Archive for the ‘Racism’ Tag

Feast of John LaFarge, Jr. (November 24)   3 comments

Above:  Logo of the Society of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN LAFARGE, JR. (DECEMBER 13, 1880-NOVEMBER 25, 1963)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest and Renewer of Society

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The Negro brings to the Church something that is in danger of disappearing from its life in this country, and thereby putting American Catholicism out of touch with the rest of the great universal suffering world–a keen sense of social justice.

–Father John LaFarge, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 512

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Father John LaFarge, Jr., comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Ellsberg’s All Saints and G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

LaFarge, from a background of privilege, dedicated most of his adult life to resisting bigotry.  His mother was Margaret Mason Perry (1839-1925).  She, a convert to Roman Catholicism, had Isaiah Hecker (1819-1888) for a spiritual mentor.  Our saint’s father was John LaFarge, Sr. (1835-1910), a prominent painter and stained glass window maker.  Our saint, the youngest of eight children, entered the world at Newport, Rhode Island, on February 13, 1880.  John, Jr., a member of the Harvard University Class of 1901, studied for the priesthood in Europe.  There he joined the Society of Jesus (much to his mother’s dismay) and became a priest (ordained at Innsbruck, Austria) on July 26, 1905.

LaFarge understood the relationship between the gospel of Jesus Christ and social justice.  Early assignments included teaching at Jesuit colleges and assisting in parishes.  One assignment was as chaplain at the prison and hospital on Blackwell Island, New York, New York.  Later, our saint served in a mostly African-American parish in Leonardville, Maryland.  In 1924 he founded an industrial school for African Americans at Ridge, Maryland.  From 1926 to 1963 LaFarge worked at America magazine, a Jesuit publication.  In 1963, he, Dorothy Day, and others founded the Catholic Layman’s Union, which became the first Catholic Interracial Council of New York.  He traveled across the United States, speaking about social justice and encouraging the formation of similar organizations.  In 1938, Pope Pius XI asked LaFarge to draft an encyclical on racism.  Our saint completed the draft document, but Pius XI died in 1939, and Pope Pius XII shelved it, just in time for the Holocaust and World War II.

LaFarge, a pioneer for racial justice and opposition to anti-Semitism in U.S. Roman Catholicism prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), understood that one one divine purpose for the human race was unity.  He, therefore, condemned anti-Semitism and racial segregation laws.  That concern for unity also led LaFarge to become a pioneer in the ecumenical movement.  Related to his concern for unity was support for constitutional government; our saint criticized his Church for hostility to constitutional governments and support for dictatorships and therefore for a dubious record on human rights.  He, an advocate for freedom of religion as a human right, lived long enough to learn of the introduction of the draft Declaration on Religious Freedom at Vatican II.

LaFarge, aged 83 years, died in his sleep in New York, New York, early in the morning of November 25, 1963.

Theological orthodoxy and social justice need not be at odds with each other.  Despite the long and shameful record of self-proclaimed orthodox Christians propping up sins such as Jim Crow laws, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, nativism, and the subordination of women, actual orthodoxy, with the Golden Rule as a constituent part, facilitates social justice and confronts institutions and proponents of oppression and hatred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant John LaFarge, Jr.,

through whom you 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 Savior and 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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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,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant John LaFarge, Jr., 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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Feast of Rosa Parks (October 24)   2 comments

Above:  Rosa Parks, December 1, 1955

Image in the Public Domain

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ROSA LOUISE MCCAULEY PARKS (FEBRUARY 4, 1913-OCTOBER 24, 2005)

African-American Civil Rights Activist

In this post I refer you, O reader, to a biography of the great Rosa Parks, as well as to Sarah Vowell’s audio essay about the general folly of comparing oneself or another person to Parks.  Now I offer my thoughts about our saint.

Perhaps the first volume to list Parks as a saint was G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), published about a year after her death.  I had written her name on a list for addition to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days before I ordered that book, one of the recent additions to my library.

