and proper, affordable health care were human rights.  Those views were sufficient to prompt much criticism of him.

Muste died in New York, New York, on February 11, 1967.  He was 82 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

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

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Happy to Be an Episcopalian   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have belonged to three denominations and chosen one.  When my parents were Southern Baptists, so was I.  Likewise, in 1980, when my father left the ordained ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention for that of The United Methodist Church, I became a United Methodist at the age of seven years.  Thus, in June 1980, our family moved from Newington, Georgia, where he had been pastor of North Newington Baptist Church, and settled in the parsonage in Vidette, Georgia.  He served as the minister of the Vidette, Friendship, and Greens Cut congregations in Burke County.  In the ensuing years, I took the grand tour of rural southern Georgia.  My initial spiritual formation occurred within the context of rural Southern United Methodism, a different creature from United Methodism as it exists in much of the rest of the United States and the world.

Yet I have always had an inner Catholic.  The sacraments, central to my faith, were too infrequent in those rural United Methodist churches.  My attraction to the Deuterocanon (what many call the Apocrypha) asserted itself, also.  Furthermore, my interest in history, and therefore, in ecclesiastical history, made me an outlier in the congregations my father served.  Church history, as it existed in those places, started with Jesus, ran consistently through the Apostles, jumped to the Crusades, jumped again to Martin Luther, ran forward, and really started sprinting with John and Charles Wesley.  That version of church history left many gaps.

In the autumn of 1991, I started my studies at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  I started attending services at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day.  On December 22, 1991, Bishop Harry Woolston Shipps confirmed me.  I remained in the Diocese of Georgia through 2005, belonging to the following congregations:

  1. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia (1993-1996),
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia (1996-1998),
  3. Christ Episcopal Church, Cordele, Georgia (1998-2001),
  4. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), and
  5. Christ Episcopal Church, Dublin, Georgia (2003-2005).

I have worshiped as a member of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, in the Diocese of Atlanta, since August 2005.

I have enjoyed the liberty of being a layman and the pleasure of belong to congregations that respect scholarship and encourage the asking of questions.  My father, as a pastor, censored himself; he made honest theological statements at home he dared not utter from a pulpit.  I did not feel free to ask certain questions in those churches.  In Episcopal churches, however, I have asked questions freely and heard priests utter statements (not all of whom I agreed with) that would have gotten my father into great trouble.  The threshold for offending people was low in his case; my father once offended people by supporting the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday.  That position contributed to us moving.  On another occasion, he upset a parishioner by preaching that Jesus had a sense of humor.  He had allegedly insulted her Jesus.  The District Superintendent did not take the complaint seriously, fortunately.

Many of my statements on my weblogs, such as this one, would have cooked my goose in those churches.

So be it.  I refuse to back down from my Catholic tendencies and my acceptance of Single Predestination.  I refuse to back down from my support of civil rights (and not just based on skin color), of Biblical scholarship, and science.

I am where I belong–in The Episcopal Church.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Realism in Politics and Policy   2 comments

I am, like most of my fellow Democrats, contemplating which candidate to prefer during the upcoming primary season next year.  The number of fine candidates is numerous.  Even the not-so-fine candidates are better on their worst days than Donald Trump is on his best days.

I have been reading about some of the candidates.  I have been reading at websites for which experts in domestic and foreign policy write.  A recurring theme, especially regarding Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, has been realism.  Warren, according to a longtime friend quoted in an article, has manifested a

data-driven worldview,

and changed her mind to fit the facts.  Biden, according to foreign policy writer James Traub, has demonstrated a realistic, not ideological, foreign policy.

