Sunday, November 3, 2013

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

November 6: William Temple [1881-1944]

He was half-blind nearly from birth, which meant he had to read books and other materials so carefully that he memorized them.  He was half-lame, so he had to overcome pain and discomfort in order to take part in the normal activities of his profession.  He believed that the best theological explorations were made by those not explicitly exploring theology, hence he was devoted to "secular" poetry and music.  It seems remarkable in retrospect that, in the rather staid days of early 20th century Anglicanism, such a man could become a bishop.

Temple was ordained a priest in 1910, but served in a variety of positions in both academia and secular society.  He was well-known as, of all things, a labor negotiator, especially on behalf of the coal mining industry in England.  In recognition, he was appointed Bishop of Manchester in 1921.

There is a remarkable moment in his career, in about his tenth year as bishop, when he was leading a revival meeting [Yes, we have those.  It's surprising to some how rich is our tradition.].  He asked the congregation to pause in singing the hymn "When I survey the wondrous cross" and asked them to softly speak the final stanza, but only if they truly wanted to know Jesus better than they did.  Almost two thousand people whispered

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

It is recognized as one of the great moments in Anglican history, as it was meaningful not only to those present but to all who heard the tale.  Whispered hymns became rather popular for a time because of this.

When the Germans were bombing Britain, and the Church of England needed a new Archbishop of Canterbury, it was Temple who was appointed.  The health problems that vexed him since childhood were exacerbated by the demands of his office in wartime, and he died just two years later.  Despite this, he is recognized by quite a few as the greatest Archbishop of the 20th century as he balanced liturgical action with social action and tempered the voices of vengeance in his own society.

O God of light and love, you illumined your Church through the witness of your servant William Temple: Inspire us, we pray, by his teaching and example, that we may rejoice with courage, confidence, and faith in the Word made flesh, and may be led to establish that city which has justice for its foundation and love for its law; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

November 7: Willibrord of Utrecht [658-739]

Willibroard was one of the earliest of the Celtic Christian missionaries not to be sent to the wild reaches of the British Isles, but to the countries that are now the Netherlands and Denmark.  He is noted on the calendar as he marks the relationship between these cultures in their pilgrimage from paganism to Christianity.

O Lord our God, you call whom you will and send them where you choose: We thank you for sending your servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve you, the living God; and we entreat you to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of your service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen