John and Charles Wesley, Presbyters and Renewers of the Church, 1791, 1788

Charles and John Wesley

John was the fifteenth, and Charles the eighteenth, child of Samuel Wesley, Rector of Epworth, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Susannah. John was born June 17, 1703, and Charles, December 18, 1707. It has been said that the Methodist revival had its foundations in the rectory at Epworth, where the children were under the tutelage and spiritual direction of Susannah and Samuel.

The lives and fortunes of the brothers were closely intertwined. As founders and leaders of the “Methodist” or evangelical revival in eighteenth-century England, their continuing influence redounds throughout the world and is felt in many Churches. Although their theological writings and sermons are still widely appreciated, it is through their hymns – especially those of Charles – that their religious experience, and their Christian faith and life, continue to affect the hearts and minds of many. Both brothers were profoundly attached to the doctrine and worship of the Church of England; and no amount of abuse and opposition to their cause and methods ever shook their confidence in, and love of, the English Church.

Both the brothers were educated at Christ Church, Oxford. It was there that they gathered a few friends to join in strict adherence to the worship and discipline of the Prayer Book, and were thus given the name “Methodists” after their devotional methods. John was ordained to ministry in the Church of England in 1728 and Charles in 1735. The two brothers went together to Georgia in 1735, John as a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and Charles as secretary to James Oglethorpe, the Governor of the colony.

Shortly after their return to England, they both experienced an inner conversion, Charles on May 21, 1738, and John on May 24, at a meeting in Aldersgate Street with a group of Moravians, during a reading of Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. John recorded,

“I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

And so the Wesleyan revival was born.

Finding the churches closed to them, John and Charles devoted themselves to a ministry of itinerant evangelistic work, and followed the evangelist George Whitefield in preaching in open fields. John began by preaching to the Kingswood colliers in 1739. John established his own organization of Methodist societies with the help of lay preachers and extended his own activity across the whole of the British Isles by 1751, the chief centers of his work being London, Bristol, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. John is said to have traveled over 200,000 miles and to have preached over 40,000 sermons. He also produced a prodigious volume of writing: an extensive journal, thousands of letters, hymn translations, and two editions of the poetry of George Herbert, the seventeenth century English priest and poet. Though he attracted large audiences, John also suffered mob violence and clerical (and episcopal) hostility, but eventually he became a tolerated figure of national prominence. Continuing the eucharistic devotion of his earlier Oxford years, John strove to receive communion at least every Sunday, and often would receive communion several times weekly.

From small beginnings in the 1760s the Methodist movement and system also gradually developed in America. The urgent need for ordained ministers for the American Methodist societies, and the refusal of the Bishop of London to ordain any of Wesley’s lay preachers to the presbyterate, led John – against Charles’ strenuous objection – to ordain Thomas Coke as an elder and superintendent of the American societies and to instruct Coke to ordain Francis Asbury in America as his colleague. (John had earlier come to the conclusion that presbyters and bishops were the same office in the early Church, and that presbyters could as validly ordain other presbyters as a bishop could.)

Charles entered itinerant ministry in 1739, married in 1749 and retired from itinerant preaching in 1756, settling in Bristol. He moved to London in 1771, where he ministered at the City Road Chapel. He was the most gifted and indefatigable hymnwriter of the eighteenth century flowering of English hymnody, writing over 5000 hymns in all. Like John, he understood the missionary, devotional, and instructional importance of hymns. His published collections of hymns included “Hark! the herald angels sing”, “Love divine, all loves excelling”, “Jesu, Lover of my soul”, and “Lo! he come with clouds descending”. In modern English language hymnals (whatever the denominational tradition) he is usually the author with the most hymns in the volume credited to his name.

A more emotional, warmer, and more pastoral personality than his brother, Charles opposed all moves that would cause the separation of the Methodist societies from the Church of England. The later schism of the societies from the Church of England occurred after the death of the two brothers – Charles on March 29, 1788, and John on March 2, 1791 – though John’s uncanonical ordinations of elders for the American Methodist societies and later for the Scottish societies doubtless set the basis for it.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts,
with additions from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Collect

Lord God, you inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of John and Charles Wesley, Priests, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon of Charles and John Wesley was written by Louise Shipps and is taken from the “Saints of Georgia” page of the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

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Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, 672

