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About these commemorations:
Born the son of a German preacher in upstate New York, Walter Rauschenbusch’s childhood was steeped in traditional Protestant doctrine and biblical literalism. While attending Rochester Theological Seminary, he came to believe that Jesus died “to substitute love for selfishness as the basis of human society.” For Rauschenbusch, the Kingdom of God was “not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming life on earth into the harmony of heaven.”
In works such as Theology for the Social Gospel (1917), Rauschenbusch enumerated the “social sins” which Jesus bore on the cross, including the combination of greed and political power, militarism, and class contempt. In 1892, he and some friends formed the Brotherhood of the Kingdom, a group whose mission was to open the eyes of the church to the reality of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Like Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden’s ministry was dedicated to the realization of the Kingdom of God in this world. Gladden was the acting religious editor of the New York Independent, in which he exposed corruption in the New York political system. Gladden was the first American clergyman to approve of and support labor unions. In his capacity as Vice President of the American Missionary Association, he traveled to Atlanta where he met W.E.B. Dubois and he became an early opponent of segregation.
Though not a pastor like Rauschenbusch and Gladden, Jacob Riis’ “muckraker” journalism did much to awaken the nation to the plight of the urban poor. Born in Denmark in 1849, Riis arrived in New York City in 1870 as multitudes of immigrants flooded the city seeking work following the devastation of the Civil War. Riis found a job as a police reporter for the New York Tribune, and his work took him to the poorest, most crime-ridden parts of the city. Teaching himself photography, he combined word and image to display the devastating effects of poverty and crime on so many in New York. His work led future President Theodore Roosevelt, then City Police Commissioner, to close down the police-run poor houses in which Riis had struggled during his first months in New York.
I Loving God, who dost call us to do justice and love
kindness: we offer thanks for the witness of Walter
Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden and Jacob Riis,
reformers of society; and we pray that, following their
examples of faithfulness to the Gospel, we may be ever
mindful of the suffering of those who are poor and work
diligently for the reform of our communities; through
Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and
reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Loving God, you call us to do justice and love kindness:
we thank you for the witness of Walter Rauschenbusch,
Washington Gladden and Jacob Riis, reformers of society;
and we pray that, following their examples of faithfulness
to the Gospel, we may be ever mindful of the suffering of
those who are poor and work diligently for the reform
of our communities; through Jesus Christ, who with you
and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and
Isaiah 46:8–11, James 2:14–18 Matthew 7:7–12
Preface of the Epiphany
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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