An Explanation of Time, of Place, of Thanks

Bill Jr.: 

My father died in 1972. I write and edit at the College of Preachers at Mt. St. Alban in the spring of 1993. Too long a time has passed since his death. Polly, his parishioner and friend and my wife and colleague for 49 years now, and I collected materials at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, where the Episcopal Church Archives are located, and at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Cal., two years after his death.

My mother, Dorothy Ibbotson Spofford, was sick with cancer when Dad died. While Polly looked after her, I cleaned out the office and print shop on River Road in Tunkhannock, in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Infinite numbers of files, papers, old sermons, ancient magazines, letters and faded photographs, together with innumerable empty bottles of the cheapest bourbon whiskey, were discovered. All but the last were put in boxes and have traveled with the Spoffords for the past twenty-plus years. The multiple trash bags of bottles were taken to the Tunkhannock dump.

Dad was a parish priest, a social activist, a most competent investigative reporter and editor, a writer of friendly or angry notes to varied persons of renown and many of what he would call the proletariat, and, of course, all of this meant that he wrote much. And there it was….

And, in some sense, here it is. Among the materials was his proposed book, some of which appeared in THE WITNESS. It deserves to be shared, not because of him necessarily, but because, in many ways, he was in a unique place and role to observe, comment upon and lead some of the social actions concerns and forces of both the church and secular communities for his active decades.

Also, now, it seems that younger church members seem to think there was Francis of Assisi, passionate about the poor and God’s creation ….and, then, the “March on Selma” and , later, “The Vietnam Spring”. Dad was no St. Francis by a long shot, nor a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  But he was a great observer and commentator and he believed that when people were hungry, they should get bread, and when they were hurting, they should have healing. And, also, when they were sad and sorrowful, they should know joy and laughter.

Walter de la Mare wrote an epitaph for G.K.Chesterton following his death. It fits W.B.S. Sr.:

“Knight of the Holy Ghost, He goes his way,
Wisdom, his motley, Truth, his loving jest,
The mills of Satan keep his lance in play,
Pity and Innocence his heart at rest.”

With any sort of discipline, we should let Dad speak for himself. But I, too, have been an editor and a parish priest and a lesser social activist, as well a journalist. My issues have been in areas of decaying communities, whether urban or rural or in-between, and I probably l have written too much. I will trust friend to edit competently so that readers might get some ‘new wine’ out of what which may seem like “old skins”.

William B. Spofford Jr.


Prologue: When you are old and gray and full of sleep

When you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, a dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your charming face;

And bedding down among the glowing bars,
Murmurs, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountain overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

– William Butler Yeats

A Blessing and a Grace:

Some have food, others have none…
God bless the revolution.


Bill Jr:

The Spoffords in America are descended from John Spofford of Rowley, Mass., who had emigrated from England in 1638 at the age twenty-six. The Spofford name appears in the “Doomsday Book”, the record of the lands of England as parceled out after the Norman conquest. It derives from “Spa”…a spring of mineral water and “Ford”…to cross by wading, and the family ‘myth’ was that probably the first one of that name ran a tavern by a stream where travelers and locals with a thirst could meet, drink and swap lies.

So, too, there was a family motto: “RATHER DEATH THAN FALSE OF FAYTH.” A record from Pilgrim days describes tough times in the colony:  The governors in Salem weren’t distributing the grain to one and all. So John went down to Salem as head of a delegation to protest and, then, he was arrested for swearing and being blasphemous. At the trial, he won his case by pleading that he had not been blasphemous but, rather, was swearing religiously and simply quoting Proverbs 11:26:

The people curse those who hold back the grain
but a blessing is on the head of those who sell it.
It seems an apt tale for many Spoffords we have known and, surely, fitting for W.B.S. Sr.
It was Benjamin, fifth generation descendant of John, who moved from Boxford, Mass., to Danville, N.H. and started the New Hampshire clan. Then, of course, it must have been the frontier and probably for that Benjamin the ‘suburbs’ of Salem and Boston were getting too crowded and staid.