Born about the year 634, Chad was one of four brothers, all of whom became presbyters of the Church and two of whom became bishops. Chad was a disciple of Aidan, bishop and abbot of the monastery at Lindisfarne. He became abbot of the monastery at Lastingham upon the death of his brother Cedd, bishop and founder of that monastery. When the see of York became vacant on the death of Bishop Tuda, Alcfrith, sub-king of Deira in Northumbria, sent a presbyter named Wilfrid to Gaul to be consecrated bishop. With Wilfrid’s prolonged absence in Gaul, Oswiu, king of the Northumbrians, following the example of his son Alcfrith, sent Chad to Canterbury to be consecrated as bishop in Northumbria. On arriving in Kent, Chad discovered that Archbishop Deusdedit had died and that no successor had yet been chosen. Because of a dearth of bishops in England at the time, he then sought consecration at the hands of Wini, bishop among the West Saxons, who consecrated Chad to the episcopate with the assistance of two British bishops, both of whom had been consecrated according to the Celtic rite, that is, by a single bishop rather than by three bishops, as was (and is) the catholic practice. When Wilfrid returned to England, finding his see occupied by Chad, he retired to Ripon.

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede the Venerable writes that Chad was a holy man, modest in his ways, learned in the Scriptures, and careful to practice all that he found in them. When he became a bishop, he devoted himself to maintaining the truth and purity of the Church and set himself to practicing humility and continence and to study. He traveled not on horseback but on foot when he went to preach the Gospel in the towns, villages, and countryside.

With the arrival of Theodore of Tarsus, newly-appointed archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England, the administration and episcopal structure of the Church in England underwent reform. During his visitation of the various episcopal sees, Theodore consecrated bishops and recruited their assistance in helping to reform abuses. Finding Chad in the see of York and informing him that his consecration to the episcopate was irregular, at the hands of only one regularly consecrated bishop (the two British bishops who were co-consecrators having themselves been irregularly consecrated), Theodore removed Chad and elevated Wilfrid to the episcopal see. Chad replied to Theodore with great humility, “If you know that my consecration as bishop was irregular, I willingly resign the office; for I have never thought myself worthy of it. Although unworthy, I accepted it solely under obedience”; and thereafter retired to the monastery at Lastingham.

About that time the king of the Mercians asked Theodore to provide him and his people with a bishop. Recalling Chad’s humility, Theodore requested of king Oswiu that he send Chad to the Mercians as their bishop, and Theodore himself regularized Chad’s episcopal orders by consecrating him canonically. Arriving in Mercia, Chad established his episcopal see in the town of Lichfield, building himself a house near the church that he shared with several of his brethren and to which he would retire to study or to pray whenever his work and preaching permitted. He ruled the Church in Mercia and Lindsey for two and a half years, “in great holiness of life after the example of the early Fathers”, according to Bede. At the end of his episcopate he was struck down suddenly by a rapidly progressive illness, and after preparing for death by receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, died on March 2 in the year 672. He was buried in Saint Mary’s Church, and when a church dedicated to Saint Peter the Apostle was later built in Lichfield, his body was transferred to that church. Bede writes that in both places frequent miracles of healing attested to his virtues.

prepared from the Ecclesiastical History of the English People

The Collect

Almighty God, for the peace of the Church your servant Chad relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The icon of Saint Chad is taken from Aidan Hart’s gallery of icons and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

The propers for the commemoration of Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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George Herbert, Presbyter, 1633

George Herbert

George Herbert was born in 1593, a member of an ancient family, younger brother of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a philosopher and poet. The younger Herbert received his education at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where his classical scholarship secured him a Fellowship in 1614. He became Public Orator of the University in 1620, bringing him into contact with the Court of King James the First. Marked by his success for the career of the courtier, the death of King James and the influence of his friend, Nicholas Ferrar, led him to study divinity, and in 1626 he took holy orders. In 1630 he was ordained to the presbyterate and was persuaded by (then Bishop) William Laud to accept the rectory of Fugglestone with Bemerton, near Salisbury, where in humble devotion to duty he spent the rest of his life.

Herbert is portrayed by his biographer Izaak Walton as a model of the saintly parish priest. Unselfish in his devotion and service to others, Walton writes that many of Herbert’s parishioners “let their plow rest when Mr Herbert’s saints-bell rung to prayers, that they might also offer their devotion to God with him.” His most famous prose work, A Priest in the Temple; or The Country Parson describes a well-balanced ideal of the English parish priest. Herbert portrays the parson as a well-read divine, temperate in all things, a man of duty and prayer, and devoted to his flock, providing a model for future generations of clergy.