Parks, a lifelong member of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church and a deaconess within that denomination, spent most of her 92 years working for social justice, one the greatest legacies of the A.M.E. Church, a great contributor to the struggle for civil rights in the United States of America since 1816.  Long after Parks famously broke the law in Montgomery, by refusing to give up her bus seat for a white man, advocating for Black Power and working for the release of prisoners–political ones and those incarcerated for acts of self-defensive violence.  Her faith was of the variety that understood that Christianity is about liberation–of individuals and societies.  Her faith compelled her to work for goals that seemed impossible yet morally imperative.  She was faithful in these efforts.

May we work for justice wherever and whenever we are, whoever we are.  The legacy of Rosa Parks challenges us to imagine what society would be if the Golden Rule were the norm, and violations of it were socially unacceptable.  That legacy also challenges us to work to make society more like the ideal, and not to give up in apathy or despair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FOTHERGILL CHORLEY, ENGLISH NOVELIST, PLAYWRIGHT, AND LITERARY AND MUSIC CRITIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSENEE

THE FEAST OF RALPH WARDLAW, SCOTTISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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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 James W. C. Pennington (October 21)   1 comment

Above:  James William Charles Pennington

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES WILLIAM CHARLES PENNINGTON (1807-OCTOBER 20, 1870)

African-American Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister, Educator, and Abolitionist

Born James Pembroke

James W. C. Pennington comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (New York:  Church Publishing, 2006), the most recent addition to my library.

James Pembroke was a slave in Maryland.  Initially his father (Brazil Pembroke) and mother belonged to different masters.  Then the family became the property of just one of the two masters, until another slave owner purchased our saint’s brother.  Young James, trained as a stone mason then as a blacksmith, received many beatings as he grew up.  At the age of 20 years our saint escaped to freedom in Pennsylvania.

Quakers–namely William Wright–helped our saint for six months in Pennsylvania.  Wright took the fugitive slave into his home.  Quakers educated our saint, influenced him to convert to Christianity, and helped him to move farther north, first to the Brooklyn-Long Island area, via the Underground Railroad.

Our saint, who assumed the name “James William Charles Pennington,” taught school on Long Island before moving to New Haven, Connecticut.   He worked toward becoming a minister while auditing courses at Yale College, which, due to a racist admission policy, never admitted him as a student.  Pennington, ordained a minister, accepted a call in 1838; he became the pastor of a Congregational church in New Town, on Long Island.  That year he also presided at the wedding ceremony of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray.

From 1840 to 1848 Pennington served as the pastor of the Talcott Street Congregational Church, Hartford, Connecticut.  It was a congregation of African Americans, most of whom were active in the community.  Our saint opened a parochial school, for local public schools did not admit African Americans.  Pennington, active in efforts to help the slaves aboard the Amistad, also worked against racism domestically.  He advocated for opportunities for African Americans to improve their economic opportunities.  Our saint also spoke out for the right of African-American men to vote in Connecticut.  Furthermore, he condemned racism within the abolitionist movement, to which he belonged.  That criticism changed the minds of some white people for, starting, in the 1840s, Pennington received and accepted invitations to preach in white churches.  Our saint also wrote the Textbook of the Origin and History, Etc., Etc. of the Colored People (1841), which countered racist claims and justifications for chattel slavery.  The friend of William Lloyd Garrison served as the President of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Convention (1840f) and as a delegate to the global anti-slavery convention in 1843.  Our saint, who wrote for abolitionist newspapers and edited and published two such newspapers, also advocated for moral character and conduct, especially as part of the temperance movement.

Penningon continued to serve God and work for social improvement during his final years.  He, pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church, New York, New York (1848-1856), returned to Hartford (1856-1857) before spending years as a traveling minister.  The Civil War compelled him to abandon his pacifism and recruit African-American soldiers for the United States Army.  After the Civil War our saint ministered among former slaves in the Presbytery of Florida.  He, aged about 63 years, died in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 20, 1870.