I do not expect responsible policy-makers to remain consistent if consistency requires them to ignore date.  No, to ignore data would be to decide irresponsibly.  Actually, I seek a mature (in the highest sense of that word) President of the United States.  The more mature (in the highest sense of that word) he or she is, the better.  Particular policy matters may take a back seat to maturity as I ponder for whom to vote.  Besides, certain matters are ones best left to societal changes affected as people change their minds–what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a radical revolution of values

–than to court rulings and other acts of government.  Passing laws is necessary sometimes, but one should never imagine that doing so ends the offending actions.  (I wrote about this matter, with its subleties, here.)

I have seen a bumper sticker that reads,

ANY FUNCTIONING ADULT 2020.

I have not arrived at that point of political desperation, but have concluded that I may get there eventually.  Trump has lowered the bar so far that is has fallen to the floor.

The United States of America and the world deserve much better.  May we all have it on January 20, 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

Feast of F. Bland Tucker (November 20)   2 comments

Above:  Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia

Image Scanned from Henry T. Malone, The Episcopal Church in Georgia (1960)

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FRANCIS BLAND TUCKER (NOVEMBER 6, 1895-JANUARY 1, 1984)

Episcopal Priest and Hymnodist

“The Dean of American Hymn Writers”

Feast Day in the Diocese of Georgia = November 19

Father F. Bland Tucker comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via two Episcopal hymnals and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

Tucker came from a family tree full of Episcopal priests, bishops, and missionaries.  He was the youngest of thirteen children of Anna Maria Washington (1851-1927) and Father Beverley Dandridge Tucker (Sr.) (1846-1930), a priest in Norfolk, Virginia, where our saint entered the world on January 6, 1895.  Tucker, Sr., went on to become the Bishop Coadjutor of Southern Virginia (1906-1911) then the Bishop of Southern Virginia (1918-1930).  One of our saint’s elder brothers was Beverley Dandridge Tucker (Jr.) (1882-1969), the Bishop of Ohio (1938-1969).  Another elder brother was Henry St. George Tucker (1874-1959), the Bishop Coadjutor of Virginia (1926-1927), the Bishop of Virginia (1927-1943), and the Presiding Bishop of the denomination (1938-1946), preceding the great Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980).

Our saint, descended from old Virginia families and raised in The Episcopal Church, became a courageous and reconciling figure in church and society.  He, raised on The Book of Common Prayer (1892), his favorite version of the Prayer Book, graduated from the University of Virginia (1914) then Virginia Theological Seminary (1920).  Military service during World War I interrupted his theological education.  Tucker, ordained to the diaconate in 1918 and the priesthood two years later, married Mary (Polly) Goldsborough Laird (1890-1972).  The couple had no children.

Tucker served as the rector of three parishes during forty-seven years of active ministry:

  1. St. Andrew’s Church, Lawrenceville, Virginia (1920-1925);
  2. St. John’s Church, Georgetown, District of Columbia (1925-1945); and
  3. Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia (1945-1967).

During this time our saint helped to prepare The Hymnal 1940 (1943).  His contributions to it were two original hymns and four translations.  Tucker also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1944.  When The Episcopal Church replaced the The Book of Common Prayer (1892) with The Book of Common Prayer (1928), our saint and his father accepted the change while not renouncing their fondness for the older Prayer Book.

Tucker spent 1945-1984 in Savannah, Georgia.  He, from 1945 to 1967 the Rector of historic Christ Church, Savannah, declined an opportunity to become the Bishop of Western North Carolina just a few months after arriving in Savannah.  He led the effort to integrate the Diocese of Georgia in 1947.  Tucker was also active in child welfare efforts in Savannah.  Furthermore, our saint openly supported civil rights in the staunchly segregated city.  In the 1960s, when many other congregations turned away those seeking to “pray in,” Tucker welcomed all who wanted to pray at Christ Church.  Also, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), when in Savannah, spoke at Christ Church.

Tucker remained active during his retirement.  He helped to create The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and The Hymnal 1982 (1985).  When our saint heard complaints from supporters of The Book of Common Prayer (1928), he told them that he still preferred The Book of Common Prayer (1892).  He also contributed 17 hymns or parts thereof (original and translated) to the new hymnal.  (The listings for Tucker in the hymnal are 25, 26, 121, 135, 139, 164, 220, 221, 268, 269, 302, 303, 322, 356, 366, 421, 428, 443, 477, 478, 489, 530, 547, 587, 663, and 668.)

