April 22: John Muir & Hudson Stuck, Naturalist & Writer, 1914, Priest & Environmentalist, 1920

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.


Born in Scotland in 1838, John Muir immigrated to the United States in 1849, settling in Wisconsin. Muir sought the spiritual freedom of the natural world. As a college student Muir studied botany, of which he later said, “This fine lesson charmed me and sent me flying to the woods and meadows with wild enthusiasm.”

In 1868, Muir arrived in Yosemite Valley, California, which he called “the grandest of all the special temples of nature.” During a hiking trip through the Sierras, Muir developed theories about the development and ecosystem of the areas. Some years later, Muir took up the cause of preservation, eventually co-founding the Sierra Club, an association of environmental preservationists.

Muir, an ardent believer in the national parks as “places of rest, inspiration, and prayers,” adamantly opposed the free exploitation of natural resources for commercial use. This position put him at odds with conservationists who saw natural forests as sources of timber and who wanted to conserve them for that reason.

Muir was influential in convincing President Theodore Roosevelt that federal management and control were necessary to insure the preservation of the national forests. Today, he is revered as an inspiration for preservationists and his life’s work stands as a powerful testament to the majesty and beauty of God’s creation.

Hudson Stuck was an Episcopal priest and explorer. Born in England in 1863, he came to the United States in 1885. He graduated from The University of the South in 1892. From 1894 to 1904, Stuck was Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in Dallas, Texas. In 1905 he moved to Fort Yukon, Alaska, where he spent the rest of his life, serving as archdeacon of the Diocese of Alaska.

With a group of fellow explorers, Stuck was the first to completely ascend Denali (Mt. McKinley). He later wrote of the experience as a “privileged communion” to be received in awe and wonder. Upon reaching the pinnacle of Denali, Stuck led the climbers in prayer and thanksgiving.

Archdeacon Stuck died in 1920.


I  Blessed Creator of the earth and all that inhabits it: We offer thanks for thy prophets John Muir and Hudson Stuck, who rejoiced in your beauty made known in the natural world; and we pray that, inspired by their love of thy creation, we may be wise and faithful stewards of the world thou hast created, that generations to come may also lie down to rest among the pines and rise refreshed for their work; in the Name of the one through whom all things art made new, Jesus Christ our Savior, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II  Blessed Creator of the earth and all that inhabits it: We thank you for your prophets John Muir and Hudson Stuck, who rejoiced in your beauty made known in the natural world; and we pray that, inspired by their love of your creation, we may be wise and faithful stewards of the world you have created, that generations to come may also lie down to rest among the pines and rise refreshed for their work; in the Name of the one through whom you make all things new, Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Jews 52–59

Revelation 22:1–5

Luke 8:22–25

Psalm 104:17-25

Preface of a Saint (3)

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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25 thoughts on “April 22: John Muir & Hudson Stuck, Naturalist & Writer, 1914, Priest & Environmentalist, 1920

  1. This commemoration is for Trial Use. All elements (Title, Collect, Lections, and Proper Preface) are new.

  2. [With apologies – as this, in all likelihood – is the longest comment I have ever offered for an entry proposed for HWHM.]

    I doubt that these gentlemen never even knew each other. Yes, they were contemporaries; but why are they commemorated together – other than they were men who enjoyed the out of doors? John Muir is responsible for preserving many natural environments in the American West and The Revd Stuck climbed Denali … that’s it? You get to be in HWHM when you are an ‘environmental preservationist’ or a mountain climber? Who knew? And, the term ‘environmental preservationist’ would not even have occurred to The Revd Stuck.

    Collect: ‘…that generations to come may also lie down to rest among the pines …’ What on earth are we talking about? It reminds me of the ritual prayers utilized by fraternal orders at gravesides. In southern New Hampshire there is a lovely non-denominational/out-of-doors ‘Cathedral of the Pines’. http://www.cathedralofthepines.org/
    Perhaps that is where we are to go to seek our rest. 🙂

    Proper Preface: ‘Preface for a Saint (3)? Do we need to compose new Proper Prefaces for lay persons who are not ‘saints’? This Preface reads:
    Because you are greatly glorified in the assembly of your saints. All your creatures praise you, and your faithful servants bless you, confessing before the rulers of this world the great Name of your only Son
    Is it really appropriate for Muir and Stuck? Confessing before the rulers of this world?
    Why not use the ‘new’ Proper Preface for the ‘Care of god’s Creation’ (page 731 of the hard copy):
    Because you have brought us into being and called us to care for the earth,

    Hebrew Scripture: The title of this book in the NRSV is as it is noted here, except it reads – ‘The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Jews’. This is, however, inconsistent with the Book of Common Prayer 1979 when it identifies the source of Canticles 2 (page 49) and 13 (page 90) as the ‘Song of the Three Young Men’. Further, this is not consistent with Cecilia’s commemoration in HWHM (November 22) where the book is identified as merely ‘Azariah’. Everything in HWHM needs to be consistent.
    Gospel: Jesus calming the water? This works for these gentlemen? That seems like a real stretch to me.

