September 18: Edward Bouverie Pusey; Priest, 1882

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About this commemoration

The revival of High Church teachings and practices in the Anglican Communion, known as the Oxford Movement, found its acknowledged leader in Edward Bouverie Pusey. Born near Oxford, August 22, 1800, Pusey spent all his scholarly life in that University as Regius Professor of Hebrew and as Canon of Christ Church. At the end of 1833 he joined Keble and Newman in producing the Tracts for the Times, which gave the Oxford Movement its popular name of Tractarianism.

His most influential activity, however, was his preaching—catholic in content, evangelical in his zeal for souls. But to many of his more influential contemporaries it seemed dangerously innovative. A sermon preached before the University in 1843 on “The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent” was condemned without his being given an opportunity to defend it, and he himself was suspended from preaching for two years—a judgment he bore most patiently. His principles were thus brought before the public, and attention was drawn to the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. From another University sermon, on “The Entire Absolution of the Penitent,” may be dated the revival of private confession in the Anglican Communion.

When Newman defected to the Church of Rome in 1845, Pusey’s adherence to the Church of England kept many from following, and he defended them in their teachings and practices.

After the death of his wife in 1839, Pusey devoted much of his family fortune to the establishment of churches for the poor, and much of his time and care to the establishment of sisterhoods. In 1845, he established the first Anglican sisterhood since the Reformation. It was at this community’s convent, Ascot Priory in Berkshire, that Pusey died on September 16, 1882. His body was brought back to Christ Church and buried in the cathedral nave. Pusey House, a house of studies founded after his death, perpetuates his name at Oxford. His own erudition and integrity gave stability to the Oxford Movement and won many to its principles.

COLLECTS

Grant unto us, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know thy presence and obey thy will; that, following the example of thy servant Edward Bouverie Pusey, we may with integrity and courage accomplish what thou givest us to do, and endure what thou givest us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant Edward Bouverie Pusey, we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Ezekiel 36:24–28

1 Peter 2:19–23

Luke 3:10–14

Psalm 106:1–5

Preface of a Saint (2)

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

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September 17: Hildegard, 1179

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About this commemoration

Hildegard of Bingen, born in 1098 in the lush Rhineland Valley, was a mystic, poet, composer, dramatist, doctor, scientist. Her parents’ tenth child, she was tithed to the Church and raised by the anchoress Jutta in a cottage near the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg.

Drawn by the life of silence and prayer, other women joined them, finding the freedom, rare outside women’s religious communities, to develop their intellectual gifts. They organized as a convent under the authority of the abbot of Disibodenberg, with Jutta as abbess. When Jutta died, Hildegard, then 38, became abbess. Later she founded independent convents at Bingen (1150) and Eibingen (1165), with the Archbishop of Mainz as her only superior.

From childhood, Hildegard experienced dazzling spiritual visions. At 43, a voice commanded her to tell what she saw. So began an outpouring of extraordinarily original writings illustrated by unusual and wondrous illuminations. These works abound with feminine imagery for God and God’s creative activity.

In 1147, Bernard of Clairvaux recommended her first book of visions, Scivias, to Pope Eugenius III, leading to papal authentication at the Synod of Trier. Hildegard became famous, eagerly sought for counsel, a correspondent of kings and queens, abbots and abbesses, archbishops and popes.

She carried out four preaching missions in northern Europe, unprecedented activity for a woman. She practiced medicine, focusing on women’s needs; published treatises on natural science and philosophy; wrote a liturgical drama, The Play of the Virtues, in which personified virtues sing their parts and the devil, condemned to live without music, can only speak. For

Hildegard, music was essential to worship. Her liturgical compositions, unusual in structure and tonality, were described by contemporaries as “chant of surpassing sweet melody” and “strange and unheard-of music.”

Hildegard lived in a world accustomed to male governance. Yet, within her convents, and to a surprising extent outside them, she exercised a commanding spiritual authority based on confidence in her visions and considerable political astuteness. When she died in 1179 at 81, she left a rich legacy which speaks eloquently across the ages.

