April 19: Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury & Martyr, 1012

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Born in 954, Alphege (or Aelfheah) gave his witness in the troubled  time of the second wave of Scandinavian invasion and settlement in  England. After serving as a monk at Deerhurst, and then as Abbot  of Bath, he became in 984, through Archbishop Dunstan’s influence, Bishop of Winchester. He was instrumental in bringing the Norse King  Olaf Tryggvason, only recently baptized, to King Aethelred in 994 to make his peace and to be confirmed at Andover.

Transferred to Canterbury in 1005, Alphege was captured by the  Danes in 1011. He refused to allow a personal ransom to be collected  from his already over-burdened people. Seven months later he was  brutally murdered, despite the Viking commander Thorkell’s effort  to save him by offering all his possessions except his ship for the Archbishop’s life.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates that the Danes were “much stirred  against the Bishop, because he would not promise them any fee, and  forbade that any man should give anything for him. They were also  much drunken … and took the Bishop, and led him to their hustings, on the eve of the Saturday after Easter … and then they shamefully killed him. They overwhelmed him with bones and horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow. And his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God.”

Collects

I  O loving God, whose martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death because he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people: Grant, we pray thee, that all pastors of thy flock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep; through him who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  O loving God, your martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death when he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people: Grant that all pastors of your flock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep; and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

1 Samuel 24:7b–19

Philemon 1–9a

Luke 23:1–9

Psalm 49:1-9

Preface of a Saint (3)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 16: Mary (Molly) Brant (Konwatsijayenni), Witness to the Faith among the Mohawks, 1796

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Mary, or Molly Brant, known among the Mohawks as Konwatsijayenni, was an important presence among the Iroquois Confederacy during the time of the American Revolution. Baptized and raised as an Anglican due to the British presence in her tribal area, she spoke and wrote in English, and she sought to keep the Mohawks, as well as the other tribes of the Iroquois Nation, loyal to the British government during the Revolution.

Born to Peter Tehonwaghkwangeraghkwa and his wife Margaret, she moved west to Ohio with her family and lived there until her father’s death. She and her brother Joseph took the name of their stepfather, Brant Kanagaradunkwa, who married their mother in 1753. Her stepfather was a friend of Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent for North Indian Affairs. Mary met Sir William in 1759, and though they could not legally marry, she became his common law wife, and together they had nine children. She exerted influence among both the British and the Mohawks, and her voice was often sought among tribal councils and in treaty efforts.

Following her husband’s death, the Oneidas and the Americans, in retaliation for her loyalty to the British and to the Anglican Church, destroyed her home. She and her children fled and were protected by the principal chief of the Five Nations, whose leaders respected her word and counsel.

In 1783, she moved to Kingston, Ontario, where the British Government rewarded her for her loyalty. A lifelong Anglican, she helped found St. George’s Anglican Church in Kingston. At her death her tribesmen as well as the British with whom she had worked mourned her.

Collects

I  Maker and lover of all creation, who didst endue Molly Brant with the gifts of justice and loyalty, and didst make her a wise and prudent clan mother in the household of the Mohawk nation: Draw us also toward the goal of our faith, that we may at last attain the full dignity of our nature in our true native land, where with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit thou livest and reignest, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

II   Maker and lover of all creation, you endued Molly Brant with the gifts of justice and loyalty, and made her a wise and prudent clan mother in the household of the Mohawk nation: Draw us also toward the goal of our faith, that we may at last attain the full dignity of our nature in our true native land, where with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Lessons

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 15:1–7,15–19

Colossians 3:12–17

Matthew 19:28–30

Psalm 111:2-10

Preface of a Saint (1)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 15: Damien & Marianne of Molokai, Priest & Leper, 1889, Religious, 1918

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Joseph de Veuster was born in 1840 in Belgium, the son of a farmer. At the age of 18, he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He made his first vows in 1859 and took the name Damien, after the ancient physician and martyr. When his older brother became ill and was unable to join the mission endeavor in Hawaii, Damien volunteered to take his place.

As Father Damien began his ministry in Hawaii, leprosy was spreading rapidly throughout the Islands. In 1863, King Kamehameha V ordered those with leprosy to be sent to Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula on the northern coast of Molokai. There, on the side of the peninsula known as Kalawao, those afflicted by the disease were left with no aid.

Damien was among the first priests to arrive in Kalawao, and he remained there for the rest of his life, building houses, an orphanage, a church, and a hospital. He ate with those he served, worshipped with them, and invited them into his home. He eventually contracted leprosy, later known as Hansen’s disease, and died in 1889.

Like Father Damien, Marianne Cope aspired to the religious vocation at an early age.  She entered the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, New York, in 1862, and in 1870 she began work as a nurse administrator at St. Joseph’s hospital in Syracuse, where she was criticized for accepting alcoholics and other undesirable patients.