Three generations of Spoffords at Lake Sunapee: Benjamin {1821), Charles (1863), WBS (1892), Charles Byron (1896)



Dad refers to his father as uneducated. Technically, he was but I remember him as an avid reader, an explorer of cemeteries and epitaphs, both strange and grand in his Masonic apron and white gloves, and his drug store in Claremont was ever a joy to visit, replete with strange bottles and aromatic with exotic smells. Where he became competent in the ‘chemist’s’ field is unknown to me…probably through apprenticeship. At any rate, he and Grandma Marcia were given a full page spread in the Claremont paper on the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She was from Newport, N.H., closer to Lake Sunapee where the family had a summer home on Star Island, a short row from Mr. Morgan’s dock at Burkehaven.

Also, I am not confident that Dad’s account of life at Trinity was without intellectual power. The fact that he was the lyricist and comedian in many shows, as well as cheer-leader at many games, indicates that he did have fun. A verse in a poem written for the 50th anniversary of the Class of 1914 in June 1967 goes:

Then Spofford with his curly hair
Who led the cheering, in the air
He’d leap, and lead us with a grin,
I hear him now, ‘TRIN-TRIN-TRIN-TRIN!’

Also, on the basis of his writings, it is obvious that he learned much at both college and seminary. He always moved well in the company of academic circles and many distinguished university and seminary professors worked with or around him during his vocational years. Among them were Fredrick Grant, Reinhold Niebuhr, Vida Scudder, Massey Shepherd, Joseph F. Fletcher and Charles A. Martin, long time head of St. Alban’s School on the grounds of the National Cathedral.

My memories are rich with being on the campuses of Wellesley, Sewanee, Kenyon and Hood colleges during summer months as Dad, together with other distinguished faculty, were presenting their ideas to gathered conference goers. There was a period when these Chautauqua-like conferences were very popular, as were the varied Church Congresses, and many Episcopalians were enriched by these experiences, as well, I am sure, many movements towards ordained ministries stimulated. I must admit that, now, I remember mostly some white owls on the Gambier campus; stalling our Model-A Ford on the road up to the University of the South and Dad running desperately after us as Mom, behind the wheel, threw it into neutral and we started to flow ever more quickly backwards and, of course, the always pleasurable baseball games. As a youngster, it was at such gatherings that I learned both to respect and not be awed by bishops..It is rather hard to knock them when they played hard, made what I viewed as pitiful errors trying to turn a double-play and, besides, they didn’t seem to mind the kids taking their turns at bat.

Bill Sr’s original Introduction

Bill Jr:

His friends had been asking for Dad to write an account of his social action and other works for years. He introduced his ‘BLIND MAN’S GROPING’ in March, 1955, starting it with letters from two friends. One was Mary van Kleeck, who had been director of industrial studies for the Russell Sage Foundation and officer of C.L.I.D. [the Church League for Industrial Democracy] from its beginning. They had worked with each other on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union, also. The other was the Rev. Canon Charles A. Martin, head-master of St. Alban’s School, Washington, D.C., who was a co-trustee with Dad of the ‘Bishop Robert Paddock Foundation’ The gropings of a blind man, then, start with this justification…



Bill Sr.:

[Charles Martin] commends the idea but says he cannot imagine me writing memoirs. He does not state his reason but maybe it is because it brings to mind a person who is on the shelf, voluntarily or otherwise, who bores others by relating past events. But as Mary van Kleeck says, ‘current issues had their beginnings in the past and their history, especially when it is unfinished business, can be made to illuminate the present.’

Webster says that a memoir is an account of events and acquaintances in which one has had a part or interest. If that is it, then memoirs is OK with me. For my plan is to relate events that are as fresh as today’s Congressional investigations –are in fact based on a recent one where I testified. I was there forcefully reminded of the truth of Mary van Kleeck’s statement that ‘current issues had their beginnings in the past’ that it sure is ‘unfinished business’ and that anyone going up against the Washington boys realizes how it ‘illuminates the present.’