Pennington spent most of his life serving God, challenging social injustice, and attempting (with some success) to change the minds of racists.  The main obstacle with which he had to contend was the truth of the punchline from an anachronistic joke about the number of psychiatrists necessary to change a light bulb:  only one person is necessary, but the light bulb must want to change.  Those who did not desire to abandon their racism remained entrenched in it.  Pennington, however, presented the counter-argument effectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant James William Charles Pennington,

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 6:20-26

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of William Scarlett (October 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM SCARLETT (OCTOBER 3, 1883-MARCH 28, 1973)

Episcopal Bishop of Missouri, and Advocate for Social Justice

Bishop William Scartlett comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible.

Scarlett, born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 3, 1883, grew up to become a courageous, progressive Christian leader on the vanguard of various moral causes.  He was what certain cynical reactionaries of 2018 would have called a “social justice warrior.”  So were Hebrew prophets.  Our saint, influenced at an early age by Washington Gladden (1836-1918) and Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918), proponents of the Social Gospel, graduated from Harvard University with his A.B. degree in 1905.  Scarlett, unsure about whether to study for ministry or medicine, worked on a ranch in Nebraska for a year.  He matriculated at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1906, and graduated three years later.  Our saint, spent the rest of his life in ordained ministry marked by a dedication to social justice dictated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Scarlett cared deeply by outreach to the poor, the rights of industrial workers, civil rights, and other issues germane to human relations.  He was, in order:

  1. Assistant Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York (1909-1911);
  2. Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona (1911-1922);
  3. Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri (1922-1930);
  4. Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri (1930-1933); and
  5. Bishop of Missouri (1933-1952).

Friend Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) described our saint as

the conscience of the community.

Scarlett was on the avant-garde of The Episcopal Church with regard to social ethics.  He advocated for the liberalization of the denomination’s stance on remarriage after divorce.  In 1946 our saint edited Christianity Takes a Stand, in which various authors took a stand against societal sins such as racial segregation and the federal government’s recent internment of West Coast Japanese Americans.  Although the House of Deputies, at the General Convention of 1946, consented without debate to sponsor the publication of the book, the majority of Episcopalians were not ready to espouse those positions yet.

Scarlett, a Low Church Episcopalian and self-described Liberal Evangelical who wore a tie in lieu of a clerical collar, was a natural ecumenist.  He cooperated with members of other Christian denominations as easily as he did with Jews.  At Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, our saint scandalized many Anglo-Catholics by encouraging interdenominational Eucharists.  He also scrapped plans for a new Episcopal hospital in the city when he learned of a similar Presbyterian plan.  The result was cooperation, not competition, in the form of St. Luke’s Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospital.  He also favored the merger of The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the 1940s.  The proposal did not survive the late 1940s.  It would probably have been impractical anyway.

(Aside:  I mean no disrespect to any Presbyterians, but the denominational cultures and certain theological-liturgical factors are too different for merger to be practical.  I suppose that many Presbyterians agree with that assessment.  Cooperation of many issues is feasible and desirable, however.)

Scarlett retired in late 1952.  His successor as Bishop of Missouri was Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1900-1968), later the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

In retirement Scarlett wrote the exposition on the Book of Jonah for The Interpreter’s Bible.  He wrote, in part:

If God has a controversy with his people, it is because there has been in our world too little concern for our brother, too little recognition that his fate is bound up in ours, and ours in his, even to the least, too much forgetting that word of old, “We are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25) and if one member suffers, “all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26).  A plain fact of the nineteen-thirties is that Hitler climbed to power on the backs of the unemployed in Germany, and it was this frustration, this sense of uselessness, in millions of lives that made his way easy.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), 877

That is a chilling text in 2018.

The resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general has been current reality in the world, from the Philippines to Europe to Brazil to Turkey to Europe for a few years now.  Many of the enablers of fascist and other authoritarian leaders have been professing Christians.  The call to “Make America Great Again” has echoed pre-World War II movements to make Italy and Germany great again.  The rhetoric of “America First,” originated before World War II in an openly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi movement to keep the United States out of that war, has returned, still with racist overtones.  Calls for U.S. society and government to practice the Golden Rule have become subversive as many professing Christians have chosen to ignore the demands of that great commandment and embraced xenophobia and nativism, largely out of fear.