COLLECTS

God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of thy servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of thy creation, and show forth thy glory not only with our lips but in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation, and show forth your glory not only with our lips but in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 43:1–2,6–7,

9–12,27–28

Colossians 3:14–17

John 3:16–21

Psalm 104:25–34

Preface of 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

September 16: Ninian Bishop in Galloway, c. 430

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About this commemoration

The dates of Ninian’s life, and the exact extent of his work, are much disputed. The earliest, and possibly the best, account is the brief one in the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History.

Ninian was a Romanized Briton, born in the latter half of the fourth century in southern Scotland. He is said to have been educated in Rome and to have received episcopal ordination. But the main influence on his life was Martin of Tours, with whom he spent some time, and from whom he gained his ideals of an episcopal-monastic structure designed for missionary work.

About the time of Martin’s death in 397, Ninian established his base at a place called Candida Casa (“White House”) or Whithorn in Galloway, which he dedicated to Martin. Traces of place names and church dedications suggest that his work covered the Solway Plains and the Lake District of England. Ninian seems also to have converted many of the Picts of northern Scotland, as far north as The Moray Firth.

Ninian, together with Patrick, is one of the links of continuity between the ancient Roman-British Church and the developing Celtic Christianity of Ireland and Scotland.

COLLECTS

O God, who by the preaching of thy blessed servant and bishop Ninian didst cause the light of the Gospel to shine in the land of Britain: Grant, we beseech thee, that, havingchis life and labors in remembrance, we may show forthcour thankfulness by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant and bishop Ninian you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in the land of Britain: Grant, we pray, that having his life and labors in remembrance we may show our thankfulness by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 49:1–6

Acts 10:21–35

Matthew 28:16–20

Psalm 97:1–2,7–12

Preface of Pentecost

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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September 15: James Chisholm, Priest, 1855

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About this commemoration

James Chisholm was the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, Virginia.

In 1855, an aggressive yellow fever epidemic swept through tidewater Virginia. Many of the region’s wealthy citizens were able to escape the area to avoid exposure and contamination. In most cases the physicians and clergy who served them departed as well. This left the area’s poor bereft of doctors, caregivers and, in some cases, the basic provisions of food and water to sustain life.

James Chisholm sent his family away to safety, staying behind to provide whatever care for the sick he could. Chisholm provided food, amateur medical assistance, and pastoral care. He was even known to have dug graves for those who had died.

As the ravages of the plague were beginning to subside, Chisholm, weary to the point of exhaustion from his faithful priestly service, contracted the yellow fever and died.

An account of Chisholm’s sacrifice, written only months after his death, marvels at the inner strength that Chisholm discovered that enabled him to stay behind and serve the people many of whom were only waiting to die. Before the crisis, Chisholm was not thought of as a particularly strong man in body, and was described as having been retiring to the point of bashfulness, delicate, weak, and lacking much fortitude. When faced, however, with the call of these priestly duties in the face of great hardship, Chisholm showed a strength and courage few knew he possessed.

COLLECTS

Merciful God, who didst call thy priest James Chisholm to sacrifice his life in working to relieve his parishioners and the people of his city during a yellow fever epidemic: Help us remember that in giving up our lives to thy service, we win the eternal crown that never fades away in that heavenly kingdom where, with Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit, thou reignest, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Merciful God, you called your priest James Chisholm to sacrifice his life in working to relieve his parishioners and the people of his city during a yellow fever epidemic: Help us remember that in giving up our lives to your service, we win the eternal crown that never fades away in that heavenly kingdom where, with Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit, you reign, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Lessons

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:9–17

2 Corinthians 1:3–11

Matthew 24:1–8

Psalm 116:5–9

Preface of God the Son

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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September 15: Cyprian Bishop and Martyr of Carthage, 258

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About this commemoration

Cyprian was a rich, aristocratic, and cultivated rhetorician in North Africa. He was converted to Christianity about 246, and by 248 was chosen Bishop of Carthage. A year later, in the persecution under the Emperor Decius, Cyprian went into hiding. For this he was severely criticized. Nonetheless, he kept in touch with his Church by letter, and directed it with wisdom and compassion. In the controversy over what to do with those who had lapsed during the persecution, Cyprian held that they could be reconciled to the Church after suitable periods of penance, the gravity of the lapse determining the length of the penance. His moderate position was the one that generally prevailed in the Church, over that of the rigorist Novatian, who led a group into schism at Rome and Antioch over this question. In another persecution, under the Emperor Valerian, Cyprian was placed under house arrest in Carthage, and, on September 14, 258, he was beheaded.

Many of Cyprian’s writings have been preserved. His Letter No. 63 contains one of the earliest affirmations that the priest, in offering the Eucharist (“the sacrifice”), acts in the place of Christ, imitating his actions.

In his treatise, On the Lord’s Prayer, he wrote: “We say ‘Hallowed be thy Name,’ not that we want God to be made holy by our prayers, but because we seek from the Lord that his Name may be made holy in us … so that we who have been made holy in Baptism may persevere in what we have begun to be.”

Although there is some question whether his book, On the Unity of the Catholic Church, affirms papal primacy, there is no question about the clarity of his statements on the unity of the college of bishops and the sin of schism. “The episcopate is a single whole,” he wrote, “in which each bishop’s share gives him a right to, and a responsibility for, the whole. So is the Church a single whole, though she spreads far and wide into a multitude of Churches … If you leave the Church of Christ you will not come to Christ’s rewards, you will be an alien, an outcast, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother.”

COLLECTS

O Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Micah 4:1–5

1 Peter 5:1–4,10–11

John 10:11–16

Psalm 116:10–17

Preface of a Saint (3)

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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September 13: John Chrysostom; Bishop of Constantinople, 407

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About this commemoration

John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, is one of the great saints of the Eastern Church. He was born about 354 in Antioch, Syria. As a young man, he responded to the call of desert monasticism until his health was impaired. He returned to Antioch after six years, and was ordained a presbyter. In 397, he became Patriarch of Constantinople. His episcopate was short and tumultuous. Many criticized his ascetical life in the episcopal residence, and he incurred the wrath of the Empress Eudoxia, who believed that he had called her a “Jezebel.” He was twice exiled, and he died during the second period of banishment, on September 14, 407. Thirty-one years later, his remains were brought back to Constantinople, and buried on January 27.

John, called “Chrysostom,” which means “the golden-mouthed, ”was one of the greatest preachers in the history of the Church. People flocked to hear him. His eloquence was accompanied by an acute sensitivity to the needs of people. He saw preaching as an integral part of pastoral care, and as a medium of teaching. He warned that if a priest had no talent for preaching the Word, the souls of those in his charge “will fare no better than ships tossed in the storm.”

His sermons provide insights into the liturgy of the Church, and especially into eucharistic practices. He describes the liturgy as a glorious experience, in which all of heaven and earth join. His sermons emphasize the importance of lay participation in the Eucharist. “Why do you marvel,” he wrote, “that the people anywhere utter anything with the priest at the altar, when in fact they join with the Cherubim themselves, and the heavenly powers, in offering up sacred hymns?”

His treatise, Six Books on the Priesthood, is a classic manual on the priestly office and its awesome demands. The priest, he wrote, must be “dignified, but not haughty; awe-inspiring, but kind; affable in his authority; impartial, but courteous; humble, but not servile, strong but gentle …”

COLLECTS

O God, who didst give to thy servant John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, you gave your servant John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching, and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Jeremiah 42:1–6

1 Corinthians 12:31–13:7

Luke 21:12–15

Psalm 49:1–8

Preface of a Saint (2)

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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September 12: John Henry Hobart Bishop of New York, 1830

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About this commemoration

John Henry Hobart was one of the leaders who revived the Episcopal Church, following the first two decades of its independent life after the American Revolution, a time that has been described as one of “suspended animation.” Born in Philadelphia, September 14, 1775, Hobart was educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Princeton, graduating from the latter in 1793. Bishop William White, his longtime friend and adviser, ordained him deacon in 1798 and

priest in 1801.