In relating events I will of course have a lot to say about those who played their part in them–people who, for the most part, have battled for a more Christian world, and not too successfully if you take a short range view. A newspaper is before me: bombs that can utterly destroy an area 7,000 square miles; a million and a quarter U.S. soldiers stationed at 950 bases scattered over the earth. Not much Kingdom of God there.

When such news gets me down there are a couple of things I do; spend an afternoon in the anthropology wing of the Museum of Natural History in New York. There you see the development of life on this planet from slime to a U.S. Senator and leave singing with the certain knowledge that the Senator is not the end of God’s creation.

Or I can read or listen to G. Bernard Shaw,. The most stimulating debate I hear — it’s on a long-playing record –is between Charles Laughton as the Devil and Charles Boyer as Don Juan. The Devil makes out a good case for his religion of Love and Beauty; that ‘love is good to look at; that music is good to hear; that love is good to feel; and that they are all good to think about and talk about.”

And he has more ample grounds today for saying whast Shaw had him say fifty years ago: “I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine.—-When he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism that lets loose at the touch of his finger, all the molecular energies, and leaves the javelin, the arrow, the blowpipe of his fathers far behind. In the arts of peace Man is a bungller.—The power that governs the earth is not the power of Life but of Death; and the inner need that has nerved Life to the effort of organizing itself into the human being is not the need for higher life but for a more efficient engine of destruction. The plague, the famine, the earthquake, the tempest were too spasmodic in their action; the tiger and crocodile were too easily satiated and not cruel enough; something more constantly, more ruthlessly, more ingeniously destructive were needed; and that something was Man, the inventor of the rack, the stake, the gallows, the electric chair, of the sword and gun; above all of justice, duty, patriotism and all the other isms by which even those clever enough to be humanely disposed are persuaded to become the most destructive of all destroyers.”

But Don Juan describes the Devil’s friends, the worshipers of Love and Beauty, as the dullest dogs he knows. “They are not beautiful; they are only decorated. They are not clean; they are only shaved and starched. They are not dignified; only fashionably dressed. They are not educated; they are only college graduates. They are not religious; they are only pew-renters. They are not moral; they are only conventional. They are not virtuous; they are only cowardly. They are not even vicious; they are only frail. They are not artistic; they are only lascivious. They are not prosperous; they are only rich. They are not loyal; they are only servile; not dutiful, only sheepish; not public spirited, only patriotic; not courageous, only quarrelsome; not determined, only obstinate; not masterful, only domineering; not self-controlled, only obtuse; not self-respecting, only vain; not kind, only sentimental; not social, only gregarious; not considerate, only polite; not intelligent, only opinionated; not progressive, only factious; not imaginative, only superstitious; not just, only vindictive; not generous, only propitiatory; not disciplined, only cowed; and not truthful at all — liars everyone of them to the backbone of their souls.”

Over against this Devil’s crowd he puts those who serve the Life Force: “He who seeks to discover the inner will of the world, in invention to discover the means of doing that will, and in action to do that will by the so-discovered means.—I tell you as long as I can conceive something better than myself I cannot be easy unless I am striving to bring it into existence or clearing the way for it. That is the law of my life. That is the working within me of Life’s incessant aspiration to higher organization, wider, deeper, intenser self-consciousness, and clearer self-understanding. It was the supremacy of this purpose that reduced love for me to the mere pleasure of a moment, art for me to the mere schooling of my faculties, religion for me to a mere excuse for laziness, since it has set up a God who looked at the world and saw that it was good, against the instinct in me that looked through my eyes at the world and saw that it could be improved…When the Spaniard learns at last that he is no better than the Saracen, and his prophet is no better than Mahomet, he will arise, more Catholic than ever, and die on a barricade across the filthy slum he starves in, for universal liberty and equality. Later on, Liberty will not be Catholic enough: men will die for human perfection, to which they will sacrifice all their liberty gladly.—I tell you gentlemen, if you can show a man a piece of what he now calls God’s work to do, and what he will later on call by many new names, you can make him entirely reckless of the consequences to himself personally.”

