Sep 15 – James Chisholm – Priest

Sep 15 - James Chisholm

James Chisholm
15 September 1855

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From the Satucket Lectionary 

James ChisolmJames Chisholm was the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, Virginia, in the early 1850’s, when a terrible plague of yellow fever struck the city, and which struck and killed him.

From The Grest Pestilence in Virginia, by William S Forrest (1856):

WHO, that knew the Rev. James Chisholm by sight, would have dreamed that that frail body of his held such a lofty spirit! Weak and delicate, with a degree of modesty that almost amounted to bashfulness, as shrinking and retiring as a young girl, thousands would have passed him in the crowd unconscious that they were in the presence of a ripe scholar and an able divine. His look a personification of meekness; and, to the superficial thinker, he would seem to have been one of those who would quietly have retreated to his solitude, far away from the noise and bustle of an excited community. But the disease came — Chisholm’s flock nearly all left — and he, too, was preparing to spend a portion of his summer in the mountains but stern duty said ‘ Stop.’ And then it was that this pale, delicate, frail, retiring man came forth to the struggle, and the great fond noble soul, which was, after all, the stature of the man, rose in its God-given strength, and he was here at the bedside of suffering, and there by the fresh-made grave; here pointing the sinner to the cross of Christ, and there carrying food and drink to the needy; now in the pulpit, seizing upon the circumstances of the visitation, to warn men to prepare for death, and then in the hospital whispering peace to the penitent and departing soul. Death came to him, and he met him as one who,

“— Sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approached the grave;
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

Further information may be found in Memoir of Rev. James Chisholm, A. M., by David Holmes Conrad (1856), available from Google Books.


Sep 15 – Cyprian of Carthage

Illumination - Cyprian of Carthage

Cyprian of Carthage
Bishop + Martyr
15 September 258

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Icon of St. CyprianCyprian was born around 200 AD in North Africa, of pagan parents. He was a prominent trial lawyer and teacher of rhetoric. Around 246 he became a Christian, and in 248 was chosen Bishop of Carthage. A year later the persecution under the Emperor Decius began, and Cyprian went into hiding. He was severely censured for this (unjustly on my view — see Mt 2:13; 10:23; 24:16). After the persecution had died down, it remained to consider how to deal with the lapsed, meaning with those Christians who had denied the faith under duress. Cyprian held that they ought to be received back into full communion after suitable intervals of probation and penance, adjusted to the gravity of the denial. In this he took a middle course between Novatus, who received apostates with no probation at all, and Novatian, who would not receive them back at all, and who broke communion with the rest of the Church over this issue, forming a dissident group particularly strong in Rome and Antioch. (Novatus, somewhat surprisingly, ended up joining the party of Novatian.) Cyprian, who held the same position as the Bishop of Rome on the treatment of the lapsed, wrote urging the Christians of Rome to stand with their bishop.
Later, the question arose whether baptisms performed by heretical groups ought to be recognized as valid by the Church, or whether converts from such groups ought to be rebaptized. Cyprian favored re-baptism, and Bishop Stephen of Rome did not. The resulting controversy was not resolved during Cyprian’s lifetime.

During the reign of the Emperor Valerian, Carthage suffered a severe plague epidemic. Cyprian organized a program of medical relief and nursing of the sick, available to all residents, but this did not prevent the masses from being convinced that the epidemic resulted from the wrath of the gods at the spread of Christianity. Another persecution arose, and this time Cyprian did not flee. He was arrested, tried, and finally beheaded on 14 September 258. (Because 14 is Holy Cross Day, he is usually commemorated on a nearby open day.) We have an account of his trial and martyrdom.

Many of his writings have been preserved. His essay On the Unity of the Catholic Church stresses the importance of visible, concrete unity among Christians, and the role of the bishops in guaranteeing that unity. It has greatly influenced Christian thought, as have his essays and letters on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He has been quoted both for and against the Roman Catholic claims for Papal authority.

by James Kiefer

Sep 14 – Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Sep 14 - Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Feast Day
14 September

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From the Satucket Lectionary