After serving parishes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Long Island, Hobart became assistant minister of Trinity Church, New York City, in 1800. He was consecrated Assistant Bishop of New York on May 29, 1811. Five years later he succeeded Bishop Benjamin Moore, both as diocesan bishop and as rector of Trinity Church. He died at Auburn, New York, September 12, 1830, and was buried beneath the chancel of Trinity Church in New York City. Within his first four years as bishop, Hobart doubled the number of his clergy and quadrupled the number of missionaries. Before his death, he had planted a church in almost every major town of New York State and had opened missionary work among the Oneida Indians. He was one of the founders of the General Theological Seminary, and the reviver of Geneva, now Hobart, College.

A strong and unbending upholder of Church standards, Hobart established the Bible and Common Prayer Book Society of New York, and was one of the first American Churchmen to produce theological and devotional manuals for the laity. These “tracts,” as they were called, and the personal impression he made on the occasion of a visit to Oxford, were an influence on the development of the Tractarian Movement in England. Both friends and foes respected Hobart for his staunch faith, his consuming energy, his personal integrity, and his missionary zeal.

COLLECTS

Revive thy Church, Lord God of hosts, whensoever it doth fall into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders, like thy servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember this day; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken thy people to thy message and their mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Revive your Church, Lord God of hosts, whenever it falls into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders, like your servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember today; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken your people to your message and their mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 18:1–3

Titus 1:7–9

John 17:11b–19

Psalm 78:3–7

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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September 11: Harry Thacker Burleigh; Composer, 1949

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About this commemoration

Henry (Harry) Thacker Burleigh was an American singer, composer and arranger who did more than anyone else up to his time to make available the musical and spiritual riches of the American Negro spiritual to vast audiences.

Burleigh was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1866. His grandfather, Hamilton Waters, had been a slave who had been blinded by a savage beating, but passed along old songs by singing them to his grandson, Harry. Burleigh had a natural voice and sang when and where he could. In 1892, with some difficulty, he won admission to the National Conservatory of Music where he studied voice and music theory. Although never directly a pupil of Antonin Dvorak, the director of the Conservatory at the time, he worked for Dvorak copying orchestral parts. It was Burleigh who suggested to Dvorak some of the themes that would become Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9: From the New World.

To support himself while at Conservatory, Burleigh became the baritone soloist at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City. The presence of a black man in the choir initially caused dissension, but it died down when J. Pierpont Morgan, a member of the parish, took a clear stand on the matter. Even after gaining other employment and becoming a successful composer, Burleigh continued to sing in the choir at St. George’s for many years and became a beloved part of the congregation.

Burleigh composed original music, mostly for voice, and was a well respected arranger and music editor in New York. His art songs were musical settings of the poetry of such great African American poets as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson, among others. His greatest achievement, and that for which he will always be celebrated, was recovering and arranging many Negro spirituals for solo voice and piano so they could be widely heard on the concert stage. Various choral versions of the spirituals had been well known in the black churches, but it was Burleigh’s arrangements that made this distinctively American music available to the masses. Burleigh died on September 12, 1949.

COLLECTS

God our strong deliverer, whose Name is blest for the gifts of grace given to Harry Thacker Burleigh to gather and preserve the good heritage of African-American music and to lift up in song the struggles of his people: Let that Spirit of love which spurred him draw us also to join hands throughout the earth in Christ’s one great fellowship of love; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

God our strong deliverer, we bless your Name for the gifts of grace given to Harry Thacker Burleigh to gather and preserve the good heritage of African-American music and to lift up in song the struggles of his people. Let that Spirit of love which spurred him draw us also to join hands throughout the earth in Christ’s one great fellowship of love; through the same Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 42:10–12                                                                                                                                                                                                           Romans 15:5–11                                                                                                                                                                                                          Luke 1:39–45

Psalm 103:1–5, 20–22

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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September 10: Alexander Crummell, 1898

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About this commemoration

Born March 3, 1819, in New York City, Alexander Crummell struggled against racism all his life. As a young man, he was driven out of an academy in New Hampshire, dismissed as a candidate for Holy Orders in New York, and rejected for admittance to General Seminary.

Ordained in 1844 as a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts, he left for England after being excluded from participating in diocesan convention.