I encourage you, O reader, to read Scarlett’s exposition on the Book of Jonah and to oppose–resist–the deplorable resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general.

Scarlett, aged 89 years, died in Castine, Maine, on March 28, 1973.  His wife, Leah Oliver Van Riper (b. 1889), had predeceased him in 1965.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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

Help us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant William Scarlett, 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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Feast of St. Paul VI (September 26)   5 comments

Above:  St. Paul VI 

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PAUL VI (SEPTEMBER 26, 1897-AUGUST 6, 1978)

Bishop of Rome

Born Giovanni Battista Montini

This post, as of the drafting and publication of this post, is slightly anticipatory.  Documentation tells us that Pope Benedict XVI declared Paul VI a Venearble in 2012 and that Pope Francis beatified Montini in 2014.  According to news reports, Pope Francis is set to canonize Paul VI on October 14, 2018.  Given that fact, plus the reality that, for me, differences among Venerables, Blesseds, and full Saints are purely semantic, I choose to proceed with calling the deceased Supreme Pontiff St. Paul VI, although he will remain a Blessed Paul VI for about one more month.

The feast day for St. Paul VI is September 26, the anniversary of his birth.  Usually a saint’s feast day falls on the anniversary of his or her death, but that date, for Montini, is the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Giovanni Battista Montini, born in Concescio, Italy, on September 26, 1897, came from a devout family.  His father was an attorney and a member of parliament.  Montini, devoted to his mother, became a priest on May 29, 1920.  Graduate studies in Rome ensued.

Montini’s star rose quickly in the Church.  In 1922 he joined the Vatican Secretariat of State.  He, the Nuncio to Poland from May to November 1923, resigned for health reasons.  On July 8, 1931, our saint became a domestic prelate to the Holy See.  Montini, assistant to Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) from December 13, 1937, worked closely with Pacelli/Pius XII until 1954.

Montini must have severely offended the Holy Father, for Pius XII exiled our saint to Milan.  On November 1, 1954, Montini began his duties as the Archbishop of Milan, far from being a plumb assignment.  In Milan, Montini was the “workers’ archbishop,” winning the approval of disaffected industrial workers.  He presided over an archdiocese still recovering from World War II.  Furthermore, Montini’s ecumenism became evident when he conducted dialogues with a group of Anglicans–a revolutionary practice prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).

In 1958 Pope St. John XXIII succeeded the late Pius XII.  On December 5, 1958, St. John XXIII made Montini a Cardinal.  (Five years prior our saint had declined a similar offer from Pius XII, who had never repeated the offer.)  Cardinal Montini and St. John XXIII were two of the primary shapers of Vatican II.  St. John XXIII died in June 1963.  The conclave elected Cardinal Montini to succeed him; our saint became Pope Paul VI.  He presided over the final sessions of Vatican II.

St. Paul VI was doctrinally conservative and socially radical.  That has been a combination common in Christian history.  Many of the English Tractarians, for example, were open about their Christian Socialism.  Actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy has, by definition, been conservative.  It has also challenged entrenched social structures and institutions, ended chattel slavery in much of the world, condemned the economic exploitation of the poor by the rich, championed labor unions, and opposed racial segregation.

If one is to understand the legacy of St. Paul VI, one must grasp the combination of theological orthodoxy and social and political radicalism.  What, for example, is more theologically orthodox and, sadly, socially and politically radical than the Golden Rule?

Life in the Roman Catholic Church since 1965 has been, depending on one’s perspective, either too liberal or too conservative.  St. Paul VI, who met with Archbishops of Canterbury Michael Ramsey (in 1966) and Donald Coggan (in 1977) and, in 1965, with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras, lifted the mutual anathemas dating to 1054, angered many traditionalists.  St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967), which condemned the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the Third World and committed the Church to addressing that problem constructively, was consistent with the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, and Pope Leo XIIIHumanae Vitae (1968), which maintained the condemnation of artificial contraception, has been controversial from day one.  The decision to sell the papal tiara and give the proceeds to help the poor was at least a good gesture.  St. Paul VI sought to balance innovation and the integrity of ecclesiastical teaching.  The extent to which he succeeded has never ceased to be a topic of disagreement.

