July 12: Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala and Ecumenist, 1931

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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About this commemoration

Nathan Söderblom

Born in Sweden in 1866, Söderblom attended the University of
Uppsala and was ordained a priest in the (Lutheran) Church of
Sweden in 1893. From 1894-1901, he served as Pastor of the Swedish
Lutheran community in Paris, during which time he took his doctorate
in theology at the Sorbonne. He returned to Uppsala in 1902 to teach
and lead the School of Theology at the university. He was a highly
respected scholar and teacher, a prolific writer, and an early proponent
of the study of comparative religions.

To the surprise and dismay of many, he was appointed Archbishop
of Uppsala in 1914. It had been centuries since the senior bishops of
the Swedish Church had been passed over for the appointment, and
particularly notable since Söderblom was not a bishop. He served as
Archbishop of Uppsala until his death in 1931.

Söderblom took a great interest in the early liturgical renewal
movement among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. This
coincided with his deep commitment to the unity of the churches
of Christ and his passion for ecumenical advancement. In 1925 he
invited to Stockholm Episcopalian/Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, and
Orthodox leaders and together they formed the Universal Christian
Council on Life and Work. Because of his effort and his tireless
advocacy of Christian unity, Söderblom is numbered among the
ecumenists whose efforts led eventually to the formation of the World
Council of Churches in 1948. He was a close friend and ecumenical
ally of Bishop George Bell (October 3). It was Söderblom’s advocacy
for church unity as a means toward world peace that earned him the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.

Archbishop Söderblom saw a profound connection between liturgical
worship, personal prayer, and social justice. A rich cohesion of these
elements was, in his mind, the foundation of a Christian commitment
well lived.

Collects

I Almighty God, we bless thy Name for the life and work
of Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala, who
helped to inspire the modern liturgical revival and worked
tirelessly for cooperation among Christians. Inspire us by
his example, that we may ever strive for the renewal of
thy Church in life and worship, for the glory of thy Name;
who with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit livest and
reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II Almighty God, we bless your Name for the life and work
of Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala, who
helped to inspire the modern liturgical revival and worked
tirelessly for cooperation among Christians. Inspire us
by his example, that we may ever strive for the renewal
of your Church in life and worship, for the glory of your
Name; who with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives and
reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

2 Kings 22:3–13
1 Corinthians 1:10–18
John 13:31–35

Psalm 133

Preface of Apostles

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

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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6 Responses to July 12: Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala and Ecumenist, 1931

  1. The first sentence of his bio needs to say who Nathan Soderblom is and why he is important. The last sentence: He died in 1931.

    Typo: “In 1925 he invited to Stockholm Episcopalian/Anglican, Reformed … ” Shouldn’t that be: Episcopal/Anglican, or just Anglican?

  2. John LaVoe says:

    I forgot to comment on the Proper Preface in the survey. “Apostles” works, — but “… our great High Priest; in whom we are built up as living stones of a holy temple, that we might offer before you a sacrifice of praise and prayer which is holy and pleasing in your sight” seems more substantive in terms of the object of ecumenical work. (Dedication of a Church, p. 381)

    I didn’t see any rationale for the OT selection at all; I was puzzled by its having been chosen. I thought the relevant part of the gospel selection (vv. 34-35) was overshadowed by the larger context of what was about to happen to Jesus, in John. I suggested Mark 9:33-40, instead. Epistle and Psalm seemed good.

    I have two concerns about Collects, this one and more generally. They can run “thin” on the theological attribute of God that generally ties in (importantly) with the theological substance of the petition that follows. This one has “Almighty God.” (I know Soderblom was an Archbishop, but “Almighty” seems just a tad optimistic, and with no tie-in to the petition.) The other concern is what we ask in the petition itself and what we hopes it accomplishes. If these collects pray that “we” do the same thing the “Holy Person” did, so as to copy the person, we end up at the end of the year a church full of copycats, with no sense of who God made “us” to be, or for what result. That’s serious! This one says, “Inspire us…that we may ever strive for the renewal of your Church in life and worship, for the glory of your Name.” I can live with it, but I doubt Jesus died so we could all be ecumenical officers; and, I do believe we could better spell out, if we tried, a bit of the vision of what the glory of God’s Name could look like, both on earth AND eschatologically (admittedly, not all in one collect!).

    All that being said, I think this is a great commemoration, and one I didn’t know about beforehand. Thank you for it.

  3. Sam Portaro says:

    While the bio says that Soderblom “is numbered among the ecumenists whose efforts led eventually to the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948,” the period of his life and work arouses my curiosity regarding possible connections with the Faith & Order movement and Episcopalians like Charles Henry Brent. If such intersections exist, mention of them would enrich our sense of his relationship to our communion and inform the present (and successive) generations of the longer history of ecumenical conversation and cooperation preceding present-day dialogues and intercommunion agreements.

  4. Nigel Renton says:

    I suggest deleting the reference to his clerical office, making the subtitle simply “Ecumenist, 1931”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: add “at Trönö” after “born”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: substitute “on January 15,” for “in”.

    Line 3, second paragraph: add “this was” after “and”.

    Line 4, second paragraph: add “Uppsala on July 12,” after “in”.

    Line 5, third paragraph: move “to Stockholm” to follow “leaders” in the following line.

  5. Pingback: July 12 – Nathan Söderblom : St. Paul's Episcopal Church

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