During the reign of Constantine, first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena went to Israel and there undertook to find the places especially significant to Christians. (She was helped in this by the fact that in their destructions around 135, the Romans had built pagan shrines over many of these sites.) Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was dedicated on 14 September 335. It has become a day for recognizing the Cross (in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday) as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ’s victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, “And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Tertullian, in his De Corona (3:2), written around AD 211, says that Christians seldom do anything significant without making the sign of the cross. Certainly by his time the practice was well established. Justin Martyr, in chapters 55 and 60 of his First Apology (Defence of the Christian Faith, addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and therefore written between 148 and 155 AD), refers to the cross as a standard Christian symbol, but not explicitly to tracing the sign of the cross as a devotional gesture. In the ruins of Pompeii (destroyed 79 AD), there is a room with an altar-like structure against one wall, and over the altar the appearance of the plaster shows that a cross-shaped object had been nailed to the wall, and forcibly pulled loose, apparently shortly before the volcano buried the city. It is suggested that this house may have belonged to a Christian family, and that they took the cross and other objects of value to them when they fled the city. This is not the only possible explanation, but I do not know of a likelier one.

The Christian custom of tracing the sign of the cross on persons and things as a sign of blessing is very old. Some think that it goes back to the very origins of Christianity and earlier. In Ezekiel 9, we read that Ezekiel had a vision of the throne-room of God, in which an angel was sent to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the faithful few who mourned for the sins of the city. Afterwards, other angels were sent through the city to destroy all those who had not the mark. We find similar visionary material in Revelation 7:2-4; 9:4; 14:1, where the mark on the forehead again protects the faithful few in the day of wrath, and it is said to be the name of the Lamb and of His Father. Now, the Hebrew word used for “mark” in Ezekiel is TAU, which is the also the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (the ancestor of the Greek letter TAU and our letter T), and it refers to a mark like an X or a +, two short lines crossing at right angles. When the Essenes (the Dead Sea Scrolls people) received converts into their community, they baptized them and then signed them on their foreheads with a TAU, in token that they were part of the faithful remnant who mourned the sins of Israel, and that they would be spared in the day of God’s wrath. It seems probable that John the Baptist and his followers were in some measure influenced by the Essenes, and they had certainly read Ezekiel. Accordingly, the tracing of a TAU on the forehead may have been a part of John’s method of baptism, and may have been adopted by the earliest Christians. (We remember that some of the Twelve disciples had previously been disciples of John the Baptist — see John 1:35-37,40.) Very possibly they began by tracing the TAU without asking what it meant — it was simply a mark, the mark mentioned by Ezekiel. Later, they may have identified it with the Name of God. The Essenes, in some of their documents, used four dots in place of the four letters of the Name of God, and sometimes arranged them in a square. It would be easy to interpret the four ends of the TAU as representing the four letters of the Name of God. Later, Christians, especially Greek-speaking Christians, might interpret the sign as a CHI, an X-shaped letter, the first letter of the word XPICTOC, or Christos, meaning the Annointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. Again, Christians might understand it to be the sign of the Cross of Christ, and it is this interpretation that has prevailed. Today, in many Christian churches, when someone is baptized, the baptizer afterwards traces the sign of the cross on the forehead of the newly baptized person. Often, some of the water that has been used for baptism is saved and placed in small bowls near the entrance to the church. Worshippers entering the church touch the surface of the water and then cross themselves as a way of reaffirming their baptismal covenant. (A few years ago, a Jewish friend asked me, “May I go to the Easter Midnight service with you?” I said: “Certainly, if you like. However, I must warn you that there will be baptisms, and that afterwards the priest will take a bowl of baptismal water and a sprig of hyssop, and walk up and down the aisle sprinkling the congregation with the water, and if a single drop touches you, you will instantly turn into a goy.” He answered, “I will bring an umbrella and open it at the appropriate time.”) As we have seen, the practice of using the sign of the cross in connection with Baptism may very well go back to the Apostles themselves, and back before them into their Essene and other Jewish roots, having its origin in the vision of Ezekiel. In fact, the concept may go back further than that. We read in Genesis 4 that, when Cain had killed his brother and was sent into exile, God set a mark (TAU) on Cain, so that no one would slay him. Thus, from the start, the Sign of the Cross has been the protection of the penitent and justified sinner.

Italian Reliquary for the Holy CrossWhat is the significance of the sign of the cross? Well, in the first place, we often place our initials or other personal mark on something to show that it belongs to us. The Cross is the personal mark of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to Him, just as in the book of Revelation, as noted above, the servants of God are sealed or marked on their foreheads as a sign that they are His.