Tucker, aged 88 years, died in Savannah on January 1, 1984.  Three days later, the Savannah Morning News eulogized the great man:

…he was ahead of his time as a humanitarian.  Long before desegregation, he was on record in favor of it and a leader in accomplishing it.

Tucker was also a skilled poet who shared his literary gifts for the glory of God.

May the church never be bereft of people with such talents and moral courage.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHARLES STEDMAN NEWHALL, U.S. NATURALIST, HYMN WRITER, AND CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH THEOBALD SCHENCK, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY HALLAM TWEEDY, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant F. Bland Tucker,

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Harry Emerson Fosdick (October 5)   5 comments

Above:  Harry Emerson Fosdick

Image in the Public Domain

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HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK (MAY 24, 1878-OCTOBER 5, 1969)

U.S. Northern Baptist Minister and Opponent of Fundamentalism

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…we cannot harmonize Christ himself with modern culture.  What Christ does to modern culture is to challenge it.

–Harry Emerson Fosdick, “The Church Must Go Beyond Modernism” (1935); quoted in Dewitte Holland, ed., Sermons in American History:  Selected Issues in the American Pulpit, 1630-1967 (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1971), 377

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Harry Emerson Fosdick was one of the most influential ministers in the United States of America during the twentieth century.  He, controversial in life, has remained so postmortem.

Fundamentalism is inherently ahistorical.  This is not an idea original to me.  Consider, O reader, Karen Armstrong:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical:  it believes that Abraham, Moses and the later prophets all experienced their God in exactly the same way as people do today.

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (1994), xx

One might also consider G. E. Mendenhall, author of The Tenth Generation (1973):

Biblical fundamentalism, whether Jewish or Christian, cannot learn from the past because in so many respects the defense of presently accepted ideas about religion is thought to be the only purpose of biblical narrative.  It must, therefore, support ideas of comparatively recent origin–ones that usually have nothing to do with the original meaning or intention of biblical narrative because the context is so radically different.

–Quoted in W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah:  A Modern Commentary, Vol. IV, Numbers (New York:  Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1979), xiv-xv

Fosdick, born in Buffalo, New York, on May 24, 1878, came from a devout family with a tradition of valuing education.  His father was Frank Sheldon Fosdick.  Our saint’s mother was Amy Inez Weaver.  His brother, Raymond B. Fosdick, grew up to become an esteemed attorney, as well as a friend and associate of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960).  Our saint, baptized at the age of seven years, thought about becoming a missionary before deciding on domestic ministry.  He, having graduated from high school in 1896, matriculated at Colgate University.  He graduated with his A.B. degree four years later, and was the class poet.  Fosdick, ordained a Baptist minister in 1903, graduated from Union Theological Seminary the following year.  He married Florence Allen Whitney (d. 1964) on August 16, 1904.  The couple had two daughters.

Fosdick served in a few congregations and taught at Union Theological Seminary.  He, from 1904 to 1915 the pastor of First Baptist Church, Montclair, New Jersey, began his 38-year-long stint of teaching practical theology at Union Theological Seminary in 1908.  He was an instructor (1908-1915), a professor (1915-1917, 1919-1934), and a part-time faculty member (1934-1946).  In 1917-1919 our saint worked as a chaplain with the Y.M.C.A. in France.  After World War I he returned to New York City, to begin duties as assistant minister (1919-1925) of First Presbyterian Church.

Fosdick became a central figure in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., a denomination to which he did not belong.  In 1922 he preached a seminal sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”  He condemned the intolerance of fundamentalism and criticized minor theological disputes (such as arguments about the Virgin Birth) as distractions

when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith.