The frontier of hell and heaven, as Shaw says, is only the difference between two ways of looking at things, and in doing things since activity is the only road to knowledge.

That, basically, is what this story is all about for in its thought and action the C.L.I.D. has always stood with Don Juan and is on the frontier of heaven, however much some people have tried to place it on the frontier of hell.



St. Paul’s School: Starting Out and Over

Bill Sr. [From The Witness: April 28, 1955)]

The Rev. Samuel Drury was the rector of St. Paul’s School, Concord, N.H. He needed a clerical master to take charge of the Old Chapel. I was to teach religious studies and history but this was secondary–the Old Chapel was to come first. He was satisfied with my credentials but had misgivings about my wife. Young women were scarce at St. Paul’s and Dot, nineteen and attractive, was the age of most of the sixth formers. But he decided to take a chance so we were assigned to an apartment in the Upper School, where Dot could serve tea to the boys while the new parson put on, not too successfully, the dignity act expected of all masters, particularly those who wore their collars backwards.

On arrival I was informed that I was not to teach history but general science. I told Dr. Drury that I was not equipped for it but he simply told me to keep ahead of the class and he was sure I’d manage. I did, with difficulties. The first came when Dr. Drury said: “Mr. Spofford, may I see you in my office?” I had learned that that meant trouble, for it was “William” when everything was going well. He told me that one of the parents had complained that there was too much stress on evolution in my class; to which I replied that he had selected the text book which was based on the theory. “I’ll consider the matter further,” was his dismissal. Later he informed me: “Apparently we must accept evolution… but do not over-stress it.”

Another difficulty was sex. Boys in my classes were in their middle-teens. In biology we started with the simplest animal life, mounting the scale, with reproduction a part of each story. When we arrived at ‘man’ I was told to skip reproduction. “We have a lecture each year in the chapel on sex for sixth formers; we think that is adequate.” The boys thought differently. They called it the ‘smut talk” and dirty cracked about it for weeks. Also I told the Rector I’d feel like a fool if I skipped reproduction in humans when we had dealt with it in all lower forms of life. It also presented an opportunity to get across some sex education which, from my observation, the boys needed. It was finally agreed that I was to prepare my lecture for his approval, after which it could be read to my classes. It was an awkward performance but it did do something for a few who came to me to talk over sex problems, about which they had apparently been taught nothing at home.

The Old Chapel

The Old Chapel story follows the pattern of many churches. It was provided as a place of worship for janitors, maids and gardners, thus keeping them away from the New Chapel where the boys and their visiting parents went on Sundays to worshi;p the God of all mankind. It was a nice show, this New Chapel service, with boys marching by forms..little, bigger, big…blue-suited, black-tied, black-booted…with ‘out of bounds’ to any who violated regulations. The venerable Jimmy Knox thundered away on the big organ, scowling at the choir if they missed a note. And on festive occasions he brought forth his masterpiece, “O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”, which was sung with the gusto of a national anthem. Dr. Drury was an exceptionally able preacher, so the whole performance was tops.

The Old Chapel was something else again. Children gathered at 9:15 for Sunday School, held in the ancient pews, taught by school ‘help’ who were inevitably burdened with a sense of inferiority. At ten I conducted a service for a handful, rushing to get through in time to vest for the New Chapel service, even though I was merely to take my place in procession and sit in my stall next to other clergy-masters, as though signs were printed across our vestments: “See, parents, we are a very high class Episcopal School.”

My wife and I tried to do what we could with the people of the Old Chapel. We visited and entertained and were entertained. Dot even caused raised eyebrows at a meeting of masters’ wives by suggesting, in youthful innocence, that she did not understand why the Auxiliaries of the two chapels did not meet together in one organization instead of having two. Dr. Drury’s reply was: “You are a new-comer and have not been here long enough to understand.”