In 1883, she received a letter from a priest in Hawaii asking for help managing the hospitals and ministry to leprosy patients. She arrived in Honolulu in 1883 and immediately took over supervision of the Kaka’ako Branch Hospital, which served as a receiving center for leprosy patients from all over the islands. She also opened a care center for the healthy children of leprosy victims.

In 1884, she met Father Damien, and in 1886, she alone ministered to him when his illness made him unwelcome among church and government leaders. She continued her work with hospitals and sufferers of Hansen’s disease until her death in 1918.

Collects

I  God of compassion, we bless thy Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that thy people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ,who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II   God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 57:14–19

1 Corinthians 4:9–13

Matthew 11:1–6

Psalm 103:13-22

Preface of a Saint (1)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 14: Edward Thomas Demby & Henry Beard Delany, Bishops, 1957, 1928

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Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, two of the first African-American bishops in the Episcopal Church, were instrumental in the struggle of minorities to take their place in the highest positions of leadership in a church often hostile to their presence.

Born in Delaware in 1869, Edward Demby attended Howard University and became an Episcopalian while serving as the Dean of Students at Paul Quinn College in Texas. Bishop John Spalding recognized Demby’s gifts for ministry and sent him to work in the Diocese of Tennessee. Ordained a deacon in 1898 and a priest the next year, he served parishes in Illinois, Missouri, and Florida. In 1907, he returned to Tennessee as rector of Emmanuel Church in Memphis. He was also appointed as the Archdeacon for Colored Work, with responsibilities for the segregated “colored convocations” in the South.

While serving as Archdeacon, Demby was elected Bishop Suffragan for Colored Work in the Diocese of Arkansas and the Province of the Southwest. A major contributor to the westward expansion of the Episcopal Church, Demby drew African Americans into the church through his work with black hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Despite the difficulties he encountered among the white leadership in the South, Demby worked his whole life toward the full recognition of African Americans in the Episcopal Church.

Henry Beard Delany was ordained to the episcopate the same year as Edward Demby. Born a slave in St. Mary’s, Georgia, Delany also served as Archdeacon for Colored Work, working in the Diocese of North Carolina. He was called to be Bishop Suffragan for Colored Work in the Diocese of North Carolina, but his ministry extended into the dioceses of East and Western North Carolina, South Carolina, and Upper South Carolina.

Delany was a strong advocate for the integration of African American Episcopalians into the wider church despite the Jim Crow laws of the day and the efforts of many leaders of the white majority in the church who viewed the presence of men like Demby and Delany as threats to their power and authority.

Collects

I  Loving God, we offer thanks for the ministries of Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, bishops of thy Church who, though limited by segregation, served faithfully to thy honor and glory. Assist us, we pray, to break through the limitations of our own time, that we may minister in obedience to Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II  Loving God, we thank you for the ministries of Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, bishops of your Church who, though limited by segregation, served faithfully to your honor and glory. Assist us, we pray, to break through the limitations of our own time, that we may minister in obedience to Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Malachi 2:5–7

1 Thessalonians 2:1–12

John 4:31–36

Psalm 119:161-168

Preface of God the Holy Spirit

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 12: Adoniram Judson, Missionary to Burma, 1850

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Adoniram Judson is remembered as the first American missionary to devote his life and work to proclaiming the Gospel in a distant land. He served as an American Baptist missionary to Burma, presently Myanmar, for nearly forty years.

Born into a devout Congregationalist family in Massachusetts, Judson demonstrated an unusual intellectual ability from an early age. A voracious reader and excellent student, he graduated first in his class at the College of Rhode Island, now Brown University, and further studied at Andover Theological School. Early on he was drawn toward preparing for missionary work. Judson discovered a particular gift for languages that served him well throughout his missionary endeavors.

In 1811, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions appointed Judson a missionary to the east. Early in 1812, he married his beloved Ann, and together they set sail, stopping first in India before proceeding to Burma. Upon arrival in 1813, they immersed themselves in three years of intensive study of the Burmese language.

Burma was a difficult context for mission work. It was some years before the first convert to Christianity and by the early 1820’s, only a modest handful of people—about a dozen—claimed the Christian faith. It was during this time that Judson began his monumental work of translating the Bible into Burmese and creating a Burmese grammar book that remains a standard reference work.

During the first war between Britain and Burma in the mid-1820’s, Judson was imprisoned and tortured, and his wife, Ann, though not imprisoned, suffered the indignities of being a Christian woman living under a decidedly anti-Christian regime.

It was only after the war and Judson’s imprisonment that the evangelical witness among the Burmese began to take hold. Judson’s desire to call forth a hundred converts soon bore fruit in more than a hundred congregations and thousands of converts. On Judson’s shoulders a new generation of missionaries and local pastors led unbelievers to the gospel in record numbers and Burma became a stronghold of Christian witness in the east.

