Sunday, January 2, 2011

This Week In History

January 2, 1921: Pittsburgh radio station KDKA broadcasts the first religious program over the airwaves: a vesper service of Calvary Episcopal Church. The senior pastor, unimpressed by the landmark broadcast, didn't even participate in the service, leaving his junior associate to conduct it. The two KDKA engineers (one Jewish, the other Catholic), were asked to dress in choir robes to be less obtrusive. Today religious broadcasting is a multi-billion dollar industry. [To be fair, the "senior pastor", or rector, wasn't on duty that night. The office of Evensong was traditionally that of the Curate, or "junior associate". I know this because I spoke once with one of the clergy who was on the staff at the time. He also told me that the fellows from KDKA kept blowing fuses and starting small fires in the choir loft. -ed.]

January 3, 1521: Pope Leo X creates a bull of excommunication for Martin Luther that would have deprived him of civil rights and protection, but before its execution, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V allows Luther the opportunity to recant his beliefs at the Diet of Worms. When Luther instead affirms his beliefs, the bull is carried out.

January 3, 1892: Literature professor J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a devout Catholic, is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

January 4, 1581: James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, is born. Famous for a chronology of the Bible that was repeatedly printed in King James Versions, he was so highly esteemed that Oliver Cromwell gave him a state funeral and had him buried in Westminster Abbey.

January 4, 1965: T.S. Eliot, the most influential English writer in the twentieth century and a devout Christian who wove his religious convictions into his work, dies. [An Episcopalian of the high-church tradition, I might add.]

January 5, 1066: Edward the Confessor, the only English king ever canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, dies. Builder of Westminster Abbey, he was buried there January 6.

January 5, 1527: Swiss Anabaptist reformer Felix Manz is drowned in punishment for preaching adult baptism, becoming the first Protestant martyred by other Protestants.

January 5, 1964: Roman Catholic Pope Paul VI and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras meet in Jerusalem, the first meeting of the two offices since 1439, more than half a millennium before.

January 6, 548: The Jerusalem church observes Christmas on this date for the last time as the Western church moves to celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25.

January 6, 1832: French artist Gustave Dore, known for his drawings and lithographs for the Bible, Dante's Inferno, and other works, is born in Strasbourg, France.

January 6, 1850: Charles Spurgeon, who would become one of the greatest preachers of all time, converts to Christianity after receiving a vision, "not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was," he wrote, "I can never tell you how it was, but I no sooner saw Whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment".

January 6, 1884: Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel, founder of the science of genetics, dies.*

January 6, 1412 (traditional date): Joan of Arc, the French peasant mystic Christian who became a national heroine and her country's patron saint, is born.

[*For those who think that Christianity is historically anti-science, I draw your attention to Brother Gregor, the father of modern genetics, and also to the devout Sir Isaac Newton, who I think had something to do with physics (just kidding, Dad), and St. Basil, the originator of hospital laboratories.]

[Selections courtesy of Christianity Today.]