The payoff came when “Mr. Spofford” was again asked to come to the Rector’s office. The janitor of the building in which we lived was Mr. Miner. He was also a vestryman of the Old Chapel; in church every Sunday with his family. He went home for lunch and I often walked through the grounds with him on my way to class. ‘I have noticed you walking rhough the grounds with Mr. Miner. A master does not do that with a janitor at St. Paul’s,” was Dr. Drury’s comment.

“But he is a member of my congregation and an officer. I do not think of him as a janitor,” I replied.

“I think you understand,” concluded the Rector. And I did.

Religious Studies

In the spring of my second year the Rector asked me if it would be convenient for my wife to return to her parents…she was pregnant, with our first child due in June, and he did not think it was a wholesome thing for his boys to see her under such circumstances. She left, never to return, for it was soon after that I had my final session with Dr. Drury.

This time is was over something I had said in my class on religion. “A mother has written”, said the Rector,”that you told your class that Jesus was the son of a working man. You must be more careful in what you say.”

“But wasn’t he, Dr. Drury?

“We must be careful in teaching young minds.”

I assumed at the time that the objection was because I delighted in telling rich men’s sons that the Jesus they so piously worshipped in their beautiful chapel was the son of a worker. It was some time after that a friend suggested that maybe the objection was Virgin Birth.

Anyhow he told me that I was ‘to teach out of the book,’ keeping my personal opinions to myself, in class and out. My reply was that if I could not express honest opinions, in class and out, that I did not want to stay at St. Paul’s. So he handed me a “To Whom It May Concern” signed “Samuel S. Drury, Rector”, which nobody, up to this day, has ever seen except my wife.

“It is a pleasure to speak in a highly commendatory way of my brother clergyman and co-worker, William B. Spofford. For two years, Mr. Spofford has resided at St. Paul’s School, working as a teacher in science and as a minister in charge of our old chapel congregation. In all his activities Mr. Spofford has shown a fine devotion to duty, a cheerful spirit of cooperation and has endeared himself to many boys and parishioners by his wholesom personal contacts.

“The particular reason why Mr. Spofford and I have together decided that he should change his work from St. Paul’s School to some other field is the following: Mr. Spofford’s prevailing interest in Christian Socialism. I do not feel that a boy’s boarding school is a suitable place for the discussion or furthering of the vexing problems of the present modern socialistic program. While not at all desiring to hamper the free expression of opinion among our masters, it has become apparent to both of us that Mr. Spofford’s predominant interest in Socialism will find freer scope elsewhere. I have a very high regard for Mr. Spofford’s spirit. He is a fine man–a devoted Christian thinker. May God speed him.”

So after a summer in charge of the church in North Woodstock, N.H., I sped, with Dot and Marcia, our first born, for Chicago, stopping en route in Detroit to help with C.L.I.D. activities at General Convention.

Bill Jr.:

From this account, Mother seems like a non-entity. Actually, they had a most splendiferous and, I am sure, costly wedding at Trinity Church, Portland, Conn., and had gone to Bermuda on their honeymoon. Her dad, Henry Carey Ibbotson, stove-manufacturer in Brooklyn and owner of Spruce Manor on the main street of Portland, would have seen to all that.

From the distance of decades, one can feel a bit of sympathy for Dr. Drury…he had a ‘tiger by the tail’, young, charming, determined and committed. The letter of dismissal was, undoubtedly, inevitable.

In June of 1957, one of the sons of Dr. Drury, Roger W., wrote a letter to Dad about this article. It is warm and friendly. And Dad responded with an answer which we don’t possess. Among other things, Roger Drury said: “(Dr. Drury’s) diaries between 1922 and 1925 are marked especially by a dogging sense that his religious life was being “stifled”, and by a longing to leave the school and “go to some good working parish where I can preach to the poor and visit the sick…help; some of the unprivileged to a joyous and faithful view of life.” Dad seemed to affect a lot of people, even when it wasn’t obvious at the time. At the time of this correspondence, Roger Drury was operating a small dairy farm in Western Mass. as a ‘very fallible Thoreau-vian in philosophy, and with enough motivational conflicts of my own to make those of my father a rather absorbing study to me just now.”

