Wednesday, October 19, 2016

John White Chadwick

Today is the birthday of the poet, critic, and Unitarian minister John White Chadwick (1840-1904).  He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1864 (and wrote a hymn for the occasion) without having gone to college and was ordained later that year at the Second Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, where he served as pastor for the next forty years. Samuel Longfellow, a former minister of that congregation, participated in the ordination service and urged Chadwick to proclaim "the gospel of the immediateness of the Spirit" in his work there

Chadwick was eager to address the social and scientific advances of his day, and in his preaching, poetry, and other writing he often combined these "outside" concepts with his religious thought. He wrote of his desire "to reconceive the Bible, to reconceive the life and character of Jesus, to reconceive the universe and man and God, not with my own poor strength, but with the help of all the deepest, highest, noblest philosophical and critical and scientific thinking of the time." His sermon to the National Unitarian Conference in 1876 was titled The Essential Piety of Modern Science, and his book The Faith of Reason (1880) encapsulates much of his thought on these themes.

Several of his hymns also include these ideas, even this one for today,  written for an anniversary occasion, where he sets "truth" against the "bounds of sect and bonds of creed."

O God, whose perfect goodness crowns
With peace and joy each sacred day,
Our hearts are glad for all the years
Your love has kept us in your way.

For common tasks of help and cheer,
For quiet hours of thought and prayer,
For moments when we seemed to feel
The breath of a diviner air;

For truth that evermore makes free
From bounds of sect and bonds of creed;
For light that shines that we may see
Our own in every neighbor's need;

For this and more than words can say,
We praise and bless your holy name.
Come life or death, enough to know
That you are evermore the same.

John White Chadwick, 1889; alt.
Tune: WOOLMER'S (L.M.) 
Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley, 1861

Eight Years Ago: Emily Swan Perkins

Seven Years Ago: Emily Swan Perkins

Seven Years Ago: John White Chadwick

Three Years Ago: Claudia Frances Hernaman

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