December 15: John Horden, Bishop and Missionary in Canada, 1893

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About this commemoration

Born in Exeter, England, in 1828, John Horden was apprenticed to the blacksmith’s trade as a young boy, and devoted his spare hours to self-education. He eventually qualified as a school teacher and attended the Vicar’s Bible Class at St. Thomas, Exeter, where he was educated in the Bible and in missionary work. Horden, along with some friends,volunteered his services to the Church Missionary Society, but was told to wait due to his young age.

Finally, in 1851, he received a letter informing him that he was being appointed mission schoolmaster in Moose Factory, James Bay, on the southern end of Hudson Bay, in Canada. He immediately devoted himself to learning Cree, the native language of those whom he served. Over time, Horden’s ability as a linguist was evident in his ability to function in no less that five First Nations’ languages, plus Norwegian, English, Greek and Latin.

In addition to working with the native peoples of the region, Horden regarded it as part of his work to serve the employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company. With their help, he built a schoolhouse and church, and developed a variety of ministries to serve the people in this remote territory. He ministered to his people through several epidemics often in the face of rugged, unforgiving conditions.

In 1872 he was recalled to England to receive Episcopal orders, and following his ordination in Westminster Abbey, he was appointed the first bishop of the Diocese of Moosonee. He returned to James Bay, traveling to the outer regions of his vast diocese, often by dog-team in harsh weather. Many congregations in the small towns and cities of the area trace their formation back to the inspiring work of Bishop Horden.


I Creator God, whose hands holdeth the storehouses of the snow and the gates of the sea, and from whose Word springeth forth all that is: We bless thy holy Name for the intrepid witness of thy missionary John Horden, who followed thy call to serve the Cree and Inuit nations of the North. In all the places we travel, may we, like him, proclaim thy Good News and draw all into communion with thee through thy Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

II Creator God, whose hands hold the storehouses of the snow and the gates of the sea, and from whose Word springs forth all that is: We bless your holy Name for the intrepid witness of your missionary John Horden, who followed your call to serve the Cree and Inuit nations of the North. In all the places we travel, may we, like him, proclaim your Good News and draw all into communion with you through your Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Numbers 10:29–36

Acts 6:1–7

Luke 5:1–11



Preface of a Saint (1)

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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10 thoughts on “December 15: John Horden, Bishop and Missionary in Canada, 1893

  1. Collect: This is a lovely collect. It names the First Nations peoples (Cree and Inuit) – which is a precedent that might be followed for other commemorations. However, the Inuit Nation is not mentioned in the bio.

    Bio. He needs a ‘He died in 1893.’ statement.
    4th paragraph: ‘… to receive Episcopal orders’ might read ‘… recalled to England where he was ordained in Westminster Abbey, and appointed …’ It is confusing whether the ordination at Westminster Abbey was as deacon, priest or bishop. Or was he ordained as Ambrose was? 🙂

  2. in the first paragraph we need to know at what young age he was told to wait. And I agree with Michael -Hatney that the account of his consecration wihtout knowing when he was ordained priest is confusing.

  3. This and the McDonald commemoration are appropriate for the Anglican Church of Canada, but I don’t see anything in them that would lead us to commemorate them. The kind of dedication they displayed we commemorate in some of our own, and that seems enough in what is now a very crowded calendar. Although the bios used in Canada do raise some possibilities that if followed up might make a difference: After Hordern was made a bishop, ‘Instead of retreating into administrative duties, he extended his missionary work’—if the bio majored on that I’d be an enthusiastic supporter. McDonald ‘regarded himself more as a resource for their [native ministers] work than as a master clergyman who had to keep all
    authority in his own hands’—I could write a whole bio (and collect) around that theme, too.

    I found the phrase ‘First Nations’ distracting, whereas ‘native peoples’ was not.

    McDonald’s collect is based on the Canadian collect (good practice when we’re dealing with people who have long been commemorated elsewhere) but with the unfortunate addition of ‘God of ice, sea and sky’. Hordern’s collect is not based on the Canadian, which is also unfortunate. The attribution ‘whose hands hold the storehouses of the snow and the gates of the sea’ is a real eye-roller.

    My suggestion is ‘back to the drawing board’ on both of these. Sorry.

  4. “First Nations” is the Canadian government term for the aboriginal people of Canada. The term “native” is avoided because the term has legal meaning that relates to where a person is born. So anyone born in Canada is a native of Canada. I am not sure that I understand the nuance but the term “First Nations” apparently does not cover the Inuit people formerly called Eskimos. There is controversy over the term “aboriginal” since it is used for the first Australians. Perhaps it might sound pedantic, but it might be more accurate to describe more specifically what languages and/or dialects John Horden spoke. Since the author went to the trouble of mentioning the European languages, e.g. Greek, Latin, amd Norwegian, why not include the languages spoken by the aboriginal groups as well? That would seem more respectful of the people John Horden served.

    I know I am sounding like a broken record. I do not know why the Right Rev. John Horden is being included in the calendar of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

    • First Nations is actually the term that should apply south of the border also – there are no North (or South) American “Natives” – the first Americans came across a land bridge from Siberia about 30,000 years ago.

  5. It seems very unclear to me why Horden and McDonald are given two separate commemorations on the same day; they are both Canadian clerics who worked in the far north, why not lump them together with one collect and set of lections, as is the case for so many other sets of two, three or four people with a similar amount in common?

  6. Line 1, first paragraph: after “England,” substitute “on January 20,” for “in”.

    Last line, first paragraph: substitute “youth” for “young age”.

    His date of death (Jan. 12 1893) should be shown. It is not clear whether he died in Canada. It is also not clear why his commemoration takes place in December, when he could share January 12 with Aelred==but better he be linked with Robert McDonald–see next item..

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