On his deathbed, Herbert entrusted his collection of poems entitled The Temple to Nicholas Ferrar. The poems received their publication in 1633, after Herbert’s death. Two of his poems are well known hymns: “Teach me, my God and King” and “Let all the world in every corner sing”. Herbert was a man of deep Christian conviction and remarkable poetic gifts, with a mastery of both meter and metaphor. The grace, power, and metaphysical imagery of his poetry would influence the poetry of Henry Vaughn, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as the hymns of Charles Wesley. Herbert himself described his poems as “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul, before I could submit mine to the will of Jesus my Master; in whose service I have found perfect freedom.”

No poem better captures that meaning than this one, rich with eucharistic meaning and entitled, “Love”:

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
and Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Our God and King, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of George Herbert, Priest, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Photini, Witness to the Faith

In the Orthodox Churches of the East, the Samaritan Woman, traditionally known as Saint Photini, is commemorated on February 26.

According to Eastern tradition, after her life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus at Jacob’s Well narrated in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the Samaritan Woman was baptized on the day of Pentecost and received the name Photini (Latin, Photina), meaning “the enlightened one”. She thereafter labored in the spread of the Gospel in various places, finally receiving the crown of martrydom in Rome with her two sons and five sisters during the Neronian persecutions.

In Greek sermons from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries, she is called “apostle” and “evangelist”, and in Orthodox tradition is called, like Mary Magdalene, isapostolos: equal to the Apostles.

The Collect

Almighty God, as the Samaritan woman drank with great and ardent longing of the waters Christ the Savior gave to her: Grant us so to drink of this living water, that we may in this life be faithful in proclaiming him who is the Messiah, and in the life to come gain everlasting life and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Saint Matthias the Apostle

In the nine days of waiting between the Lord’s Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, the disciples remained together in prayer. During this time, Peter reminded them that the defection and death of Judas had left the fellowship of the Twelve with a vacancy. The Acts of the Apostles records Peter’s proposal that “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). Two men were nominated: Joseph, called Barsabbas who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. After prayer, the disciples cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias, who was then added to the eleven Apostles.

Nothing further is told of Matthias after his selection. The accounts of his ministry and death are vague and contradictory. Nicephorus, a medieval Byzantine historian, writes that Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Colchis on the Black Sea ( in what is now Georgia), and that he was crucified there. A marker placed in the ruins of a Roman fort at Apsaros in the Georgian region of Adjara claims that Matthias is buried at the site. The Synopsis of Dorotheus and an extant Coptic Acts place his evangelistic work in Ethiopia (which Nicephorus treats as a synonym for Colchis). Another tradition holds that he was stoned to death at Jerusalem and afterwards beheaded (hence his being depicted in Western iconography with an executioner’s axe). Helen, mother of Constantine, is said to have brought the relics of Saint Matthias to Rome, though the apostle may have been confused with another Matthias, an early second century bishop of Jerusalem.

The traditions are unanimous in depicting Matthias as an exemplary apostle. He seems an appropriate example to Christians of one whose faithful companionship with Jesus qualifies him to be a suitable witness to the resurrection, and whose service is unheralded and unsung.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with additions

The Collect

Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; 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.

The Lesson
Acts 1:15-26

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

“‘Let another take his office.’

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Psalm 15
Domine quis habitabit

LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *
who speaks the truth from his heart.

There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend; *
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected, *
but he honors those who fear the LORD.

He has sworn to do no wrong *
and does not take back his word.

He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things *
shall never be overthrown.

The Epistle
Philippians 3:13-21

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

The Gospel
John 15:1,6-16

[Jesus said] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

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The scripture texts for the Lesson, the Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The icon of Saint Matthias is from the workshop of Simone Martini, 14th century.

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Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and Martyr, 156

Polycarp was one of the leaders of the Church who carried on the tradition of the apostles through the troubled period of Gnostic heresies in the second century. According to Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, who had known him in his early youth, Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle, and had been appointed a bishop by “apostles in Asia”. Polycarp is traditionally believed to be the “angel of the church in Smyrna” addressed in Revelation 2:8-11.

We possess a letter from Polycarp to the Church in Philippi, whose text reveals his firm adherence to the faith and his pastoral concern for fellow Christians in trouble.

The epistle concludes:

May God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest himself, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, further your growth in faith and truth and in meekness that is perfect and without a vestige of resentment, as well as in patient endurance and long-suffering and perseverance and purity. May he also grant perfect fellowship with his saints to you, and along with you, to us, and indeed to all who are under heaven and destined to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and his Father, who has raised him from the dead. Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings and magistrates and rulers, and for such as persecute and hate you, as well as for the enemies of the Cross. Thus all will come to see how well you are doing, and you will be perfect in him.