    Bio: If these gentlemen are kept (and my vote is no), they each need ‘who they are, and why they are important’ statements. Stuck has a ‘he died’ statement; Muir does not.
    Paragraph 3, last sentence. It ends: ‘… who wanted to conserve them for that reason.’? My old English teacher would rearrange this sentence. She would diagram it in a correct order; but who remembers diagramming sentences these days?

    At least The University of the South in paragraph 5 is capitalized correctly. [as they say] Yea, Sewanee’s right!

    My opinion? It is a mess.

    • Actually, the two were quite aware of each other. Rev. Stuck wrote a letter to to John Muir, dated June 17, 1914, praising Muir’s writings as “one of the dearest, sweetest influences of the literature of today,” and predicting that they would “become classics with those who love the face of Nature.” Furthermore, Muir’s library included a copy of Hudson Stuck’s The Ascent of Denali, and Stuck’s 1914 book Ten Thousand Miles With a Dog Sled, in which Stuck praised John Muir’s book The Mountains of California as “surely the finest mountain book ever written.”

      Rev. Stuck seemed to feel that Muir was as much a Christian as he was, saying, “Above all I joy in your constant reverent recognition of the presence of God in all things beautiful and kind..” You can read the full letter in the John Muir Papers at University of the Pacific.

      I recommend you read Baptized into Wilderness: A Christian Perspective on John Muir
      by Richard Cartwright Austin.

  3. I, too, am puzzled at the inclusion and pairing of these two men. Muir endoubtedly did great things for preservation. So did Teddy Roosevelt. Should we also include the Bullmoose? From what is written here, Muir’s spiritual life seems to have been primarily contemplation of nature. It reminds me of the “I’m spiritual, not religious” statements my former college students would write.

    Fr. Stuck, as Michael says, seems to have enjoyed the outdoors and climbed a mountain. So?

    • You may have hit the nail on the head with the “spiritual, not religious” thing. Wikipedia has an interesting bit on this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Muir#Early_life :

      “Author Amy Marquis notes that he began his “love affair” with nature while young, and implies that it may have been in reaction to his strict religious upbringing. “His father believed that anything that distracted from Bible studies was frivolous and punishable.” But the young Muir was a “restless spirit” and especially “prone to lashings.”[10] The family were members of the Disciples of Christ church.[11]
      … Stephen Fox recounts that Muir’s father found the Church of Scotland insufficiently strict in faith and practice, leading to their emigration and joining a congregation of the Campbellite Restoration Movement, called the Disciples of Christ .[11] By age 11, young Muir had learned to recite “by heart and by sore flesh” all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament.[13] But in maturity, Muir may have changed his orthodox beliefs. In a letter to his fond friend Emily Pelton, dated 23 May 1865, he wrote, “I never tried to abandon creeds or code of civilization; they went away of their own accord… without leaving any consciousness of loss.” Elsewhere in his writings, he described the conventional image of a Creator, “as purely a manufactured article as any puppet of a half-penny theater.”[14]
      “Muir remained, though, a deeply religious man, writing, “We all flow from one fountain—Soul. All are expressions of one love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all.”[15]

  4. These men are both noble, but I don’t see what would place them in the calendar of saints. I was under the impression that those we honor are those who have worked to increase the church and empower the faith. There are many others listed in HWHM that do not seem to fit the bill. I do however love that there are people from other branches of the church commemorated.

  5. This looks like a desperation move by SCLM to find some body, anybody, to celebrate on Earth Day. Muir was a great man, and a bit of a mystic, but I don’t see how he qualifies for inclusion here. The Ven. Hudson Stuck is obscure even by SCLM standards. Why him?

    These two aren’t appropriate. Perhaps it should just be suggested that one of the “Prayers for the Natural Order” in the Prayers and Thanksgivings section of the BCP be used on Earth Day.