Again, as one preacher has said, if you were telling someone how to make a cross, you might say (at least to an English speaker), “Draw an I and then cross it out.” As we make the sign, we first draw a vertical stroke, as if to say to God, “Lord, here am I.” Then we cancel it with a horizontal stroke, as if to say, “Help me, Lord, to abandon my self-centeredness and self-will, and to make you the center of my life instead. Fix all my attention and all my desire on you, Lord, that I may forget my self, cancel my self, abandon myself completely to your love and service.”

The Shape of the Cross

Most of us assume that we know what a cross looks like–that it is two beams of wood fastened together at right angles. However, occasionally we meet someone who claims otherwise. The counter-claim is likely to run like this:

“The churches will tell you that Jesus was put to death on a cross, but that is a lie. He was nailed to a single upright beam, with his hands directly over his head. The cross is a pagan symbol, actually a letter T, or Tau, standing for the god Tammuz, who was worshipped by the Canaanites. When you wear a cross, or make any religious use of a cross, you are really worshipping Tammuz, whether you know it or not; and any church that displays a cross, or sings hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross,” or “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”, actually has its origins in Tammuz-worship, and is an instrument of the Devil, and if you want to avoid the wrath of God, you had better flee from all such churches and sign up with the only organization in town that teaches Bible truth and is devoted to the pure worship of God and not of idols like Tammuz, and here I am, ready to sign you up.”

It is therefore of some interest to know what evidence we have about the shape of the device on which Jesus was nailed up to die. Minucius Felix, a Christian who wrote a work called Octavius, probably a little before 200 AD, says (chapter 29) that the shape of the cross is to be found everywhere you look.

Indeed, we see the sign of the cross naturally formed by a ship when it carries a full press of sail, or when it glides over the sea with outspread oars.

Note that a ship with a single vertical mast and a triangular sail is a modern device, used for sailing upwind by repeated tacking. The ancients did not do this. They used a ship with a square sail, and a vertical mast with a horizontal spar across it to hold the top of the sail. Hence a cross shape. Note also, that it is not necessary to agree with Minucius Felix that there is anything significant about the many places that the shape of a cross can be seen. What matters is that he knows that his readers will understand the shape of a cross to be two beams at right angles, not just a vertical beam.

The Greek word for the cross of Jesus, used many times in the New Testament and in early Greek Christian writings, is stauros, and the corresponding verb is staurizo = “crucify”. Now, do any early writers use these words in a way that would make it clear what shape they were talking about?

A pagan writer, Lucian of Samosata, probable dates 120-180 AD, wrote a fantasy called The Trial of the Vowels, in which the letter Tau is summoned before a panel of judges, the seven vowels, and is accused of being a general mischief-maker. The charges tend to be like this (to invent an example in English):

“Consider the word SUN. How good a thing the sun is! It is the source of light and warmth, and is indispensable for life itself. Along comes the letter T, and changes the word to STUN. What does it mean to stun a man? It means “to knock him out cold–to ice him,” or to deprive him of warmth. It means “to punch his lights out,” or to deprive him of light. It means “to knock him dead,” or to deprive him of consciousness, and potentially of life itself. What a villain the letter T is, to turn good into evil in this fashion. (Several other examples follow.) And consider that evil thing, the STAUROS, instrument of torment and shame and death. It takes its name from the letter TAU, because it is shaped like a TAU. What an evil device, and what an evil letter it is named for!”

Before I introduce my next writer, a digression is necessary. The Jews (beginning at what time I do not know) often wrote numbers using the letters of their alphabet, which has 22 letters. (Five of these letters developed distinct forms when used at the ends of words, which gives us 27 letters in all.) If we use the first nine letters for the numbers 1 to 9, the next nine for the numbers 10 to 90, and the last nine for the numbers 100 to 900, we can write anything from 1 to 999 in at most three characters. If we put a tick mark beside a letter to multiply its value by 1000, then with repeated tick marks we can write any positive whole number. (Note that not everyone used the five special forms. Without them, you get as far as Tau=400 and then use Tau Qoph = 400+100=500, Tau Resh = 400+200=600, etc.)