St. Paul VI, aged 80 years, died on August 6, 1978.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK J. MURPHY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCUS CH’OE KYONG-HWAN, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1839; SAINTS LAWRENCE MARY JOSEPH IMBERT, PIERRE PHILIBERT MAUBANT, AND JACQUES HONORÉ CHASTÁN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS, MISSIONARIES TO KOREA, AND MARTYRS, 1839; SAINT PAUL CHONG HASANG, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1839; AND SAINTS CECILIA YU SOSA AND JUNG HYE, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1839

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant St. Paul VI

to be a bishop in your Church and to feed your flock:

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

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

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

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Feast of Anna Ellison Butler Alexander (September 24)   Leave a comment

Above:  Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander

Image in the Public Domain

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ANNA ELLISON BUTLER ALEXANDER (1865?-SEPTEMBER 24, 1947)

African-American Episcopal Deaconess in Georgia, and Educator

Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Episcopal Church.

The history of this feast exemplifies how many commemorations rise to the denominational level in The Episcopal Church.

The feast rose from the diocesan level.  In 1998 Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the Bishop of Georgia, declared Deaconess Anna Alexander a saint of Georgia, with the feast day of September 24.  The feast rose to the national level at the General Convention of 2015, which added the commemoration to A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016), the expanded version of the official calendar of saints contained in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (2007).  The General Convention of 2018 approved the greatly expanded official calendar of saints, Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 (as of the writing of this post, available as a PDF, pending the final, published version next year), with the deaconess included.

As with many other Southern African-Americans of the time, the date–the year, even–of Anna’s birth remained uncertain, due to the lack of written records.  Records of the Diocese of Georgia listed her year of birth as 1878.  In 1947 her death certificate listed 1881 as her year of birth.  Anna’s birth actually occurred shortly after the end of the Civil War.  Most recent sources have given 1865 as her year of birth.

Above:  Coastal Georgia, 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Our saint was the youngest of eleven children of former slaves James and Daphne Alexander (married in 1841), of the Pierce Butler Plantation on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.  Daphne was a child of plantation rape; her biological father was Roswell King, Jr.  James, or “Aleck,” was a skilled carpenter and builder, as well as Butler’s personal assistant.  The Alexanders instilled the value of education into their children, and modeled it.  James, for example, taught himself to read and write.  The couple, when slaves, violated the law against educating slaves; they taught their children.

Above:  Glynn and McIntosh Counties, Georgia, 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Anna, raised in The Episcopal Church, found the public education available to her in Glynn County, Georgia, substandard.  (The inadequate education of African Americans in the Postbellum South was often a matter of policy.)  It was fortunate, then, that the Alexanders provided informal education for their children.  Our saint, seeking to help others less fortunate than herself, became a teacher at the parochial school (attached to St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, Darien, Georgia) her sister, Mary Alexander Mann, had founded.  (Mary’s husband, Ferdinand M. Mann, was the Vicar of St. Cyprian’s Church from 1892 to 1914.)  Many also taught at the parochial school, as did another sister, Dora.  The school was, for a time, a vital to the education of African Americans in Darien.

Anna’s base of operations for most of her life was the poor, rural community of Pennick, in Glynn County.  In 1894 she prompted the founding of a mission, Church of the Good Shepherd.  She spent 1894-1897 studying at St. Paul’s Normal School (later College), Lawrenceville, Virginia.  Episcopal priest James Solomon Russell (1857-1935) had founded the school in 1888.  (St. Paul’s College closed in 2013).  Our saint, back in Pennick, rebuilt the congregation and, in 1901, founded the parochial school, which grew from one room to two rooms, with an apartment for the deaconess.