After receiving a degree from Cambridge, he went to Liberia as a missionary. The African race, Crummell believed, possessed a “warm, emotional and impulsive energy,” which in America had been corrupted by oppression. The Episcopal Church, with its emphasis on rational and moral discipline, was especially fitted for the moral and spiritual regeneration of Afro-Americans. A model Christian republic seemed possible in Liberia. European education and technology, combined with traditional African communal culture, and undergirded by a national Episcopal Church headed by a black bishop, was the vision espoused by Crummell. He traveled extensively in the United States urging blacks to immigrate to Liberia and support the work of the Church there.

On returning to Liberia, he worked to establish a national Episcopal Church. Political opposition and a loss of funding finally forced him to return to the United States. He concentrated his efforts on establishing a strong urban presence of independent black congregations that would be centers of worship, education and social service. When southern bishops proposed that a separate missionary district be created for black congregations, Crummell created a national convocation to fight the proposal. The Union of Black Episcopalians is an outgrowth of that organization.

Crummell’s ministry spanned more than half a century and three continents. Everywhere, at all times, he labored to prepare his people and to build institutions that would serve them and provide scope for the exercises of their gifts in leadership and creativity. His faith in God, his perseverance in spite of repeated discouragement, his perception that the Church transcended the racism and limited vision of its rulers, and his unfailing belief in the goodness and greatness of black people are the legacy of this Afro-American pioneer.

COLLECTS

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank thee for thy servant Alexander Crummell, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to those who were far off and to those who were near. 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.

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Alexander Crummell, whom you called to preach the Gospel to those who were far off and to those who were near. 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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7–11, 17–18

James 1:2–5

Mark 4:1–10, 13–20

Psalm 19:7–11

Preface of a Saint (2)

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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September 9: Constance, Nun, and Her Companions; Commonly called “The Martyrs of Memphis,” 1878

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About this commemoration

In August, 1878, Yellow Fever invaded the city of Memphis for the third time in ten years. By the month’s end the disease had become epidemic and a quarantine was ordered. While 30,000 citizens had fled in terror, 20,000 more remained to face the pestilence. As cases multiplied, death tolls averaged 200 daily. When the worst was over ninety percent of the population had contracted the Fever; more than 5,000 people had died.

In that time of panic and flight, many brave men and women, both lay and cleric, remained at their posts of duty or came as volunteers to assist despite the terrible risk. Notable among these heros were Constance, Superior of the work of the Sisters of St. Mary in Memphis, and her Companions. The Sisters had come to Memphis in 1873, at Bishop Quintard’s request, to found a Girls School adjacent to St. Mary’s Cathedral. When the 1878 epidemic began, George C. Harris, the Cathedral Dean, and Sister Constance immediately organized relief work among the stricken. Helping were six of Constance’s fellow Sisters of St. Mary; Sister Clare from St. Margaret’s House, Boston; the Reverend Charles C. Parsons, Rector of Grace and St. Lazarus Church, Memphis; and the Reverend Louis S. Schuyler, assistant at Holy Innocents, Hoboken. The Cathedral group also included three physicians, two of whom were ordained Episcopal priests, the Sisters’ two matrons, and several volunteer nurses from New York. They have ever since been known as “The Martyrs of Memphis,” as have those of other Communions who ministered in Christ’s name during this time of desolation.

The Cathedral buildings were located in the most infected region of Memphis. Here, amid sweltering heat and scenes of indescribable horror, these men and women of God gave relief to the sick, comfort to the dying, and homes to the many orphaned children. Only two of the workers escaped the Fever. Among those who died were Constance, Thecla, Ruth and Frances, the Reverend Charles Parsons and the Reverend Louis Schuyler. The six martyred Sisters and priests are buried at Elmwood Cemetery. The monument marking the joint grave of Fathers Parsons and Schuyler bears the inscription: “Greater Love Hath No Man.” The beautiful High Altar in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Memphis, is a memorial to the four Sisters.

COLLECTS

We give thee thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death: Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death: Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons

Job 16:6–9

2 Corinthians 1:3–5

John 12:24–28

Psalm 25:15–21

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?

If you’d like to participate in the official online trial use survey, click here. For more information about the survey, click here.

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 automatically