The Greeks used a similar system, which you can find in the writings of Archimedes. Their alphabet as we know it today has only 24 letters, but in an earlier version it had 27 letters. To round it out, add an F (or Digamma) after the Epsilon, and a Q (or Qoppa) after the Pi, and a Sampi (don’t ask) at the end, and you have 27 letters. Use the first nine for 1 to 9, the middle nine for 10 to 90, the last nine for 100 to 900, tick marks or underlinings for multiplying by 100, and you are in business. If you omit the Hebrew letter Tsaddi, the remaining 21 letters correspond exactly and in the correct order with the first 21 letters of the 27-letter Greek alphabet. (The Greeks got their alphabet from the Pheonicians, whose language and alhabet were very similar to those of the Hebrews.)

With this system in hand, some Jewish students of the Scriptures noted the numerical values of various words or sentences, obtained by adding up the values of the letters, and found symbolic significance in the results. This is called gematria (from the Greek word for “geometry”, here understood to mean mathematics in general). Obviously, the possibilities are endless. Some Christians made similar use of the numerical values of Greek letters. Thus, since Jesus was crucified on Friday, the sixth day of the week, 6 stands for evil and death, as does its intensive form 666. But Jesus rose two days later, on what may be called the eighth day of the week, and so 8 is the number of resurrection, of renewal, of life restored and triumphant. It is thus no accident that the letters in the name of Iesousadd up to 888.

Iota = 10
Eta = 8
Sigma = 200
Omicron = 70
Upsilon = 400
Sigma = 200
Total = 888

Now for a particular example. In Genesis 14 we read that an invading army captured Abraham’s nephew Lot and some others, and that Abraham took a band of 318 warriors, followed the army and in a surprise attack rescued the prisoners. Jewish scholars noted that 318 is written Cheth (“ch” as in “Bach,” please) Yod Shin. Now Cheth Yod spells “chai,” which means “life.” Shin is the first letter of “shalom,” which means “peace, deliverance, wholeness, well-being.” Thus Abraham’s group of warriors had 318 men in it, and was a source of life and peace to the prisoners whom they rescued.

Sometime between 70 (when the Temple was destroyed) and 135 (when Jerusalem was sacked again and a pagan shrine built on the site of the Temple), a man called Barnabas, or the pseudo-Barnabas, or Barnabas of Alexandria (not to be confused with the companion of Paul mentioned in the book of Acts), wrote a book called The Epistle of Barnabas, in which he points out that 318 written in Greek letters is Tau Iota Eta. Now, Tau clearly represents the cross, and Iota Eta are the first two letters of the Name of Jesus. Hence, the source of the life and peace that Jewish scholars had discovered in Abraham’s 318 men is none other than the cross of Jesus.

Now, whether you think that that is a remarkable insight, or think that Barnabas of Alexandria is a complete air-head, is beside the point. The point is that he would not have used this argument if he did not know, and expect his readers to know, that a cross is shaped like a Tau.

Thus, we see that among pagans and Christians alike in the second century of the Christian era, a time when crucifixions were a common method of execution and everyone knew what they looked like, there was a general understanding that if a man had been crucified, it was probably on a vertical and a horizontal beam.

by James Kiefer

Sep 13 – John Chrysostom – Bishop + Preacher + Theologian + Liturgist

Sep 13 - John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom
Bishop + Preacher + Theologian + Liturgist
13 September 407

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From the Satucket Lectionary

John Chrysostom, from the Apse Mosaic of San Paolo fuori le Mura, by Edward Burne-JonesJohn was called “Chrysostom” (“Golden Mouth”) because of his eloquence. He was a priest of Antioch, and an outstanding preacher. (Audiences were warned not to carry large sums of money when they went to hear him speak, since pickpockets found it very easy to rob his hearers — they were too intent on his words to notice what was happening.) His sermons are mostly straightforward expositions of Holy Scripture (he has extensive commentaries on both Testaments, with special attention to the Epistles of Paul), and he emphasizes the literal meaning, whereas the style popular at Alexandria tended to read allegorical meanings into the text. He loved the city and people of Antioch, and they loved him. However, he became so famous that the Empress at Constantinople decided that she must have him for her court preacher, and she had him kidnapped and brought to Constantinople and there made bishop. This was a failure all around. His sermons against corruption in high places earned him powerful enemies (including the Empress), and he was sent into exile, where he died. Along with Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, he is counted as one of the Four Great Eastern (or Greek) Doctors of the Ancient Church. The Four Great Western (or Latin) Doctors are Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great.

by James Kiefer

John ChrysostomThere are lots of his sermons online (six volumes worth) at the Early Church Fathers site


Sep 12 – John Henry Hobart – Bishop of New York

Sep 12 - John Henry Hobart

John Henry Hobart
Bishop of New York
12 September 1830

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Portrait of John Henry HobartAfter the American Revolution and the Independence of the United States, the Episcopal Church, under public suspicion in many quarters because of its previous association with the British government, did very little for about twenty years. John Hobart was one of the men who changed this.