–Quoted in Holland, ed., Sermons in American History, 347

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., liked the sermon so much that he paid for the printing and mailing of the text to every Protestant minister in the United States.  Clarence Macartney (1879-1957), conservative pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, replied via a sermon that year.  He asked, “Shall Unbelief Win?” and accused Fosdick of heresy and intolerance.  After much controversy, Fosdick had to resign in 1925.

Above:  Park Avenue Baptist Church, New York, New York

Photographer = Irving Underhill

Image Source = Library of Congress

Rockefeller, Jr., offered Fosdick another position, though.  Our saint accepted the pastorate of Park Avenue Baptist Church on four conditions, which he established:

  1. That baptism by immersion cease to be a requirement for membership;
  2. That the congregation become interdenominational, accepting Christians of all creeds;
  3. That the congregation move to a less swanky neighborhood; and
  4. That the initial salary cap for Fosdick be $5000 ($69,900, adjusted for inflation, to 2017 currency).

Above:  Riverside Church and Grant’s Tomb, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

Rockefeller, Jr., financed the construction of the Gothic edifice of the renamed Riverside Church, located near Columbia University and Grant’s Tomb.  The congregation’s first Sunday in the new building, dedicated in 1931, was October 5, 1930.  Fosdick wrote the hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” for the occasion.  For 15 years 1931-1946) Fosdick was the most influential Protestant minister in the United States.  For 20 years (1926-1946) he preached on national radio.  He retired from Riverside Church in 1946.

Fosdick was a prolific author of books and articles.  Some of these were volumes of sermons.  Many other books were psychological-theological in nature.  Examples of these included Twelve Tests of Character (1923) and On Being a Real Person (1943).

Fosdick, who preferred modernism to fundamentalism, was critical of modernism, too.  In 1935 he preached a sermon, “The Church Must Go Beyond Modernism.”  Modernism, he said, was a necessary advance.  However, our saint stated, the church needed to move beyond it, for modernism was imperfect.  It was simultaneously preoccupied with intellectualism and too sentimental, according to Fosdick.  He also argued that modernism had

largely eliminated from its faith the God of moral judgment.

–Quoted in Holland, ed., Sermons in American History, 373

Our saint also asserted that modernism had accommodated too much to the world that it (modernism) had placed people at the center and relegated God to an advisory capacity.  Modernism, Fosdick argued, had also surrendered the moral high ground.  Our saint was arguing for Neo-orthodoxy.

Fosdick stood up for a range of controversial positions.  His adopted pacifism, evident in his hymn, “The Prince of Peace His Banner Spreads” (1930), was more popular at certain times than others.  Our saint also advocated for the civil rights of African Americans when doing so was often unpopular.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968) thought of Fosdick as a prophetic figure.  Fosdick, eschewing anti-Semitism, also sympathized with displaced Palestinians.  He, not a Zionist, opposed the creation of the State of Israel.

Fosdick wrote four hymns, all of which have remained germane:

  1. God of Grace and God of Glory” (1930),
  2. The Prince of Peace His Banner Spreads” (1930),
  3. O God, in Restless Living” (1931), and
  4. O God, Who to a Loyal Home” (1956).

Fosdick, aged 91 years, died in Bronxville, New York, on October 5, 1969.

Perhaps the précis of Fodick’s life was the following excerpt from “God of Grace and God of Glory”:

Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;….