One of the ironies of this experience, of course, is that I, and my younger sister, went to Episcopal schools (Lenox and Hannah More} as well as to Episcopal camps, [O-at-Ka in Maine and Fleur de Lis in N.H.}. And, in his aging years, one of his closest friends and colleagues was the Rev. Canon Charles A. Martin, head of St. Alban’s School in Washington. It was Canon Martin and his wife, Edith, who ‘hosted’ the service of thanksgiving for Dad’s life and works in the National Cathedral in January of 1973, two months before Dot died.

One further irony is that, prior to my retiring from the episcopacy, I was assistant to Bp. John Thomas Walker, of Washington, who began his post-seminary career as the first Afro-American master at St. Paul’s School.

General Convention, George Bernard Shaw, and the Christian Socialists

Bill Jr:  

THE SOCIAL PREPARATION (For the Kingdom of God) (Autumn, 1919) was published as ‘A Special Number for the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church by the CHURCH SOCIALIST LEAGUE. It listed on the front page articles by: Bp. Paul Jones, bishop of Utah who, because of pacifism, was ‘forced’ from the House of Bishops. His article was entitled: “THE APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH.” Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of the NATION, checks in with an editorial; Jessie Wallace Hughan on WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT; Philo Sprague on PROFIT OR SERVICE; Scott Nearing on A HEATHEN PEACE; Father Shirley Hughson. Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, on THE CHURCH AND THE PEOPLE; Harold Brewster, rector of the church in Bisbee, Arizona, writing about the effects of a strike there; Norman Thomas on THE CHURCH AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS; Irwin St. John Tucker, who had been convicted on Feb. 19, 1919, to twenty years in the Federal Penitentiary in Fort Leavenworth for obstructing the draft,  on THE MAKING OF A SOCIALIST.  Others were Sailendra Nath Ghose on THE TRAGIC INDIA; Albert Farr with a sermon for lay readers entitled SHALL WE REGULATE THE PROPHET; Dr. Charles Eastman on THE AMERICAN INDIANS’ PLEA FOR FREEDOM; and some poems by Florence Converse, an editor of the ‘Atlantic Monthly’ and life-long partner of Prof. Vida Dutton Scudder. Other poems were by James Smiley. The first page of the issue contained THE MANIFESTO OF THE CHURCH SOCIALIST LEAGUE. It had been passed unanimously at the conference of the League in New York City on June 27, 1919. We are not sure that the General Convention read it gladly:



‘At this supreme hour of the world’s history when God’s truth is desperately needed, the Church is apostate to its divine mission. Christ said, ‘He that saveth his life shall lose it.’ Instead of sacrificing itself for the life of the world, the Church is now struggling to save its own life by a campaign to raise millions for its own development, and is apparently unaware of the profound movements for the fuller, freer life on the part of groups, classes and races. The Church furnishes its own table and the sheep are not being fed. The Church must repent in sackcloth and ashes. It must repudiate its affiliation with and support of the capitalist system of production with its unholy emphasis on profits, privilege and exploitation which have impoverished and fettered the mass of the people of the world. And it must demonstrate that repentance by a wholehearted endorsement of those movements which are seeking to establish a real brotherhood among men. We therefore call upon the Church to endeavor to understand and assist the working out of that social and industrial revolution with the conscious purpose of helping to prepare the way for such a complete revolution of our present economic and social disorder that a Christian order may be evolved.