John Henry Hobart was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 14 September 1775, the son of a ship’s captain. He was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, ordained deacon in 1798 and priest in 1801. Called as assistant minister to Trinity Church, New York, in 1803, at age 36 he was elected assistant bishop of the diocese in 1811, becoming diocesan in 1816.

To look at John Henry Hobart, you wouldn’t have predicted greatness. Height always distinguishes, and he was notably short. Blessed with attractive blue eyes, he was nearsighted and forced to wear thick glasses. In an age of marmoreal gestures in the pulpit, he was melodramatic. At a time of dignified eloquence, he spoke rapidly, with emotion. When most men were reserved, even with their families, he was warm, whether with ambassadors or farmers, to the point of being thought odd.

Most bishops were content if they bestirred themselves for episcopal acts a hundred miles from home. Hobart had the energy of ten men: horses dropped under his exertions and he thought nothing of a winter visitation of 2,000 miles in western New York or 4,000 at a more seasonal time.

Early in his career he tackled publicly issues still dubious in the American mind: episcopacy and apostolic succession, arguably besting in print a redoubtable Presbyterian opponent.

He founded two institutions: a college in Geneva (later Hobart College) and General Theological Seminary in New York City, breaking his health to get both off the ground.

He not only looked after the Diocese of New York (46,000 square miles and virtual wilderness west and north of Albany) he served as rector of Trinity Parish, the wealthiest and most influential church in the country. Agreeing to oversee the diocese of Connecticut, since its high- and low-church party roils had prevented the election of a bishop, he covered its parishes more thoroughly than any bishop ever had. New Jersey, similarly bishopless, appealed to him, and he looked after it as well.

He knew all the clergy in the Church generally and in his own diocese intimately. He was aware of their background, remembered their families, forgave their frailties, and appreciated their strengths. He watched over his candidates for Holy Orders with a paternal interest, meeting with them weekly.

His instinct for politics never overrode his principles. Once convinced of the rightness of his position, no wave of unpopularity would budge him. His friends adored him and even his enemies credited him with frankness and fearlessness. He held no grudges and played no games, two qualities that endeared him to many. In a turbulent New York State election for governor, a common saying was that only Hobart would have been easily elected.

He took 26 clergy at the beginning of his episcopate in 1811 and quintupled them to 133 by his death; watched the number of parishes increase from about 50 to almost 170; and confirmed roughly 15,000.

This lovable, indefatigable, type-A bishop went virtually nonstop from his ordination until his death. The only surprise was that he didn’t die sooner. At midnight, September 7, 1830, a young clergyman rode in a stage through Auburn on his way to Binghamton. Passing the rectory of St. Peter’s Church, he was puzzled to see a light so late. He rapped for the stage to stop and soon learned from the rector, John Rudd, that Bishop Hobart was ill. Francis Cuming remained to assist in any way he could.

Hobart’s illness wasn’t that surprising. Troubled for years with what was most likely a bleeding ulcer, with rest and medication he would generally rebound. In Auburn he had preached and confirmed and other than a slight cold, seemed fine. But soon the serious nature of his attack became clear and he cancelled the remainder of his visitation. Over the next few days, he frequently requested to hear portions of Lancelot Andrewes‘ litany, in which he would join.

Amidst his pain, Hobart found time to offer advice to Cuming: “Be sure that in all your preaching the doctrines of the Cross be introduced: no preaching is good for any thing without these.” Cuming writes: “His pains were so severe he could not give his mind to them unless they were short, and when I had invoked our Heavenly Father to continue to be gracious to his suffering servant; and that whereas he had studied to approve himself to God upon earth, he might be permitted to stand approved by his Master in heaven, he interrupted me by saying, ‘Amen: O yes, God grant it, but with all humility I ask it.'”