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SCARLETT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSOURI, AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom,

to others the word of knowledge,

and to others the word of faith:

We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Harry Emerson Fosdick,

and we ray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16

John 17:18-23

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 720

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Feast of Sarah Louise Delany, Annie Elizabeth Delany, and Hubert Thomas Delany (September 25)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sadie, Bessie, and Hubert Delany

Fair Use Images

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SARAH LOUISE “SADIE” DELANY (SEPTEMBER 19, 1889-JANUARY 25, 1999)

African-American Educator

sister of

ANNIE ELIZABETH “BESSIE” DELANY (SEPTEMBER 3, 1891-SEPTEMBER 25, 1995)

African-American Dentist

and their brother

HUBERT THOMAS DELANY (MAY 11, 1901-DECEMBER 28, 1990)

African-American Attorney, Judge, and Civil Rights Activist

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INTRODUCTION

The Episcopal Church has, in recent years, made the transition from having one calendar of saints (Lesser Feasts and Fasts, most recently revised in 2018; previously revised in 2006) to two calendars of saints, with the optional Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and its successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, although expanded from Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, still commemorates fewer saints than the optional books.  It also remains the official calendar of saints for the denomination.

The Episcopal Church usually permits a minimum of four decades to pass before it adds someone to either of its calendars of saints, for the Anglican position is that history makes saints.  The passage of time allows for perspective, which is what separates history from journalism.  The denomination does make a few exceptions to the “reasonable passage of time” guideline, however, as in the case of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., one of Hubert Thomas Delany‘s clients, added at the General Convention of 1988, two decades after the great civil rights leader’s assassination.  The Appendix to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) contains a list of people deemed worthy of remaining in the institutional church’s memory yet who have not met the “reasonable passage of time” rule yet.  That list includes the Delany sisters, noted for their lives devoted to public service.  I add their brother Hubert also, for the same rationale.  The three siblings belong on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

The Delanys were a remarkable family.  Bishop Henry Beard Delany, Sr. (1858-1928)added to Holy Women, Holy Men at the General Convention of 2009, was a great man.  His wife, Nannette Logan James (1861-1956), was a great woman.  He, born a slave in St. Marys, Georgia, became an Episcopal priest and, in the last decade of his life, a bishop who ministered to African Americans in several southeastern states.  Both partners in the marriage were educators attached to St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, North Carolina.  Nannette was the chief matron.  Henry was an administrator, a faculty member, the college chaplain, a college architect, and a musician, also.  The Delanys challenged Jim Crow in their society and institutional racism in The Episcopal Church.  Henry, in particular, was a threat to certain powerful, racist elements in the denomination.  The Delanys raised their ten children well.  Growing up in Raleigh at the time exposed the younger Delanys to Jim Crow laws and to news of lynchings.  Most of the Delany children grew up to make great contributions to society.  Their number included educators, musicians, a mortician, a jurist, and doctors of various specialties.

SADIE AND BESSIE (I)

Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (1889-1999) and Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany (1891-1995) were a pair.  Both of them studied at St. Augustine’s College to become teachers.  Sadie left for New York City first.  She arrived in 1916, and eventually graduated from the Teachers College of Columbia University.  Sadie became the first African-American woman allowed to teach high school home economics in New York City.  Bessie arrived in the “Big Apple” in 1918.  She, denied admission to the dental program at New York University because of her gender, matriculated at Columbia University instead.  Bessie, graduating in 1923, became the second African-American woman licensed to practice dentistry in the city.  She was, to many of her clients, “Dr. Bessie, Harlem’s colored woman dentist.”  For many years Bessie and brother Henry Beard Delany, Jr. (1895-1991) had a private practice.  They charged affordable fees and never turned anyone away.  The sisters never married, for, at the time, married women seldom had their own careers.  Meanwhile, they were part of the Harlem Renaissance scene.  Notable friends and associates included W. E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson (one of Hubert’s clients), and Langston Hughes.  Sadie and Bessie shared an apartment in Manhattan until 1928, when their father, the bishop, died.  Then they and their mother moved into a house in the Bronx.  After Nannette died in 1956, Sadie and Bessie purchased a two-family house in Mount Vernon, New York.  Both sisters died in their sleep in that house many years later.