Bill Jr: 

So, too, there were full page ads for THE CHURCH LEAGUE FOR SOCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY, which affirmed its principles  and THE CHURCH SOCIALIST LEAGUE, which affirmed it was organized to: “MAKE MANIFEST THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH THROUGH A CONSCIENTIOUS STUDY AND APPLICATION OF THE SOCIAL PRINCIPLES OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. WE ARE NOT REFORMERS, TRYING TO PATCH UP AN OUTWORN GARMENT, BUT REVOLUTIONISTS, STRIVING FOR A COMPLETE REVOLUTION OF OUR PRESENT ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DISORDER SO THAT A CHRISTIAN ORDER MAY BE EVOLVED. WE ARE TRYING TO WAKE UP THE CHURCH SO THAT SHE MAY TAKE HER GLORIOUS PART IN BRINGING IN THE NEW DAY.” It was signed by Bp. Paul Jones, as president. There were three vice-presidents, the Rev. Joseph Paul Morris, Mrs. William Johns Brown (who apparently served as treasurer out of Walbrook, Md.) and the Rev. Charles H. Collett, who was one of the Berkeley-4 under Billy Ladd, and, in his career, taught at St. Paul’s School, Concord; was sometime dean of the Cathedral in Fargo, N.D. and worked for the National Council at 815 2nd Avenue when he died an untimely death from heart disease. The National Secretary was the Rev. A.L. Byron-Curtiss and, in the middle of the ad, boxed, is a form to be mailed to the Rev. William B. Spofford, Organizing Secretary, Claremont, N.H. Since the issue for the General Convention had three items, at least, from George Bernard Shaw, I guess that Dad was probably the main editor of THE SOCIAL PREPARATION. Nowhere, in my copy, is an editor listed.

As for the iconoclastic genius, George Bernard Shaw, he had responded to a request that he send a message to the Episcopal General Convention. He, perhaps, thought it was from an authorized person when, actually, it was from this small group of enthusiasts, and it was originally from Dad. 1

I have Dad’s collection of Shaw’s works on my shelves now, although expanded since his time. One quote was in THE SOCIAL PREPARATION which Dad always used in all of his sermons during funerals, whether the service was for tough-minded activists and newspaper guys or for the gentle communicants of his parishes. It was used at his memorial service in the National Cathedral in January of 1973. It goes:

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatsoever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.  I rejoice in life for its own sake.   Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me.  It is sort of a splendid torch, which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

Surely the sentiment fits an existential Christian and whatever the ‘revolution’ was then, and probably now. Significantly, his other author-hero, Leo Tolstoi, has a book reviewed by W.B.S., on pages 27-28 of the same issue. It is called THE PATHWAY OF LIFE and Dad’s comments end with: ‘’It is a storehouse of truth; beyond value to him who would guide the souls of men; beyond value to him who would save his own soul.” 

Background: Chicago

Bill Jr:

What is left out, it seems, is the courage of mother, now 20 or 21, a graduate of St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Conn., in a big city with a young daughter and me on the way.  With Dad on the pay-roll truck in the Prohibition era, and later working with developing labor concerns, it took love, power and strength.

So, also, it is interesting that the group-ministry and non-stipendiary concepts dreamed up at Berkeley, under the tutelage of Dean Wm. Ladd, noted liturgist, were just ahead of the times.  Then, the work of Roland Allen in China was unknown.  Since, of course, we have many experiments and practices having been explored, shared and implemented.  The Berkeley-Four were appalled at the collapse of what Barbara Tuchman called ‘The Proud Towers’, they were angry and shocked at the waste and deaths of W.W.I;  they were excited by the works of Fredrick Denison Maurice, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others; they were put off by the degradation of the sprawling urban culture, particularly with the working groups and, with many other bishops, priests and laity, (often expressed at Church Congress meetings), excited about Christianity’s relationships to industrial society and how to achieve justice.  The idea of Christian Socialism, and perhaps the hope of a successful and progressive state in what became the U.S.S.R., was both envigorating and,  to many, frightening.

Since I was taken to Chicago at the age of two-weeks, having been born in Brooklyn,  my understanding of all this is limited.  I know that I was baptized at the church in Brooklyn where my grandpa was senior warden..It was done quickly because there was fear that I would not live due to bad ears.  In Chicaro, I do remember walking along the shores of Lake Michigan; and being very, very cold in the back seat of our first Model-T car on a trip Continue reading “Background: Chicago”