“On Friday, September 10th, just before the going down of the sun, and as its last rays had forced themselves through the blinds, and were playing upon the wall not far from the bed, he said, ‘Open the shutters, that I may see more of the light; O how pleasant it is; how cheering is the sun–but there is a Sun of Righteousness, in whose light we shall see light.'”

Cuming again: “There were times when he was peculiarly oppressed. The promises of the Gospel, however, would revive him. At one of those times he said to me with the most remarkable emphasis, ‘Comfort me.’ The reply was ‘Bishop, it is written, the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.’ – ‘So it is, so it is,’ he added; God be praised for that, God be praised for all his mercies – God be merciful to me a sinner!'”

On Saturday, at a bedside service of the holy communion, when Rudd “came, in the confession, to the words, ‘by thought, word, and deed,'” the bishop stopped him and said, ‘You know the Church expects us to pause over those words: pause now, repeating one of the words at a time till I request you to go on.’ This was done, and the pauses in each case were so long that a fear passed over our minds that he had lost his recollection or fallen asleep. This, however, proved not to be so; he repeated each word, and after the third pause added: ‘Proceed, I will interrupt you no more.'”

Early Sunday morning, September 12, 1830, John Henry Hobart died, aged 55. The funeral took place in New York City on September 16. The mourners included the governor of the state and the mayor of New York City, and the procession was estimated at nearly 3,000.

The third bishop of New York is buried under the chancel of Trinity Church, New York.

by Cynthia McFarland

Sep 11 – Harry Thacker Burleigh

Sep 11 - Harry Thacker Burleigh

Harry Thacker Burleigh
Composer + Arranger + Singer
11 September 1949

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Harry BurleighHenry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh (December 2, 1866September 12, 1949), a baritone, was an African American classical composer, arranger, and professional singer.

In 1894, he became a soloist for St. George’s Episcopal church in New York City. There was opposition to hiring Burleigh at the all-white church from some parishioners, because of his race, at a time when other white New York Episcopal churches were forbidding black people to worship. J. P. Morgan, a member of St. George’s at that time, cast the deciding vote to hire Burleigh. In spite of the initial problems obtaining the appointment, Burleigh became close to many of the members during his long tenure as a soloist at the church.

Burleigh also made the first formal orchestral arrangements for more than 100 Negro spirituals, including Nobody Knows (the Trouble I’ve Seen). Burleigh’s best-known compositions are his arrangements of these spirituals, as art songs. They were so popular during the late 1910s and 1920s, that almost no vocal recitalist gave a concert in a major city without occasionally singing them. In many ways, the popularity of Burleigh’s settings contributed to an explosion of popularity for the genre during the 1920s. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Burleigh continued to promote the spirituals through publications, lectures, and arrangements. His life-long advocacy for the spiritual eclipsed his singing career, and his arrangements of art songs.

He was the first black composer to be instrumental in the development of a characteristically American music and he helped to make black music available to classically-trained artists both by introducing them to the music and by arranging the music in a more classical form.

(more from Wikipedia)

The Bible is Alive!

Gutenberg_BibleIf in one thousand years some archeologists unearth evidence of a caped crusader who protected the streets of a place known as Gotham City, they are going to have a hard time nailing down a concise timeline of his career in crime fighting. Even if said archeologists only track down the several major motion pictures that have been produced over the last fifty years [Batman (1966), Batman-Batman and Robin (1989-1997), and The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)], they’ll never be able to put together one solid storyline.

There are major conflicts between the origin stories of Batman and some of his foes, and the timing of his career seems to suggest Batman battled crime well into his golden years. Of course, the historicity of Batman’s story isn’t really the point, is it? There is something in the content and something about the effect this character had/has on people that gives us the opportunity to make meaning…Batman is more than a comic book, television show, series of films, character, Batman is alive (in my conscience, at least).

If you think I’m about to compare Batman to Moses, and his stories to Exodus and the Pentateuch, you’re kind of right—except I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they were written for the same reasons or about the same kind of subject or even in the same genre…so don’t go crazy.