  6. The old line seems to apply, “if Christianity were a crime would there be enough evidence for a conviction?” This narrative wouldn’t be incriminating. I would expect that Stuck’s work as archdeacon could provide sufficient background to warrant the word “holy” — if it were presented. Unfortunately, it’s not. Climbing a mountain is interesting but as his claim to holiness it has a horrible resemblance to the tower of Babel rationale. Most of the narrative tells about Muir, and after having read it I still have no sense of Christian identity. I could credit his work for preserving and appreciating nature as his baptismal calling if I had some idea that he was connected to the Christian religion. I just don’t see that in the narrative. I have to say, on the basis of what we have in front of us, he doesn’t belong in HWHM, either.

  7. Muir’s spiritual beliefs (I hesitate to use the word “religious”) strike me as Unitarian/Deist. If we have to commemorate someone in the name of environmentalism then TR makes more sense as someone recognizably Christian, but really the best option is to just put Earth Day on the calendar and be done with it.

    • He was an agnostic if not an atheist. To be more exact he was raised in the Church of Scotland then in one of the Cambelite sects because his father didn’t think that the CoS was keeping it real enough. Later in life he would reject the concept of God all together “as purely a manufactured article as any puppet of a half-penney theater.” How is he an example to the Faithful? He is rammed rather uncomfortably in with Archdeacon Hudson Stuck who was an old time social reformer type and outdoors-man. He helped climb Mount McKinley and was active in passing labor laws and teaching discipleship as caring for one another. I haven’t found much that identifies the good Archdeacon as an Environmentalist, but my research is incomplete. What I find objectionable is that a faithful Christian is given second billing to a man who had no such faith, no matter how admirable he may be otherwise.

  8. HWHM has added an appropriate Common that can be used for Earth Day. [For some reason we are not being given the opportunity to comment on them either – pages 727-739 in the hard copy. One of them, ‘Common of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Godbearer’ provoked discussion in the House of Deputies when HWHM was adopted. I bet we would have comments, too. I’m just sayin’.]

    Anyway … I suggest ‘Care of God’s Creation’, page 731
    Collect: Bountiful Creator, you open your hand to satisty the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence, and grant that we, remembering the account we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of yur abundance, for the benefit of hte whole creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom all things were made, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    1 Kings 4: 29-30, 33-34
    Psalm 145: 1-7, 22
    Acts 17: 24-31
    John 1: 1-5, 9-14

    Preface: Because you have brought us into being and called us to care for the earth.

    • As much as I like earth day — Sun day’s not bad either — I’d hesitate to institute the regularization of “cause” days on the calendar. We’re already running “matched sets” in some commemorations, and mix-n-match pairs of separate commemorations on other days. “Holy Women, Holy Men” has enough of a stated focus to keep me happy. How about we just say the office daily, have Eucharist on Sundays and major feasts, fast do special devotions on those days, and keep adding as many people as we can possibly get through General Convention without anyone’s remembering the Preface to the First BCP and what it says about the calendar.

  9. “enjoyed the outdoors and climbed a mountain. So?” and “just put Earth Day on the calendar and be done with it.” Amen, amen. Although TR might fit, too, as he seems to considered himself Dutch Reformed but often attended his wife’s Episcopal Churches. Odd that HWHM commemorates a whole passel of kings and queens and archbishops but, unless I missed some, of US politicians there’s only Frances Perkins. And she shouldn’t be eligible until 2015 . . .
    By the way, we were ecologically sensitive long before it became popular, as Thomas Cranmer’s “Letany” of 1544 attests:”That it maye please the to gyve to our use the kyndlye fruytes of the earth, so as in due tyme we may enjoy them, and to preserve them: We beseche the to here us good lord.”

    • Earth Day has only been celebrated since 1970. No one knows if this day will still be around in 100 years. It would seem that a litany would be more appropriate than the commemoration of these two gentlemen. Traditionally litanies are not a part of the joyous Easter season and in most years April 22nd will fall during Eastertide. Johm Muir’s deity was nature and so his commemoration really does not belong in HWHM.

      Hudson Stuck seems to be an interesting man who believed in “muscular” Christianity. He was a man of fortitude and strength travelling the far reaches of the Alaska Territory by dog sled and canoe. His outreach to a vast and thinly populated diocese may not make the headlines as his ascent of Denali did. But it is that outreach which may make him appropriate for inclusion in HWHM if more information were given.

      In the meantime, Steve Lusk’s suggestion :”That it maye please the to gyve to our use the kyndlye fruytes of the earth, so as in due tyme we may enjoy them, and to preserve them: We beseche the to here us good lord.” seems very appropriate. This was rewritten in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer as: “That it may please thee to geve and preserve to our use the kyndly fruytes of the earth, so as in due tyme we may enioy them: We beseche thee to heare us good lorde.” The former is more in the spirit of preservation for the future than the rewrite which is selfish.