HUBERT

Hubert Thomas Delany (1901-1990) went into law.  He graduated from the City College of New York (Class of 1923) and the New York University School of Law (Class of 1926).  College jobs included working on a farm, working as a Pullman car porter, and teaching elementary school in Harlem.  Throughout his career Hubert championed the causes of unjustly marginalized members of society.  From 1926 to 1933 he was Assistant U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  In 1926 Hubert married Clarissa Mae Scott (1901-1927), a poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance.  She was also an educator, an essayist, and a social worker associated with the National Urban League.  She died of kidney disease in 1927, sadly.  The widower ran (as a Republican) for the vacant U.S. House seat representing Harlem in 1929; he won about 40% of the votes cast.  Hubert did, however, come to the attention of Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947), Mayor of New York City from 1933 to 1945.  Mayor La Guardia appointed our saint to the Tax Commission.  In 1939 Hubert, as attorney of Marian Anderson, helped to arrange for her famous concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In 1942 Hubert married Willietta S. Mickey (1907-2000), who had been his secretary when he had served on the Tax Commission.  Mayor La Guardia presided at the ceremony.  Willetta was also a mover and a shaker for good; she founded Adopt-A-Child, to help place minority children in adoptive families.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported this initiative publicly.

Hubert was a judge of the Family Court of New York City from 1942 to 1955.  He became a respected expert on juvenile issues, such as delinquency.  He, known as a fair judge, nevertheless incurred the wrath of reactionaries, who accused him of being too liberal, especially in the context of McCarthyism.  Hubert, outspoken in his support of civil rights, opposed loyalty oaths to the U.S. Government and defended the right of Socialists and Communists to be Socialists and Communists.  When our saint ceased to be a family court judge, politics was the reason.

Hubert was, by some standards, a radical, as he should have been.  He, for many year a member of the boards of the NAACP and its Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued that the organization’s civil rights strategy was too conservative.  He also appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1956 and 1958 to represent people accused of being members of the Communist Party.  In 1963 Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed our saint the chairman of the temporary State Commission on Low-Income Housing, informally the Delany Commission.  The commission proposed that the state subsidize low-income housing in middle-class neighborhoods.  The commission’s work led to the expansion of affordable housing in the State of New York.  Later in life Hubert also worked on issues related to the education of and health care for minorities.

Hubert, aged 89 years, died in New York on December 28, 1990.

SADIE AND BESSIE (II)

Sadie and Bessie outlived their siblings.  They joked that they lived as long as they did because they had no husbands to worry them to death.  Seriously, though, the sisters maintained healthy lifestyles, minimized stress, and retained their faculties.  Their book, Having Our Say:  The Delany Sisters’ First 100 years (1993), spent 28 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List.  The following year they published their second book, The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom.  Bessie, aged 104 years, died on September 25, 1995.  She, having broken her hip the previous year, never recovered.  Sadie lived to the age of 109 years.  She died in her sleep on January 25, 1999.  During her final few years Sadie missed her sister, hence the book On My Own at 107:  Reflections on Life Without Bessie.

CONCLUSION

Sadie, Bessie, and Hubert Delany witnessed the world change profoundly.  They also acted to change that world for the bettter.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN STAINER AND WALTER GALPIN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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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

Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany, and Hubert Thomas Delany,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your Name,

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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Berlin, Georgia   Leave a comment

 

Above:  Berlin United Methodist Church

Late 1980s on the left

February 1987 on the right

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Recently I have been thinking about some places in which I grew up and in which I am glad to have ceased to live.  One such place is Vidette, Georgia, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.  Berlin, Georgia, where my parents and I lived from June 1986 to June 1989, is another.

Colquitt County 1951

Above:  Colquitt County in Context, 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Berlin (with the stress on the first syllable) is a small town in southern Colquitt County, near the boundary with Brooks County.  I recall it as being a reactionary town of about 400 people.