Collects

I  Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Eternal God, we thank you for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for you and your people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of your Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Jeremiah 9:23-24

1 Corinthians 14:6-15

Matthew 18:10-14

Psalm 93

Preface of a Saint (2)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 11, George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and of Lichfield, 1878

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George Augustus Selwyn was born on April 5, 1809, at Hampstead, London. He was prepared at Eton, and in 1831 was graduated from St. John’s College, Cambridge, of which he became a Fellow.

Ordained in 1833, Selwyn served as a curate at Windsor until his selection as first Bishop of New Zealand in 1841. On the voyage to his new field, he mastered the Maori language and was able to preach in it upon his arrival. In the tragic ten-year war between the English and the Maoris, Selwyn was able to minister to both sides, and to keep the affection and admiration of both natives and colonists. He began missionary work in the Pacific islands in 1847.

Selwyn’s first general synod in 1859 laid down a constitution, influenced by that of the American Church, which was important for all English colonial Churches.

After the first Lambeth Conference in 1867, Selwyn was reluctantly persuaded to accept the See of Lichfield in England. He died on April 11, 1878, and his grave in the cathedral close has been a place of pilgrimage for the Maoris to whom he first brought the light of the Gospel.

Bishop Selwyn twice visited the Church in America, and was the preacher at the 1874 General Convention.

Collects

I    Almighty and everlasting God, we thank thee for thy servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of thy Church in many nations. Raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land evangelists and heralds of thy kingdom, that thy Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II    Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of your Church in many nations. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Genesis 12:1-4

Ephesians 2:11-18

Matthew 10:7-16

Psalm 28:7-11

Preface of Apostles

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 10, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Scientist & Military Chaplain, 1955

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a ground-breaking paleontologist and Christian mystic whose vision encompassed the evolution of all matter toward a final goal in which material and spiritual shall coincide and God shall be all in all.

Teilhard was born in 1881. In 1899, he entered the Jesuit novitiate, moving to England in 1902 when French law nationalized the properties of religious orders. After taking a degree in literature in 1902, he went to Egypt to teach chemistry in the Jesuit College in Cairo. There he fell in love with the east. Teilhard moved back to England in 1908 and began to synthesize his already vast knowledge of evolution, philosophy and theology. He was ordained priest in  1911.

Teilhard did research at the Natural History Museum in Paris, leading to the Sorbonne (University of Paris) where he completed his doctorate in paleontology. He went to China where, with other researchers, he made public the famous “Peking Man” hominid in 1926. Teilhard developed a vision of creation which held that evolution was the process by which matter inexorably arranges itself toward greater complexity until recognizable consciousness emerges. For Teilhard, this described a continuing process of human evolution that moves toward a new level of consciousness in which the universe will come to perfect unity and find itself one with God. God, then, is the highest point of pure consciousness, always “pulling” the evolutionary process towards its promised destiny, which he called the “Omega Point.”

Teilhard struggled with the Roman Church that was suspicious of his seemingly radical and heterodox writings. He was forbidden to teach and had to defend himself against charges of heresy. Teilhard remained loyal. After his death, many came to recognize his vision as a deeply Christian one that sought to reconcile the Biblical vision of God’s final triumph over sin and disunity with the undeniable discoveries of evolutionary science.

Shortly before he died, he prayed: “O God, if in my life I have not been wrong, allow me to die on Easter Sunday”. He died on April 10, 1955: Easter Sunday.

Collects

I    Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of thy glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We offer thanks for thy theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who didst perceive the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of thy divine works and heirs of thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II    Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of your glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We bless you for your theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who perceived the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of your divine works and heirs of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 55:6-11

Revelation 21:1-6

John 3:31-35

Psalm 65

Preface of a Saint (3)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 10: William Law, Priest, 1761

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“If we are to follow Christ, it must be in our common way of spending every day. If we are to live unto God at any time or in any place, we are to live unto him in all times and in all places. If we are to use anything as the gift of God, we are to use everything as his gift.” So wrote William Law in 1728 in A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.

This quiet schoolmaster of Putney, England, could hardly be considered a revolutionary, yet his book had near-revolutionary repercussions. His challenge to take Christian living very seriously received more enthusiastic response than he could ever have imagined, especially in the lives of Henry Venn, George Whitefield, and John Wesley, all of whom he strongly influenced. More than any other man, William Law laid the foundation for the religious revival of the eighteenth century, the Evangelical Movement in England, and the Great Awakening in America.

Law came to typify the devout parson in the eyes of many. His life was characterized by simplicity, devotion, and works of charity. Because he was a Non-Juror, who refused to swear allegiance to the House of Hanover, he was deprived of the usual means of making a living as a clergyman in the Church of England. He therefore worked as a tutor to the father of Edward Gibbon, the historian, from 1727 to 1737. He organized schools and homes for the poor. He stoutly defended the Sacraments and Scriptures against attacks of the Deists. He spoke out eloquently against the warfare of his day. His richly inspired sermons and writings have gained him a permanent place in Christian literature.