  10. Much as I appreciate John Muir, and am glad that an Episcopalian was part of the first group to climb Denali, I don’t think that they belong in the calendar. I find the partnering of the two “a bit of a stretch”. Hudson Stuck seems renowned primarily for leading the first known ascent of Denali. Although I would not support continuing to honor them here, I’ll still comment on the bios. I don’t know much about Muir’s Christian beliefs, which seem inchoate, based on what I can find: that he experienced God in the Great Outdoors I would not dispute.

    Why is Muir’s birthdate chosen for this commemoration? Because he died on Christmas Eve, presumably. But if this item is retained, an alternative would be for these men to be commemorated on October 10, with Vida Dutton Scudder.

    Line 1, first paragraph: add “Dunbar,” after “Born”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: substitute “on April 22,” for “in”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: substitute “emigrated” for “immigrated”.

    Line 3, second paragraph: substitute “Sierra Nevada” for the colloquialism “Sierras”.

    Line 1, third paragraph: capitalize “National Parks”.

    Line 3, third paragraph: insert “those” after “with”.

    Line 3, fourth paragraph: capitalize “National Forests”.

    Line 4, third paragraph: substitute “ensure” for “insure”. (Limit the latter spelling to the practice of Insurance.)

    Lines 1 & 2, fifth paragraph: substitute “London on November 11,” for “England in”.

    Final paragraph: substitute “at Fort Yukon on October 19,” for “In”

    • Hoping it will be a moot point when the commemoration is eliminated, I believe “areas” in the following should be singular:

      “During a hiking trip through the Sierras, Muir developed theories about the development and ecosystem of the areas.”

  11. For further reading, Belden C. Lane, a prof. at Saint Louis University, has written a marvelous book, “Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality” (Oxford Univ. Press, May 2011) in which he reconsiders John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards in light of their connection to nature and sex and creation. He posits that they were not killjoys. In one chapter, Lane offers an impressive list of 20th-century environmentalists whose parents were rooted in the Reformed tradition, ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Muir to Annie Dillard.

  12. I am thoroughly enjoying the posts of Holy men/ Holy women. I am learning so much about the people who have contributed to carrying on the tenets of Christianity. It is a good reminder that even some of the most well known figures such as Mark were human too! As a “non-cradle” Episcopalian I am also enjoying learning more about the history of our Church!

  13. Again, the question I’ve got for many of the commemorations added in HWHM: What evidence is there that there has been a “Local observance” of these two men in the liturgical life of the church? HWHM p. 743 and 745 seem to expect that Christians are commemorating these people before they get into the official sanctoral. Is there no way to see the “information concerning the spread and duration of local or international commemoration of this individual or group”?

  14. The level of religious diligence and social/moral responsibility required to place a person into consideration for HWHM is baffling to me. Thurgood Marshall was an outstanding jurist who did so much for human rights and who, by the way, was a member of an Episcopal parish … OK. Frances Perkins did so much good in public service … and was an active Episcopalian … OK. Hudson Stuck climbed Denali and said a prayer at the top, but he’s an Episcopal priest … OK. John Muir, whose “emphasis on divine immanence and deemphasis on Jesus were quite consonant with liberal religious trends of the day” (Stoll, Mark: God and John Muir) … NOPE. Perhaps showing that God is larger than any of our human constructs of formal religion is not so bad a thing. (cf: Numbers 11:24-29)

    If we feel the need to get the word “Episcopal” into the bio, perhaps a better pair would be John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy had an Episcopal affiliation, and these two incredible men worked side by side as champions for majesty, beauty, and preservation of God’s creation.

  15. This thread is very interesting, though I’ve come to it late. I think one issue is the necessity of such brief bios. Here’s a better one written for an Episcopalian audience. http://satucket.com/lectionary/muir&stuck.htm
    It does a better job of showing that Muir remained Christian, though his words spoke to atheists, pantheists, and agnostics. He gave his life to Creation, both witnessing and fighting to preserve it in as close a state to how God crafted it. He preached stewardship, not dominion. The book of Nature did surpass the Bible for him, but only because it was God’s voice even more immediate than translated through men. Nature also spoke to reason and what science evolved to understand. Since Episcopal faith is based on scripture, reason, and tradition, Muir–though never Episcopalian–embodies our approach. While I am not familiar with Hudson Stuck, I am excited to look him up and read more about his life and example. I expect that is the intention of HWHM–not to be our only source but a starting off point for study and contemplation.

    I applaud the diversity of lesser saints chosen, while sure many equally worthy are overlooked. However, this shows our open minds and hearts and attracts those interested in the emergent church movement.

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