Continue reading

Sep 10 – Alexander Crummell

Sep 10 - Alexander Crummell

Alexander Crummell
Priest + Missionary + Educator
10 September 1898

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From the Satucket Lectionary

portrait of Alexander CrummellAlexander Crummell was born in New York City in 1819, and wished to study for the priesthood, but received many rebuffs because he was black. He was ordained in the Diocese of Massachusets in 1844, when he was 25 years old, but was excluded from a meeting of priests of the diocese, and decided to go to England. After graduating from Cambridge, he went to Liberia, an African country founded under American auspices for the repatriation of freed slaves. Crummell hoped to see established in Liberia a black Christian republic, combining the best of European and African culture, and led by a Western-educated black bishop. He visited the United States and urged blacks to join him in Liberia and and swell the ranks of the  church there. His work in Liberia ran into opposition and indifference, and he returned to the United States, where he undertook the founding and strengthening of urban black congregations that would provide worship, education, and social services for their communities. When some bishops proposed a separate missionary district for black parishes, he organized a  group, now known as the Union of Black Episcopalians, to fight the proposal.

by James Kiefer


[More information can be found on a site devoted to Black history; also available is a profile on him, from WEB DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk.]

Sep 9 – Constance & Companions

Constance and her Companions
The Martyrs of Memphis
9 September 1878

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From the Satuket Lectionary

Sister Constance
(Photo from St. Mary’s Cathedral, Memphis)

In 1878 the American city of Memphis on the Mississippi River was struck by an epidemic of yellow fever, which so depopulated the area that the city lost its charter and was not reorganized for fourteen years. Almost everyone who could afford to do so left the city and fled to higher ground away from the river. (It was not yet known that the disease was mosquito-borne, but it was observed that high and dry areas were safe.) There were in the city several communities of nuns, Anglican or Roman Catholic, who had the opportunity of leaving, but chose to stay and nurse the sick. Most of them, thirty-eight in all, were themselves killed by the fever. One of the first to die (on 9 September 1878) was Constance, head of the (Anglican) Community of St Mary.

by James Kiefer

[Note: a short, unpublished book about the epidemic written not long after it occurred is available from Project Canterbury.]

Sep 8 – Nikolai Grundtvig

Sep 8 - Nikolai Grundtvig

Nikolai Grundtvig
Bishop + Hymnwriter,
8 September 1872

click here for books on Nikolai Grundtvig

From the Satucket Lectionary

Nikolai FS Grundtvig, by CA JensenNikolai Frederik Severin Gundtvig and Soren Kierkegaard are the two principal figures in Danish theology in the 19th century. Grundtvig was born in 1783, and at the age of 20 graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a degree in theology. At the University, he became absorbed in poetry and Norse mythology, and became convinced that poetry speaks to the spirit of man more richly than prose, and is the medium of choice for conveying and expressing spritual truth. His book, Mythology of the North, published in about 1808, promotes this thesis. (this book is currently available only in Danish)

In 1810 his father, a pastor, fell ill and asked Nikolai to assist him with his parish. His first sermon, entitled “Why has the Lord’s Word disappeared from His House?” caused an uproar, and led to his official censure, which gave him second thoughts about his calling. However, he was ordained the next year, and assisted his father until his father’s death in 1813. It was a while before he got a parish of his own, and another denunciatory sermon of his led to his resigning the pulpit in 1826. In 1839 he was made chaplain at a home for aged women, a post that he kept for the remaining 33 years of his life. Meanwhile, he wrote books, including a version of Beowulf that advanced the study of Anglo-Saxon literature. He wrote more than a thousand hymns. (The Lutheran Book of Worship includes: “The bells of Christmas chime once more,” “Bright and glorious is the sky,” “Cradling children in His arm,” “God’s Word is our great heritage,” “Spirit of God, sent from heaven abroad,” “Peace, to soothe our bitter woes,” and “Built on a rock the Church doth stand”. The last of these is the most widely known and sung outside Lutheran circles.) His leadership helped to bring about the establishment of free public high schools for the masses in 1844, and the peaceful introduction of parliamentary government (retaining the monarchy) in 1849. In 1861, he was made a bishop, but without a diocese. He died 2 September 1872.

Danish immigrants to America tended to be pro-Grundtvig or anti-Grundtvig. The former (the “happy Danes”) formed the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, while the latter (the “gloomy Danes”) formed the United Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both of these are now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of the two largest Lutheran bodies in the United States. The other large group is the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS), generally reckoned the more conservative (theologically) of the two.

by James Kiefer