The Diocese of Georgia, founded in 1823, divided in 1907; the Diocese of Atlanta formed to the northwest of the rump Diocese of Georgia.  Bishop Cleland Kinloch Nelson, based in Atlanta when he was the Bishop of Georgia (1892-1907), remained in the capital city and became the first Bishop of Atlanta (1907-1917).  Nelson was a relatively liberal white Georgian of the time.  He disapproved of Jim Crow, but knew he could not change the system alone, so he at least tried to keep his diocese integrated.  Nelson also encouraged African-American missions.  The bishop was not all-powerful, however; he could not override the collective will of the majority of lay people.  So, in 1907, after the as the Diocese of Atlanta was forming, the Diocese of Georgia was segregating.  Nevertheless, one of Nelson’s final acts as the Bishop of Georgia was to consecrate Anna Alexander as a deaconess–the only African-American deaconess in the denomination.  He did this on Friday, May 13, 1907, at the second annual meeting of the Council of Colored Churchmen.

The rump Diocese of Georgia was officially segregated for four decades.  During most of that time policy was to discourage African-American missions.  In 1907-1946 there were no African-American delegates to the annual diocesan conventions.  The Council of Colored Churchmen, formed in 1906, barely had any representation on diocesan committees.  Bishop Frederick Focke Reese (in office 1908-1936), a racist who delivered paternalistic addresses to African-American clergymen, neglected African-American congregations and schools financially.  Therefore, much financial assistance had to come from other sources, official (such as the denomination) and individual.  Anna was an effective fund raiser in this context.  The deaconess provided an education to many African-American youth and shepherded them into further education–some at colleges and others at technical schools.  She also worked as a cook at Camp Reese, the diocesan, whites-only summer camp on St. Simon’s Island, for a number of years.  The racially segregated Diocese of Georgia named a cabin after her in 1938.  The deaconess, while working as a cook for white campers at Camp Reese, brought groups of African-American youth to St. Simon’s Island and provided a sort of summer camp for them.

Bishop Middleton Stuart Barnwell (in office 1936-1954), unlike Bishop Reese, took an interest in African-American missions.  He spent diocesan funds to replace or repair buildings.  And, in 1947, he welcomed African Americans to the first racially integrated diocesan convention in four decades.

During the Great Depression Good Shepherd, Pennick, was a distribution center for federal and private aid in Glynn County.  Anna, who ministered to her neighbors without regard to race, was in charge of distribution.  She wrote:

I am to see everyone gets what they need….some folk don’t need help now and I know who they are.  The old people and the children, they need the most….When I tell some people they can’t get help just now…that others come first, they get mad, a little, but I don’t pay no mind and soon they forget to be mad.

The deaconess earned respect in her community and vicinity; many white men removed their hats in deference when she walked past them.

Anna died on September 24, 1947.  She was either in her late seventies or early eighties.  She remained mostly forgotten for many years.  The Episcopal Church in Georgia, 1733-1957 (1960), by Henry Thompson Malone, never mentioned the deaconess’s name.  Even the otherwise excellent Black Episcopalians in Georgia:  Strife, Struggle and Salvation (1980), by Charles Lwanga Hoskins, frequently misidentified her as Dora.  (Father Hoskins was a wonderful man, a charming priest, and a fine homilist.  When I was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia, he was a supply priest, filling in when the Rector was away.  Memories of some of his sermons have never ceased to edify me spiritually.  Hoskins did, however, often mistake Anna for her sister, Dora, in his book, still an invaluable source for this post.)  In recent years, however, Anna’s legacy has become more prominent, fortunately.  It has become sufficiently prominent that, in January 2018, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, an African American, visited Good Shepherd, Pennick.

May that legacy become more prominent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH, AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF E. F. SCHUMACHER, GERMAN-BRITISH ECONOMIST AND SOCIAL CRITIC

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM MCKANE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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O God, you called Anna Alexander as a deaconess in your Church

and sent her as teacher and evangelist to the people of Georgia:

Grant us the humility to go wherever you send

and the wisdom to teach the word of Christ to whomever we meet,

that all may come to the enlightenment which you intend for your people;

through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Savior.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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O God, who called Anna Alexander as a deaconess in your Church:

Grant us the humility to go wherever you send

and the wisdom to teach the word of Christ to whomever we meet,

that all may come to the enlightenment you intend for your people;

through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Savior.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25

Psalm 78

Matthew 11:25-30

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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Feast of Alexander Crummell (September 10)   1 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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