Collects

I    O God, by whose grace thy servant William Law, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II     O God, by whose grace your servant William Law, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Philippians 3:7-14

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Psalm 103:1-4, 13-18

Preface of a Saint (2)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 9: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr, 1945

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born February 4, 1906. He studied at the universities of Berlin and Tübingen. His doctoral thesis was published in 1930 as Sanctorum Commuunio.

From the first days of the Nazi accession to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer was involved in protests against the regime. From 1933 to 1935 he was the pastor of two small congregations in London, but nonetheless was a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church, the center of Protestant resistance to the Nazis. In 1935 Bonhoeffer was appointed to organize and head a new seminary for the Confessing Church at Finkenwald. He described the community in Life Together and later wrote The Cost of Discipleship.

Bonhoeffer became increasingly involved in the political struggle after 1939, when he was introduced to the group seeking Hitler’s overthrow. Bonhoeffer considered refuge in the United States, but he returned to Germany where he was able to continue his resistance. In May 1942 he flew to Sweden to meet Bishop Bell and convey through him to the British government proposals for a negotiated peace. The offer was rejected by the Allies who insisted upon unconditional surrender.

Bonhoeffer was arrested April 5, 1943, and imprisoned in Berlin. After an attempt on Hitler’s life failed April 9, 1944, documents were discovered linking Bonhoeffer to the conspiracy. He was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, then to Schoenberg Prison. On Sunday, April 8, 1945, just as he concluded a service in a school building in Schoenberg, two men came in with the chilling summons, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer … come with us.” He said to another prisoner, “This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.” Bonhoeffer was hanged the next day, April 9, at Flossenburg Prison.

There is in Bonhoeffer’s life a remarkable unity of faith, prayer, writing and action. The pacifist theologian came to accept the guilt of plotting the death of Hitler because he was convinced that not to do so would be a greater evil. Discipleship was to be had only at great cost.

Collects

I    Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, thou gavest grace to thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive thy word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II     Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, you gave grace to your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive your word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Proverbs 3:1-7

Romans 6:3-11

Matthew 5:1-12

Psalm 119:89-96

Preface of a Saint (2)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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April 8: William Augustus Muhlenberg, Priest 1877 and Anne Ayers, Religious, 1896

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.

William Augustus Muhlenberg was born in Philadelphia in 1796, into a prominent German Lutheran family, and was drawn to the Episcopal Church by its use of English. He deliberately chose to remain unmarried to free himself for a variety of ministries. He was deeply involved in the Sunday School movement, and was concerned that the church should minister to all social groups. Aware of the limitations of the hymnody of his time, he wrote hymns and compiled hymnals, thus widening the range of music in Episcopal churches.

The use of music, flowers, and color, and the emphasis on the church year in worship became a potent influence. In 1846, he founded the Church of the Holy Communion in New York City. Again he was bold and innovative: free pews for everyone, a parish school, a parish unemployment fund, and trips to the country for poor city children. His conception of beauty in worship, vivid and symbolic, had at its heart the Holy Communion itself, celebrated every Sunday. Many of his principles are set forth in the Muhlenberg Memorial to General Convention in 1853.

Anne Ayres was born in London, England, in 1816, and immigrated to New York in 1836. She began work as a tutor for the children of wealthy New Yorkers, but soon came under the influence of Muhlenberg. She took religious vows on November 1, 1845, and was the founder and First Sister of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion, the first Anglican religious order for women in North America. The House of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church formally recognized the Sisterhood in 1852.

The companionship in ministry between Muhlenberg and Ayres led to the founding of St. Luke’s Hospital in the City of New York, where Ayres and her sisters looked after most of the patient care and nursing. They also cooperated in establishing St. Johnland on the north shore of Long Island, an attempt to transplant families into an intentional Christian community far from the urban squalor of late nineteenth century New York City.

Collects

I    God of justice and truth, let not thy Church close its eyes to the plight of the poor and neglected, the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, the lonely and those who have none to care for them. Give us that vision and compassion with which thou didst so richly endow William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers, that we may labor tirelessly to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II     God of justice and truth, do not let your Church close its eyes to the plight of the poor and neglected, the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, the lonely and those who have none to care for them. Give us that vision and compassion with which you so richly endowed William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers, that we may labor tirelessly to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 63:7-9

Ephesians 4:11-16

Matthew 21:12-16

Psalm 84:1-6

Preface of Advent

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?

To post a comment, your first and last name and email address are required. Your name will be published; your email address will not. The first time you post, a moderator will need to approve your submission; after that, your comments will appear instantly.