Polycarp traveled to Rome around the year 155, shortly after Anicetus became bishop of Rome, to discuss questions regarding the time for observing the Pasch (Easter). Polycarp, with many Christians in Asia, observed the Pasch according to the Quartodeciman reckoning; i.e.,on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan (whether that fell on a Sunday or not), while Anicetus, in common with most Christians in the West, observed the Pasch on the Sunday following the fourteenth day of Nisan. According to Irenaeus,

Anicetus could not persuade Polycarp to forgo the [Quartodeciman] observance inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of the Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to keep it: Anicetus said that he must hold to the way of the elders before him.

Neither Polycarp nor Anicetus could persuade the other of the correctness of his reckoning, but they did not consider it sufficient cause to justify a schism. Indeed, Irenaeus tells us that Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect, and the two parted in peace with the matter unsettled.

In his Book on Ecclesiastical Writers, Jerome writes that while in Rome, Polycarp found heretics there who had been led astray by the doctrines of Marcion and the gnostic Valentinus, and that he brought many of them back to the faith. Marcion met Polycarp one day by accident, and asked him, “Do you recognize me?” to which Polycarp replied, “I recognize the devil’s eldest son!”

An authentic account of the martyrdom of Polycarp on February 23 is also preserved, written from the account of an eyewitness named Marcion (not to be confused with the second-century heretic of the same name). The martyrdom probably occurred in the year 156. The account tells of Polycarp’s courageous witness in the amphitheater at Smyrna. When the proconsul asked him to curse Christ, Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” The account reports that the magistrate was reluctant to kill the gentle old man, but his hand was forced by the mob, who clamored that he be thrown to wild beasts, as was the fate of other Christians on that dreadful day.

The magistrate refused to throw Polycarp to the wild beasts, claiming he had no authority to do so, but he had Polycarp burned at the stake. Before his ordeal, the saintly bishop looked up to heaven, and prayed:

Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence, I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts with additions,
and with texts from Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation, no. 6

The Collect

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire, and Martyr, 1977

On 6 January 1948 a young school teacher, Janani Luwum, was converted to the charismatic Christianity of the East African Revival, in his own village in Acholiland, Uganda. At once he turned evangelist, warning against the dangers of drink and tobacco, and, in the eyes of local authorities, disturbing the peace.

But Luwum was undeterred by official censure. He was determined to confront all who needed, in his eyes, to change their ways before God.

In January 1949 Luwum went to a theological college at Buwalasi, in eastern Uganda. A year later he came back a catechist. In 1953 he returned to train for ordination. He was ordained deacon on St Thomas’s Day, 21 December 1955, and priest a year later. His progress was impressive: after two periods of study in England, he became principal of Buwalasi. Then, in September 1966, he was appointed Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. It was a difficult position to occupy, and these were anxious days. But Luwum won a reputation for creative and active leadership, promoting a new vision with energy and commitment. Only three years later he was consecrated bishop of Northern Uganda, on 25 January 1969. The congregation at the open-air services included the prime minister of Uganda, Milton Obote, and the Chief of Staff of the army, Idi Amin.

Amin sought power for himself. Two years later he deposed Obote in a coup. In government he ruled by intimidation, violence and corruption. Atrocities, against the Acholi and Langi people in particular, were perpetrated time and again. The Asian population was expelled in 1972. It was in the midst of such a society, in 1974, that Luwum was elected Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. He pressed ahead with the reform of his church in time to mark the centenary of the creation of the Anglican province. But he also warned that the Church should not conform to ‘the powers of darkness’. Amin cultivated a relationship with the archbishop, arguably to acquire credibility. For his part, Luwum sought to mitigate the effects of his rule, and to plead for its victims.

The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches increasingly worked together to frame a response to the political questions of the day. On 12 February 1976 Luwum delivered a protest to Amin against all acts of violence that were allegedly the work of the security services. Church leaders were summoned to Kampala and then ordered to leave, one by one. Luwum turned to Bishop Festo Kivengere and said, ‘They are going to kill me. I am not afraid’. Finally alone, he was taken away, tried by a kangaroo court, and executed on February 17, 1977. His body was buried later near St Paul’s Church, Mucwini.

adapted from the Westminster Abbey website

The Collect

O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep: We give you thanks for your faithful shepherd, Janani Luwum, who after his Savior’s example gave up his life for the people of Uganda. Grant us to be so inspired by his witness that we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ; who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Janani Luwum, Archbishop and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The image is of a statue of Blessed Janani Luwum sculpted by Neil Simmons for the Martyrs Wall of Westminster Abbey.

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