In the late 1980s Berlin was an openly racist town stuck in a time warp in terms of mindsets.  My father’s letter to the Moultrie Observer, the local newspaper, in support of the then-new Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday contributed to our move in 1989.  Old white men and young white people used racial slurs openly, even in the presence of African Americans.  Berlin Baptist Church, with its openly racist, Communist-baiting pastor, was the major cultural institution in town.  (The minister was convinced that liberal columnist Mary McGrory  (1918-2004), who had been close politically to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and earned a spot on President Richard Nixon’s infamous enemies list, was a Communist, card-carrying or otherwise.)  And, when cable television came to town, opposition to it was vigorous, to the point of one man pointing a loaded gun at the workers laying cable when they came to his property.  The stated reason for opposition was some of the programming on the premium channels, but opposition weakened considerably when news that a country music channel was part of the basic package spread.

Above:  The Parsonage, next to Berlin United Methodist Church, 1986-1987

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

My father was the pastor of the Berlin-Wesley Chapel Charge.

Berlin Church Cornerstone

Above:  The Cornerstone of Berlin United Methodist Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Berlin United Methodist Church, rebuilt in 1953, was next door to the rundown parsonage, renovated after we moved out.  The Berlin congregation was nearly functionally dead.  It had an adult Sunday School class, but little else.  The congregation had once been so active that it had sponsored a Boy Scouts troop, but those days were long past by 1986.  One Sunday School room was vacant, as if waiting for a class that never gathered there.  The other had become a storage room for boxes my family and I had no room for in the parsonage.

Wesley Chapel Church August 21, 1988

Above:  Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Berlin, Georgia, April 21, 1988

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I belonged to Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, located a few miles outside of town.  My Sunday School class was there.

The two congregations functioned as one in most ways.  On the first and third Sundays one church hosted the morning and evening services; the other one did the same on the second and fourth Sundays.  The congregations also alternated hosting duties on fifth Sundays.  I have never seen that nice arrangement anywhere else.

Berlin United Methodist Church is no more; only Wesley Chapel remains.  The building of the former Berlin Church now hosts a Hispanic ministry within the denomination.

I was 13-16 years old at the time, so 1986-1989 were years replete with adolescent awkwardness.  Nevertheless, the schools in Moultrie were very good, and leaving for the inferior high school in Berrien County was a difficult transition for me.

I wonder if the town has become sufficiently progressive to move into the twentieth century in terms of its collective mindset.  I doubt it.

These memories remind me to thank God that I live in Athens-Clarke County.  I am a person born to live in a college or university town, where I am less likely to feel like an outcast and  am more likely to find people with whom to conduct an intelligent conversation.  In a college or university town I have more opportunities to grow intellectually and spiritually, given my temperament.

I know some of what I have, and thank God for it in the present tense, not in hindsight, with regret for having lost it.  I also thank God, with the benefit of hindsight, for a positive development at Berlin-Wesley Chapel.

There I began to choose how to participate in church activities; I began to say “no.”  For years parishioners at various congregations had been drafting me into church pageants and other activities.  At Wesley Chapel I had no choice but to accept a role in a terrible Christmas play.  The parishioner who had written the play seemed to like exposition and clunky dialogue.  Maybe she imagined herself to be a good playwright.  By the time of the creation of the youth choir, with its woeful musical selections, I had decided to refuse.  This created a diplomatic incident for my father, but, to his credit, he did not force me to participate in it.

Now I carry a strong aversion to people volunteering me for tasks.  Asking me if I will participate is not too difficult, is it?

I am active in my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  All the roles I fill are ones I want to perform, and enjoy doing.  One function (teacher of the lectionary class) is something I sought.  The others are roles I accepted when someone asked me.  Almost all of my functions (lectionary class teacher, lector scheduler, parish librarian, movie series coordinator) at St. Gregory the Great are those I could not taken on in the Berlin area, if I were to live there today, given the different ecclesiastical cultures.  Certainly I would not feel free, as I do in Athens, to speak my mind freely in Sunday School, lest I face an accusation of heresy, as I would in the Berlin area.

In 2018 I am where I belong.  Thank God for that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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